There I was scrolling through another headline about Trump on CNN.com this morning when I saw something that immediately brightened my day.
“Bob Dylan Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
Indeed, Bob Dylan is one of the greatest to do it. It just takes one listen of the song Like a Rolling Stone to see Dylan’s ability to write something that is more than a song. Dylan writes stories the likes of which take you places. The pictures he paints are vivid, the characters in his songs are properly built and the story lines take you through the ups and downs of life. They say the greatest songs are the ones with simple lyrics and that is true for the most part because it is a lot easier to sing, understand and sell to the masses something like “cause you’re hot and you’re cold, you’re yes and you’re no” than “you say you never compromise with the mystery tramp, but now you realize he’s not selling any alibis.”
The former are perfectly acceptable lyrics, the latter is poetry.
With that said, let me tell you a little bit about my favorite artist of all time, Jimi Hendrix, and an interesting musical correlation with Dylan. I have practically every single song Hendrix ever sung in my ITunes library and I make it my life’s mission to listen to them all the time. When I need motivation there’s Fire. When I need to feel sexy there’s Foxy Lady. When I need to sing in my car at particularly high-octaves there’s Purple Haze. When I need to hear a story there’s All Along the Watchtower.
I close my eyes and hear Jimi’s voice:
“All along the watchtower
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went
Barefoot servants, too
Outside in the cold distance
A wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl”
I can see the servants moving about, the two mysterious riders approaching (what do they want?) and I can hear the fright of the wind as it starts to howl. I know something is about to happen and I’m left wondering what that is as Hendrix strums his guitar until the end of the song. Alas, the mystery and the emotions that I’m left feeling by the words in that song aren’t the work of my beloved Hendrix. No, they are none other than Mr. Bob Dylan’s. While Jimi’s rendition is the most popular, All Along the Watchtower was originally written and performed by Dylan.
Dylan has said this about Hendrix’s rendition of the song*:
“It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day.” In the booklet accompanying his Biograph album, Dylan said: “I liked Jimi Hendrix’s record of this and ever since he died I’ve been doing it that way… Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way.”
Dylan is a poetic, lyrical and musical genius and also a great man for recognizing the immense talent in Hendrix.
Congratulations on an extremely well-deserved Nobel Prize to Bob Dylan and long live All Along the Watchtower.