Bob Dylan: Music that spans the generations

At 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, the man who shook the world of music will perform at the Bank of Kentucky Center. Bob Dylan’s concert will mark the first and only to play at the BOKC this semester.

Dylan’s career has been legendary, and coming to Northern Kentucky University is Dylan and his band’s next stop on his tour, which average nearly a 100 shows a year — not bad for a man pushing 70.

The singer/songwriter is traveling on what some critics are calling his “Never Ending Tour.” He hit the business in the early 1960s when music itself was in a limbo period. There weren’t that many stand-alone stars, and rock music was trying to break into the mainstream. The extent to which Dylan has taken his career is so great that it has been implemented into just about any music major’s textbook. A quick sum-up begins with the mention of his many albums and singles. He has created a lengthy music catalog — well over 500 songs — which includes well-known songs such as “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Dubbed the American troubadour, Dylan became the voice of a generation and revolutionized rock music, all before the age of 30. And to some critics, he is the most influential rock and roll artist next to Jimi Hendrix. But some may question the folk icon’s significance to today’s American music world.

“Bob Dylan is definitely still relevant today. He is a fundamental poet in the music industry,” Aubrey Fey, a junior, said. “A lot of indie and alternative rock would not be what it is today without his music as [an] inspiration. You can still hear his influence and style in present bands, especially so in the underground rock and roll scene.”

There have been many people who consider Dylan an influence; but he was influenced by others as well, mostly the American folk musician Woody Guthrie. Guthrie’s impact was so great, Dylan imitated the way Guthrie sang and played.

“He’s such a pioneer. He took what Woody Guthrie said and tried to keep it relevant, and he still is,” said WNKU’s music director John Patrick. “He’s talking about a lot of things. He’s all over of the place a lot, but he’s Bob Dylan”

If there wasn’t a Guthrie, there wouldn’t be a Dylan. If he hadn’t picked up that guitar and harmonica, there wouldn’t be the Springsteens, the Neil Youngs, or Mellencamps. There’s no doubt that Dylan’s talent has affected artists throughout the years.

While fans of folk and those familiar with Dylan’s music are excited for his arrival, the curly-haired songwriter has never thought himself to be anything other than just Bob. Throughout the years, he has rejected to assume labels for what he plays. Anyone can say that he is undeniably one weird dude. Regardless, and if it even matters to most of his listeners, Dylan’s sound fits the profile for the folk-rock music genre.

Folk-rock is a genre that Dylan himself created and perfected. It consists of taking the acoustic aspects of folk music and blending it with a rock group. Dylan first mixed the two different styles in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival. And after his first “plugged in” performance, bands like The Byrds and the Mamas & Papas adopted the new style.

Today’s artists such as Devendra Banhart and Band of Horses possess that same spirit, and they are proof that, as Patrick puts it, Dylan “made folk music cool.”

Craig Kopp, news director for WNKU, strongly emphasizes the importance in considering the impact Dylan has made over the years. “Is Picasso still relevant? Is Shakespeare still relevant?” Kopp said. “Is he as popular as he was? No. Is he as groundbreaking as he was? No. Is he relevant? Absolutely.”

Picasso painted into his 90s, and he was still creating amazing works of art. Dylan is getting older, but he is still producing and making music that is just as good as his earlier albums “Blonde on Blonde” and “Blood on the Tracks.” Dylan’s 50-year career has had its ups and downs, but the constant in that career has been the artist himself. Ever changing and always reinventing himself, each album or live show seems to have something different in it. Songs that were written and performed in the late ’60s still reflect issues that are ongoing throughout history, like politics and war.

“He’s as important as he was 50 years ago,” said Chuck Miller, general manager for WNKU. “Bob Dylan is a survivor. He’s an American treasure.”

Story by Brandon Barb and Emily Christman