Bob Dylan is 60 years old today.
Just let that sink in a minute. Sure, there are rockers who are that age and older, but not too many of them are as active and as potent as Dylan still is today.
Dylan's made more than 40 albums in his career, and will keep putting them out. He's also on a perpetual world tour. Weeks become months become years that Dylan is out on the road somewhere playing a show.
Not even the prospect of winning an Academy Award stopped him from doing a gig. Dylan was on an Australian tour the night he won the Oscar for "Things Have Changed," from the film The Wonder Boys. Rather than cancel the gigs there, he made ABC do a satellite link up for him so he could still be down under and perform on the Oscar telecast.
Now that's star power.
The Influencer of the Influential
As for Dylan's influence on pop culture, it will always be there. Anyone who has ever written a song that could easily be read as a poem has been influenced by Dylan. How's this — everyone who came after the Beatles has been, in some way, influenced by them.
Well, who influenced The Beatles? Bob Dylan.
John Lennon, especially, was bitten by the Dylan bug. In early 1965, the second track on the Beatles '65 album, "I'm A Loser," is a Dylan knockoff all the way, and Lennon freely admitted it. If Bob Dylan accomplished nothing else, he proved that rock 'n' roll could have a brain and be literate.
On the musical side, Dylan was the first folkie to say, screw you, I'm pluggin' in. At the Newport Folk Festival in '65, Dylan was booed for playing electric guitar and rocking out with a band. His disdain for what was "supposed to be," screamed to singer-songwriters all over the world that it was okay to be loud, and to get your message across. Turn it up, man!
Power of the Voice
OK, so Dylan never had the greatest singing voice. But that's just it! That voice is what makes his words all that more powerful. The Byrds and The Band made Dylan's words and music sound pretty, but those songs only have their full power when the man himself is singing them, and blowing into the harmonica around his neck.
Dylan has done every style of music: Folk, blues, protest, reggae, straight rock 'n' roll, Christian, Jewish, and one of the best country albums of all time, 1969's Nashville Skyline.
Yes, the Dylan section at your local CD stores is bursting with tons and tons of product. If you're just getting your feet wet with Dylan, start with Greatest Hits, Volume 1, then move on. When you're ready, pick up Blonde On Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited, Nashville Skyline, Street Legal, Infidels, Oh Mercy and his latest studio album, Time Out Of Mind.