My good friend Jose Johnson has recently launched his own blog and commented the other day on the Martin Scorsese-directed documentary about Bob Dylan’s early days.
Joe notes that watching the film has made him rethink his opinion of Dylan who he admits he used to not like because of his “nasal, toneless voice that just absolutely grated on me.”
Now, Joe says he has a greater respect for Dylan as a songwriter and as “one of the few artists of that time who truly captured the zeitgeist of the era.”
But Joe concludes that he would still always prefer hearing Dylan’s music sung by someone else.
I have to disagree. While Dylan may not have the sweetest singing voice, it is still tremendously expressive and most of his songs are far from being what one would call sweet. Having a rough or gravely voice is certainly not an impediment to a singer, just look at Louis Armstrong.
Dylan was more than just a talented songwriter. He was a song stylist. Many of his songs were perfectly suited for his rough voice with their often-times bitter, angry and sarcastic themes.
While there are plenty of performers who did well singing Dylan’s songs - Peter, Paul & Mary, The Byrds, Johnny Cash - there are many more songs that wouldn’t be the same if they were sung by anyone else.