Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday

It is today,  here are a few underrated highlights of his career:

1. No Direction Home, the biopic directed by Martin Scorsese.  It’s one of the best documentaries on American music more generally, and a superb albeit hagiographic portrait of Dylan and his music.

2. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and Another Side of Bob Dylan and Blood on the Tracks and most of all Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits volume II are the albums I listen to most often.  The last one sounds horrible from its name, but it was conceived conceptually, avoids the traditional problems of greatest hits albums (unlike Vol. I), and has some not otherwise available tracks; highly recommended.  Then comes Time Out of Mind.  I think of Bringing it All Back Home as the “best” Dylan album, but I enjoyed it so much at age fifteen that I don’t listen to it much today.  Blonde on Blonde is overreaching and Highway 61 Revisited is half wonderful, half embarrassment in the lyrics.

3. Dylan as disc jockey is first-rate, and you can buy his XM Satellite Radio selections of early American music.  He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the period.

4. As a singer Dylan is influenced by Al Jolson and Bing Crosby, as an acoustic guitarist he remains underrated.

5. Dylan once said that Barry Goldwater was his favorite politician.


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