|Bob Dylan at Massey Hall, Toronto, April 18, 1980 - Photo by Jean-Luc Ourlin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Is Bob Dylan a poet or a songwriter?
While the artist born Robert Allen Zimmerman changed his name to Bob Dylan in reference to Dylan Thomas, many argue that whereas a poem stands up by itself, a song can only come to life when the lyrics are sung.
Moreover, one way or the other, is he a true artist? From the very beginning, the human being has always been under the influence. Of his surrounding, of various kinds of products, of his own story and/or of History. And this is mostly true for artists. Let's see if there is such an object as the Bob Dylan poetry and outline some major facts.
1. "Yippee! I'm a poet, and I know it. Hope I don't blow it". While it is obvious that B. Dylan was influenced by Woody Guthrie on the songwriting side, it is also evident, since they have become friends, that he knew the works of beat poet Allen Ginsberg. But if you dig further, you will find such names as French poets Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, Charles Baudelaire (whose Fleurs du Mal offers lots of oxymoron, a figure of speech often used by Dylan) but also William Shakespeare, John Milton, William Butler Yeats or T.S. Eliot.
2. An extended study of his poetry has led some to suspect more than just influences but cases of plagiarism. In Working Man Blues #2, Bob Dylan writes "In the dark I hear the night birds call, I can hear a lover's breath. I'll sleep in the kitchen with my feet in the hall, Sleep is like a temporary death". These lines may seem very familiar to anyone who came across Henry Timrod's Two Portraits which contains the following verse: "Which, ere they feel a lover's breath, Lie in a temporary death".
Mr. Dylan has indeed confessed reading civil war material prior to releasing the album Modern Times, some of which might have been from contemporary poet H. Timrod. As to whether this is plagiarism, he has answered the question in a recent interview ...
3. What nobody can deny is that Bob Dylan, who started covering/rewriting talking blues, masters the poetic form and has made a trademark of his by underlining the meters of his lyrics through his notorious phrasing. All of which emphasize the rhythm of his songs which we have described below for It's All Over Now, Baby Blue.
HIGH-way is for GAM-blers, better USE your sense
TAKE what you have GA-thered from co-IN-cidence
[Rhythm: DAH-dah-dah-dah DAH-dah-dah-dah DAH-dah-dah]
The EM-pty-handed PAIN-ter from your STREETS
Is DRAW-ing crazy PAT-terns on your SHEETS
[Rhythm: Dah -DAH-dah-dah-dah DAH-dah-dah-dah DAH]
The point is that Bob Dylan is a master at playing with his art form and whatever you might think about his inspiration, the question is would you ever have heard about Henry Timrod without Modern Times?
And how would you ever hear about Frans Schuman without B. Dylan? His first two albums are made of guitar and harmonica only tracks. Some are folk songs and some have a different feel. But I think you might like it.
Click here to download a copy of his latest single for free.
Cheers, Johnny Clark.
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