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The better songwriter: Bob Dylan or Paul Simon?

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Showing 1-25 of 423 posts in this discussion
Posted on Jun 24, 2012 8:57:35 PM PDT
alysha25 says:
Joni Mitchell.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 24, 2012 8:24:42 PM PDT
Severin says:
I love Lou Reed's work. He performed what I thought was a great version of Dylan's 'Foot of Pride' for the Dylan tribute concert. As a songwriter he's often gritty and immediate. He can write a delicate tune such as 'Caroline Says', a raw snapshot like 'Street Hassle' or an out-and-out rocker such as 'Temporary Thing'. Ever listen to 'Like A Possum'? I find his music has more reality to it than Paul Simon and more biographical content than Dylan.

Posted on Jun 24, 2012 4:52:01 PM PDT
Someone just came to mind that merits mention.

Lou Reed

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 23, 2012 3:14:23 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2012 3:22:05 PM PDT
JNagarya says:
Yes, Simon's songwriting began during the (late) 1950s, as I'd already noted (It was "Tom and Jerry" before it was "Simon and Garfunkel"). But his lyrics were the equivalent of others of that time.

Dylan made lyrics superior to those possible and acceptable, even bringing in poetry, which made the lyrics of the later Simon (and others, such as Billy Joel) possible. As Dee Zee quotes Art Garfunkel:

". . . . from Dylan came Paul's writing style . . . ."

I didn't hear "Tom and Jerry," but was an enthusiastic listener to music beginning in, at latest, 1958 (the earliest song of which I actually have memory is "Tennessee Waltz," by Patti Page, from the early 1950s), so saw the changes beginning with Dylan, first as an influence on "The Beatles" (who also influenced Dylan).

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 23, 2012 12:05:29 PM PDT
Dee Zee says:
"And then came Bob Dylan, who had this wonderful image as well as this talent to write these kinds of things. And from Dylan came Paul's writing style in that fashion, and then came the two of us doing those songs."
--Art Garfunkel
from Simon & Garfunkel's Bookends by Pete Fornatale

Posted on Jun 23, 2012 7:47:50 AM PDT
Ivan says:
Love Paul Simon but Dylan is the voice of his (and mine) generation.

Posted on Jun 23, 2012 7:38:54 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2012 7:40:04 AM PDT
7 & 7 IS says:
Dylan is a more interesting artist to listen to vocally, even though Simon's voice is beautiful and clear and always a pleasure, it lacks Dylan's unique expression, enunciation, breath. Dylan's songs contain more drama with a slightly wider variance of topic range and he has a more powerful stage presence. Two great painter's whose works could be studied in college lit or film school.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 22, 2012 9:05:02 PM PDT
L chandler says:
Very interesting kevin! Wondering, since I've not read the books, if u might care to elaborate on "lyrics that stimulate the networking of synapses." If you have time! Cheers!

Posted on Jun 22, 2012 5:20:34 PM PDT
I enjoy the fact that this is a question with no wrong answer, but it is fun to establish a set of criteria, evaluate both artists and in spite of everything go with your heart. Some of the recent scientific writing on music can add much to the discussion. Some that I've read are Musicophelia (Oliver Sachs), This Is Your Brain on Music (Daniel Levitan), How Music Works (John Powell), The Music Instinct (Philip Ball) and How the Mind Works (Steven Pinker) allow you to set up some objective and subjective categories for experiment. Some worry that by studying music scientifically it might impair your enjoyment of a performance. I like Levitan's response, "Knowing how to bake chocolate chip cookies does not diminish your enjoyment of them." As a matter of fact, you gain a new way to appreciate things that are going on.

It is commonly said that "there is no bad or good music, just music you like or don't like". I'm glad science has now refuted that. Everybody jumped on the bandwagon when discussing the "Mozart Effect" of music choice improving other intellectual abilities, yet nobody said anything about the inverse. Now, science has proven there is such a thing as "bad music". This is music that is too repetitive without variation, uses a very small selection of tones along with plodding rhythms. Basically, I would say any song that is throw-away as in you never seek it out to listen again after it fades from the chart. Yes, I mean most of "Pop" and "Country" music and a good deal of "New Age" that is a wave form of Prozac.
For variety of styles and rhythms and complexity of from, I have to go with Simon. For hooks that don't get tired availability of a tune Dylan gets my nod. What they both have are lyrics that stimulate the networking of synapses.

Posted on Jun 22, 2012 4:45:52 AM PDT
D. Mok says:
> bobby d. made Simon's lyrics possible.

