Customer Discussions > Music forum

The better songwriter: Bob Dylan or Paul Simon?


Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 176-200 of 423 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 2, 2012 4:15:12 PM PDT
Jerome Bush says:
to: Mok, English: you have excellent points, but, and I guess it's because I owned a forum once, I was trying to answer the question as put. [The better songwriter: Bob Dylan or Paul Simon?] Anything else is interesting but off-topic (IMO). If there were a thread saying, "Who are the best solo songwriters?" or "Who was the best song-writing team?" or "Who was best with lyrics?" or "Who was best with melodies?" or even "Who is the best at lyrics and melody?" then I'd have had a different answer. I like everyone you mentioned; I was just trying to stay on topic. I probably shouldn't have mentioned Brain Wilson at all because that has ME off topic.

Posted on Jun 2, 2012 4:17:40 PM PDT
ronct says:
It is not that I don't value lyrics. I just don't put much weight on them to make or break a song for me. The music always comes first, the vocals, musicianship, and then lyrics. Lyrics for me are simply words for the vocalist or musician to perform the melody. Obviously there are many factors and not all music is so cut and dry. I enjoy music so much that I can't be distracted by the lyrics and focus on some meaning behind the words. Lyrics like in the Beatle song "In My Life" are perfect and fit exactly with the weight of the music. If I want to read something that require me think about some meaning I will but I don't care for it weighing down music. On the other hand extremely lame lyrics have the same distracting effect when listening.

I hear what you are saying and I understand. I just have a hard time listening to artists like Dylan or Cohen as neither of them are very musical and can't sing. I just find the sound they are making to painful to stick around for very long to listen to what they are saying. Not entirely as I do enjoy some of Dylan's early recordings especially the mono versions. I saw Dylan during the Rolling Thunder tour and he was better live, but in the early 90's when I saw him it was the worst concert I ever attend. I couldn't make out what he was saying or even what song he was singing. I also thought it was funny that he was performing at a local military base. I caught him recently on the Grammys and he was dreadful and I was embarrassed for him.

Posted on Jun 2, 2012 4:18:17 PM PDT
D. Mok says:
> you seem to have in your head a "correct" way things should be done, ie, the "right" way to structure songs, write songs, sing songs

What are you talking about?
If you're talking about my critique of "Wild Horses", I find Mick Jagger's performance awful. It's a weary song, but Jagger sings it haughtily, and it destroys the feel of the song to my ear. Jagger conveyed none of the hurt of the lyrics and melody. This is why Jagger excelled at "attitude" songs; "Gimme Shelter" is excellent, even if Jagger couldn't match Merry Clayton's powerful voice, because Jagger had the vituperative attitude that conveys the apocalyptic sense of the song. But give him a sensitive ballad like "Almost Hear You Sigh" and he fails completely. Keith Richards did the same thing to "Love Hurts". Gram Parsons was not the world's greatest singer, but he sang "Love Hurts" like he meant every word, and tailored his performance to the song.

If Elvis Presley sang the understated, elegant "Love Me Tender" exactly the way he sang the giddy, schoolboy "Don't Be Cruel", I'd be throwing the same criticism his way, great voice or not. It's about the song. This is why I always write "Bob Dylan has a bad voice" rather than "Bob Dylan is a bad singer", because while Dylan's natural voice is horrible, he expresses the song well. He drags out his syllables in "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall", goes into rapid-fire spitting on "Hurricane" and uses the self-conscious, enunciated folk "narrative" voice for "Blowin' in the Wind". Paul Simon is more melodic as a singer, but he's far, far less expressive; all of his vocals sound mannered and enunciated. Art Garfunkel was the better singer, like a less powerful Bobby Hatfield, shaping his voice into an instrument with meaning far beyond literal lyrics.
Your reply to D. Mok's post:
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
 

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 2, 2012 5:54:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 2, 2012 5:59:49 PM PDT
ronct:

I think it is the production and the harmonies and Carl Wilson's lovely vocal that CREATE the idea of a great melody. They all work together brilliantly, and I don't think the Beach Boys ever surpassed it. But, taken alone, stripped of the production, I do not think the song is that surpassing. You don't hear "God Only Knows" covered by other artists. Despite its lovely romantic theme, you don't hear cabaret singers doing it. This is because the song needs the production to work. The Beach Boys finally released a live version, and it's fine, but it can't match up to the original. Some songs can come alive onstage, others have a little trouble.

