The Voices of Bob Dylan
In the early sixties, Bob Dylan was the darling of the folk musical revival. He sang with the rough rural tones of his hero, Woody Guthrie. And some songs, like Blowing in the Wind, were anthems for the protest movement.
In 1965 he changed his voice. He mounted the stage at the Newport Folk Festival with a four piece band behind him, strapped on a Stratocaster electric guitar, and tore into “Maggie's Farm”. There was booing from the audience. His new music, with surreal lyrics, was sung in a wry, often sardonic tone, with words twisted and elongated.
In 1967, after a long seclusion, his voice became spare and prophetic on the album John Wesley Harding, one of my favourites.
Two years later we reacted in dismay with rumours his new album was country. Nashville Skyline had Dylan on the cover smiling in a cowboy hat and even included a duet with Johnny Cash. Reluctantly perhaps, we accepting his lowered pitch and more natural phrasing.
In the following decades his voice shifted from album to album. This year's album, Shadows in the Night, his 36th, finds him covering Frank Sinatra songs. It has received critical aclaim. Dylan probably feels he has the right to try some mellow crooning. Any roughness now comes from his 74 years.
This man wrote some of the best music of the age, stood as a mysterious and charismatic presence, and treated us to one of the most unique and changeling voices.