Not quite. Paul Simon was influenced by Bob Dylan, but Simon's songwriting influences are more multifarious than just Bob Dylan-style folk, and Simon has almost no blues/country influence. (Given Simon's voice, I doubt he could sing blues in any convincing way.) Simon's songwriting career started in the '50s, predating Bob Dylan's rise to prominence in New York.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 22, 2012 3:48:21 AM PDT
JNagarya says:
bobby d. made Simon's lyrics possible.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 22, 2012 3:47:51 AM PDT
JNagarya says:
Polished bobby d.:

"Like a Rolling Stone"

"Blood on the Tracks"

"Oh Mercy"

I think you're simply applying the wrong aesthetic criteria. Making invalid comparisons. This is actually a sophisticated and succinct summation of the creative process:

"Twas in another lifetime/
one of toil and blood/
when blackness was a virtue/
and the road was full of mud/
I came in from the wilderness/
a creature void of form . . . .

bobby d.: "rain pourin' out my shoes".

Uptown: "you say tom-ay-toe, I say to-ma-toe".

Posted on Jun 19, 2012 6:41:48 PM PDT
I don't know how anyone could compare Simon to Dylan. There is no comparison.
I give Simon credit but not against the -Life and Times of Dylan. Dylan is an Icon, Simon is a songwriter/musician.

Posted on Jun 19, 2012 6:34:25 PM PDT
Fischman says:
I've already agreed that beauty is not a one-for-one correspondance with complexity or refinement. I have seen, and been disappointed in artist who seek additional refinement and lose their edge or authenticity in the process.

I've seen lots of showboats over the years--to me, Buddy just seems to be really getting into it. Unlike the Malmsteen's of the world, I never got a "look at me" vibe from Buddy, but rather a genuine invitation to share, to feel what he's feeling--what you seem to get from Dylan, who to you, is truly genuine. Heck, he's genuine enough to me--we just don't have anything in common.

"conscious polish is self-conciousness"
Maybe in some cases, as in if you are applying polish to bring attention you yourself--but polish can be to bring attention to the art; to expose the excellence of the craft iself. "Artists" who eschew this fail to accomplish the art of the possible. I'm certainly not saying polish is always applicable, but the greatest artists have the artistic range to go rustic or refined as the case may warrant.

I shouldn't have to hunt down deep tracks to see what I think is missing from his work. Everything I've heard and paid attention is a musical snooze

Conceptually, I think we agree on much--I just don't see it in Dylan.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2012 4:51:10 PM PDT
JNagarya says:
"Amateur" suggests limitations -- beginning with not having attended Juliard, or Berklee School of Music. And as concerns bobby d., it is certainly not about mediocrity.

And he did pay his dues, and develop his craft. What you don't seem to understand about a given art is that conscious polish is self-conciousness, and thus inartful. It doesn't have to be Bach in order to be beautiful. Nor does it have to have someone's measure of "range" or whatever.

As for Buddy Guy, his major flaw is that he's a showboat. And as far as control, he often loses it when he begins to showboat -- when he takes his focus off playing, what his fingers are doing, to, "Look at ME!"

bobby d.'s music obviously enhances, else it wouldn't be there. Listen to, as example, "You're Gonna Make Me Lonsesome When You Go". Hell (heck for the "religious"), listen to his mid-later period "Blood on the Tracks" and you'll hear all you say is missing from his work.

That bobby d. isn't sandpapered smooth is significant to his beauty. "Delia" is a "simple" song -- except as he sings it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2012 4:43:55 PM PDT
JNagarya says:
I've alwayws wondered if bobby d. was harkening back to memories of Rick Nelson's "B"-side "Congratulations".

For breakin' my heart./
Now aren't you smart.

Posted on Jun 19, 2012 1:29:31 PM PDT
Fischman says:
As a big blues fan, I understand (to a degree). Looking at the likes of Buddy Guy and tracing the lineage back to the likes of Robert Johnson, one does not find many pretty voices or much sophisticated music. Yet, I love all the great bluesmen between those two musical signposts.

However, I never get the feeling Buddy Guy is "struggling" to find anything--while it's raw, he's in complete control of his expression. What's more, each of these guys could really play their guitars as well. The voice is expressive rather than deadpan, the sonic and pitch range is borader allowing for greater expression, and the music actually enhances the expression rather than blithely and inexpressively sitting in the background.

"Oh-so-human" sounds like an apologists buzzword to atone for acceptance of mediocrity and "amatuer" generally carries a similar connotation; like the guy might actually become good after he pays his dues and develops his craft.

It would seem the folk idiom largely escapes me despite my appreciation for other forms of "unsophisticated" music (blues, celtic, aftrican, native american).

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2012 1:22:17 PM PDT
zlh67 says:
"Congratulations" was on the first Wilbury's CD, and yes, it is supoib. I put that in my "Best of Dylan" playlist fo' sho'....