A very different example of the same kind of thing is "Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite". Great recording. All of the different elements coalesced, and I've heard "Mr. Kite" countless times and still enjoy it. They experimented, and what they tried was just right for that song. But it is not, by itself, a song that can be redone by other artists. Which is not a demerit, just a fact.

Posted on Jun 2, 2012 6:07:54 PM PDT
Dr. Mikey says:
@onsenkuma. Yes, leisure and amusement.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 2, 2012 6:46:20 PM PDT
ronct says:
David,

I don't buy that about "God Only Knows". I think you don't hear people doing it as it is difficult to do effectively. Carl had an innocent beauty in his voice that few can match on that song. Olivia Newton John tried to have a hit with it and it came off really lame. For me just the vocal track of Carl singing the song would be just as moving to hear as the full production.

Another great song you don't hear covered much is "Here, There, and Everywhere". Again, like Carl's vocal it is difficult to match Paul's performance effectively. How can either of those songs be improved upon? It has nothing to do with the song as much as being able to do justice to it in a performance. This all goes back to why we hear more performers tackle Dylan's music at open mic nights. I firmly believe it is because his music is a lot easier for performers with limited musical and vocal abilities to cover.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 2, 2012 6:49:20 PM PDT
ronct says:
D. Mok,

I mostly agree with your posts but "Wild Horses" is a favorite Jagger performance of mine. It is all good. :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 2, 2012 6:59:49 PM PDT
ronct:

One thing that came into being somewhere around the Beatles, or maybe a little later, was the identification of songs with their creators. Hoagy Carmichael could write "Stardust" and maybe one artist had the biggest hit with it, but it wasn't considered wrong for everybody to cover it, and probably hundreds did. But most of us want to hear the Beatles do "Here, There or Everywhere" or whatever. We want to hear the Beach Boys do "God Only Knows". When we do hear cover versions, we (or, okay I) tend to wish we were hearing the originals. Maybe it's because we played those records so much we simply have trouble divorcing the performance from the song.

Hard to believe now, but at one time one of the biggest money-makers in the music business was sheet music. You'd hear a song on the radio, and you'd want the sheet music so you and your friends could sing it around the parlour piano. That was the way it worked, there was more participation in music, we weren't simply listeners.

Posted on Jun 2, 2012 7:07:06 PM PDT
this is off the track, but the mentioning of "Here, there, and Everywhere" makes me realize that I know exactly what comes next. I can't say that about any other group. I'm not crazy about Beatle covers because I don't want to hear the next track sung by the performer who did first Beatle cover. I just doesn't work.

Posted on Jun 2, 2012 7:53:17 PM PDT
A great question that, like all fine musical discussions doesn't really have a definitive answer. And isn't that what makes it such a great thread! I love 'em both, and honestly cannot pick one over the other. It's the differences that make comparing them so interesting: would Dylan have written "The Dangling Conversation"? Would Simon have written "Leopardskin Pill Box Hat"? I can compare & and contrast them forever, but I don't think I could choose between them. One thing: Dylan is responsible for having penned a true folk/protest song classic, "Blowin in the Wind". If he had never written another note his place in American music history would have been secure. The range of Simon's body of work, from writing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" specifically for Art Garfunkel to sing, to risking his career and reputation to bring us "Graceland" certainly secures his place in our musical history as well. Boy, are we blessed!

