By Cassie Balfour (The Michigan Daily)
The name Bob Dylan evokes images of an Americana maverick who, despite slipping into countless musical styles, has maintained his reputation as one of the great songwriters of the 20th century. But lately there have been blasphemous murmurs across campus of Dylan’s failing voice and poor stage manners. And now that Dylan is returning to his college-touring roots tonight at Hill Auditorium, I am forced to remind everyone why the '60s icon is still relevant to the youth of today in spite of his supposed cantankerous antics.
Now, I don't have much to add to the decades-long conversation concerning Dylan, but I do have the requisite Dylan posters plastered to my walls, and I still defend his quirky voice to my unconvinced friends. So even though I’m intimidated by the wealth of Dylan history, I will speak with authority and humbly soldier on.
Bob Dylan's command of generations of eager listeners is nearly unmatched. How can one man appeal to so many demographics? Personally, I can't even remember how or why I started listening to him. My parents are staunchly anti-Dylan. My father does a terrible impression of Dylan's vaguely nasally voice that he thinks is just hysterical. So I don't remember who introduced him to me, but it feels like I've been humming "Tangled Up in Blue" my entire life. Dylan is ingrained in American youth culture, and his lyrics still resonate with politically conscious youth the same way they did back when Dylan first started out, which is why Dylan still deserves your unwavering adoration.
Dylan's musical career has spanned decades, and he's had just as many musical transformations: from folksy ’60s revolutionary to authentic rock'n'roller on Blonde on Blonde, to at one point even dabbling in evangelical Christian rock with two gospel records, and well, everything in between. Dylan has weathered all sorts of criticism, and I’m appealing to you, dear readers, to give cranky old Bob Dylan one more chance.
Dylan’s return to Ann Arbor may also be a return to his earlier, folkier days. This version of Dylan, a wandering, counterculture hero advocating on behalf of the downtrodden and spit-on, is not the image Dylan has always seemed to be comfortable with, which might explain his unseemly stage manner toward his adoring fans. Although he often protested the idea he was some sort of incendiary protest singer, his songs were undoubtedly socially conscious and some of them became anthems for the Civil Rights movements, including the classic "Blowin' in the Wind."
But there has to be a reason, besides the political undertones, that Dylan appeals to fans young enough to be his grandchildren. Why do they continue to flock to his concerts and buy his posters and watch tedious movies about him? I know that in my case listening to Dylan, especially The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and The Times They Are A-Changin, causes an inexplicable wave of nostalgia for a world I never experienced. Dylan's ability to evoke such a pivotal time in American history could send any politically active college student into a fit of tears. Or it could just be Dylan's appeal to stoners, like his sexy track "Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35," when he proclaims with his sharp wordplay, “They'll stone you when you're playing your guitar / Yes but I would not feel so all alone / Everybody must get stoned."
Originally published at the Michigan Daily- click the link to read more or for more information.