Vol. 3 is a good cd too. Very under-rated.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2012 1:06:48 PM PDT
JNagarya says:
It isn't about incompetence. It's about the oh-so-human amateur form called "folk music".

Listening to folk music with the expectation that one is listening to Pavarotti is to be deaf to everything but the expectation, and that which doesn't meet it. The fault is in the expectation. It isn't about comparing folk music with "worthwhile" "sophisticated" music funded by monarchs.

An important contrast between Simon and Dylan is that Simon is overtly commercial. Dylan gets away with not having to be commercial.

John Lennon once said that he didn't like the "fruity" folk singers. I don't think he was talking about Joan Baez or Joni Mitchell, who were "self-taught" as singers. I think he was talking about Judy Collins, who was trained in opera, and often sang so "pretty" that she took all the guts out of the songs. "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" is not a "pretty" song, and shouldn't be sung as if it were.

Posted on Jun 19, 2012 12:52:06 PM PDT
Fischman says:
. . . "struggling to find" "the next note" "adding to the meaning of his songs".

So, displaying incompetence at your craft is actually a demostration of your unique brand of excellence in your craft. Now I understand.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2012 12:35:58 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2012 12:52:14 PM PDT
JNagarya says:
"The Traveling Wilburys" were terrific. (Have you heard their third, with bobby d.s' "Congratulations"? Great song, great performance.)

Jeff Lynne, of course, was a huge fan of "The Beatles," and that was his opportunity to "be in the room" with them when recording. Ever notice that the songs tend to end the way "The Beatles'" songs did? Ever notice that they are, essentially, Beatles' songs in structure and arrangement?

And just about every track on that first CD was a big hit. I remember when "Beatles'" LPs would be #1 on both the singles and LP charts, because every track was requested and played along with whatever the current single.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2012 12:31:10 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2012 12:51:47 PM PDT
JNagarya says:
In "No Direction Home," one or another folkie described the songwriting scene in the Village. It was democratic -- except that one writer stood head and shoulders above all the others. That one was bobby d.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2012 12:29:17 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2012 12:51:08 PM PDT
JNagarya says:
Actually you misconstrue the meaning of "song".

It all begins with the holy Word. (Every film you watch may no longer be words, but it began as words.)

Poets have always been considered as composers of songs, as singers. That goes back at least to the ancient Greeks. It is more about language and sound than about meaning. And that is long before lyrics being set to music.

The issue of rhymes and stanzas and such is as mnemonic -- memory keys -- as poems were the "oral tradition," and the "troubadour" traveled town to town carrying the news. The memory keys were necessary because it was all memorized. And the rhymes and rhythms and such made it more pleasant for the listening audience.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2012 12:20:12 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2012 12:49:53 PM PDT
JNagarya says:
I like and agree with much (but not all) of that. I'll only affirm the part about Dylan "struggling to find" "the next note" "adding to the meaning of his songs". Exactly: despite the reaction of some to his voice, he is for that reason accessible -- but also more challenging. One does not expect a coal miner to emerge from the mine undirtied.

That struggle isn't of the professional singer; it is yours and mine.

And, yes, listening of bobby d. can be hard work; and that is aside from the problem some have with his voice; and also aside from his often difficult and even inscrutable lyrics. Listen to his beautiful version -- and I mean the singing -- of the public domain "Delia" on "World Gone Wrong".

Delia's in the graveyard/
She ain't gettin' up./
Curly's in the jailhouse,/
Drinkin' from an old tin cup."

Beautiful, even though a song about a murder, narrated by the murderer, who sits in jail moaning, "All my friends are gone," and who at trial asked the judge,

"How much will be my fine?"

to which the judge answered,

"Poor boy, you get ninety-nine."

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2012 12:09:13 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2012 12:37:06 PM PDT
JNagarya says:
How many blues singers can you name that can retain pitch as you require? And yet not all blues gets "old".

It is part of bobby d.'s artistry (others may say "genius") to sing the blues as traditionally done: by AMATEURS. And -- yes -- an "off-pitch" voice in such a context is a part of its authenticity; that _is_ how it works as an instrument. (Though I don't get so pretentious in the listening.)

I don't look for opera voices in blues. And I wouldn't look for overt blues voices in opera. (Listen to some Chinese opera -- which will initially sound like a cat being disemboweled without anesthetic, combined with scraping one's fingernails on a blackboard -- and critique it on your notion of proper "pitch". But listen closely, behind the words you won't understand, at the voice, at the back of the throat, and you can hear the blues in it.)
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Discussion in:  Music forum
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Initial post:  May 28, 2012
Latest post:  Jun 24, 2012

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