Posted on Jun 2, 2012 7:58:51 PM PDT
D. Mok says:
> Dylan is responsible for having penned a true folk/protest song classic, "Blowin in the Wind". If he had never written another note his place in American music history
> would have been secure.

Problem is, he didn't write any note in that song. The melody came from an old spiritual, "No More Auction Block", originated by slaves in Canada. Dylan can only claim credit for the lyrics.

This is why a substantial number of us -- myself included -- don't consider Dylan a great melody writer. Paul Simon's melodies were far more original and interesting.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 2, 2012 9:14:29 PM PDT
ronct says:
David,

I have shelves of sheet music and still a junky to this day, and buy at least a new piece each month or even less. I have it for the very reason you stated to share the love of music with friends. That is why I participate at open mic events too.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2012 7:10:48 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 3, 2012 7:11:47 AM PDT
ronct says:
W. David,

I thought about your post more last night while lying in bed and you hit the nail on the head. There are some on these threads discussing songs as a piece of music and others looking at them as recordings. Myself personally I look at a song as a piece of music handed down (a work of art) for generations to come to enjoy. We don't look upon all the great composers of the past for their vocal or musicianship ability but on the basis of the music they composed. It has only been in the last 40 or 50 years where the "recording" has come more into the picture. I would say from the Beatles on things began to change. If we look at recordings then I like some of both of these artists with a lean towards Simon because of Dylan lack of ability to sing. When I think their songs as a piece of music handed down to be enjoyed then there is no comparison and Simon is the better songwriter hands down.

Posted on Jun 3, 2012 10:34:35 AM PDT
Pamela says:
I think it all depends on what you're in the mood to hear!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2012 1:49:51 PM PDT
zlh67 says:
> you seem to have in your head a "correct" way things should be done, ie, the "right" way to structure songs, write songs, sing songs

>>> What are you talking about?

Just seems I have read 100 times or more in various posts of yours that this song has "too much" of this or that, or that a particular artist doesn't use "enough" of something in their writing, or that their lyrics are "too" something or another. And that's fine if all those things prevent you from LIKING the songs, but you seem to have it that there's a correct way for all these things to be done -- song structure, melody, lyrics, etc. -- and that if an artist doesn't conform, they are doing it "wrong" and therefore have no chance of deliving a good song/performance. That may not be how you think, at least not consciously, but that's the impression I get reading a lot of your posts.

Re, Dylan, I couldn't agree more. As to whether or not one likes his voice, that's subjective, but either way I think he's pretty far from one of the worst singers out there because of the expressive nature of his vocals. Not sure how you don't pick up on the same expressionism is Jagger's performance on "Wild Horses", but as the saying goes, "to each his own"!

Posted on Jun 3, 2012 2:28:48 PM PDT
D. Mok says:
> Just seems I have read 100 times or more in various posts of yours that this song has "too much" of this or that, or that a particular artist doesn't use "enough" of something in their
> writing, or that their lyrics are "too" something or another. And that's fine if all those things prevent you from LIKING the songs, but you seem to have it that there's a correct way for
> all these things to be done

There is no single "correct way" that applies to everything, but if you have absolutely no standards for judgment, then you're going to like every single thing.
If Mick Jagger's vocal on "Wild Horses" is deliberate, it has to convince me that it's deliberate. It did not.

I don't blindly dislike something. I always explore why. Which is why I'm always very clear about why I don't dislike something. That does not mean the same factors don't work in another song. You're INFERRING that the same analysis applies to every single piece of music I listen to. On the contrary, this is why I write such copiously long analyses on so many different songs and artists. Every one of them sets a different path for the listener. I couldn't have made that clearer when I made the comparison between "Wild Horses" and "Gimme Shelter" when examining Jagger's vocal style. For "Gimme Shelter", Jagger's vocal style was perfect. For "Ruby Tuesday", it was horrible, without any sense of the pastoral beauty conveyed by the rest of the arrangements. Unless you wanted to argue that Jagger's off-key warble should have been the real vibe of the song, ugly and unskilled, but then what's that melodic piano and Brian Jones recorder part doing in there? Neil Young and Crazy Horse always sound chaotic, but they always sound unified.

Posted on Jun 3, 2012 2:59:02 PM PDT
CD LP 45 78 says:
Dylan is the genius, Simon is Salieri.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2012 3:14:00 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 3, 2012 3:14:41 PM PDT
CD LP 45 78.

Sorry to disagree, but Antonio Salieri as a mediocrity was a conceit perpetrated by the author of "Amadeus". And he was aware that it was a device perpetrated for dramatic purposes and which had little foundation in fact.

Antonio Salieri was in fact a very talented composer whose vast body of work is all but unknown. He wrote operas, dance music, symphonies, masses, string quartets, everything. If his music seems not up to Mozart's, well, the only other composers throughout musical history whose work doesn't seem inferior to Mozart's are Bach and Beethoven. In any event, I doubt there are ten people alive who have heard even a majority of his work. And probably not one person alive has heard all of it.

Cecilia Bartoli recorded a lovely CD titled "The Salieri Album" a few years ago. She's a firm advocate. Listen to that CD before dissing Salieri. He deserves better than what posterity has bequeathed him thus far.

Posted on Jun 3, 2012 3:21:49 PM PDT
Antiquity says:
Bob Dylan was a genius who learned to play music as means of displaying it. He started by copying old folk melodies, and eventually learned to hold his own as a musician. His singing will always be an acquired taste, but there's no debating that his voice was a central instrument in his music.

Paul Simon is a musician and songwriter of the highest order, but not a lyrical genius or a revolutionary. He is a master at crafting songs, and is really exemplifies what "pop" music should be.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2012 5:31:38 PM PDT
Dee Zee says:
I do know that Simon made fun of Dylan but Dylan never made fun of Simon, in fact even covered the Boxer.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2012 5:44:06 PM PDT
Dee Zee:

In Griel Marcus's famous review of "Self Portrait", he said, of Dylan's take on "The Boxer", that it might have been Dylan's revenge on Simon for "A Simple Desultory Philippic", his Dylan parody. "Jesus, is it awful."

Posted on Jun 3, 2012 10:00:58 PM PDT
L. Turner says:
Paul Simon continues to make viable music. Perhaps his music is not quite as good as it used to be.
Bob Dylan has not done much of anything worth listening to since around the time he did "Slow Train Coming" and "Shot of Love". Too bad because Contemporary Christian music hit it best stride in the 1980's while secular music deminished in quality in the 1980's with AD, U2 and The Call being the exception.

Posted on Jun 4, 2012 6:01:35 AM PDT
Some say Paul Simon, others say Bob Dylan...

I say John Darnielle.

Posted on Jun 4, 2012 7:26:50 AM PDT
EvenSteven says:
DZ,

Good call re "Wild Horses" that tune was custom made for Gram Parsons & he & the Burritos do a beautiful version of it.

I would not write off the Stones in the "ballad" or change up tune dept. As early as 12x5 they knew the value of a good slow or "change up" tune in "Time is On My Side", "If You Need Me". The juxtaposition of the slow tunes really makes the rockers jump out at you.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2012 7:56:10 AM PDT
zlh67 says:
Yeah, I was going to cite "Play With Fire", "Heart of Stone" and "As Tears Go By", all favorites of mine from when I first discovered the Stones via a cassette of "Hot Rocks" and still to this day.
[Add comment]
Add your own message to the discussion
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Prompts for sign-in
 


Recent discussions in the Music forum

 

This discussion

Discussion in:  Music forum
Participants:  85
Total posts:  423
Initial post:  May 28, 2012
Latest post:  Jun 24, 2012

New! Receive e-mail when new posts are made.
Tracked by 8 customers

Search Customer Discussions