Bob Dylan's Impact on Pop Culture

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Duluth Minnesota, May 24th 1941 Robert Allen Zimmerman (Bob Dylan) was born. 69 Years and over 45 albums later Bob Dylan has completely altered the face of popular music since his debut as a fresh faced folk singer in 1962. His early career forged him into an informal chronicler and then he later developed into an apparently reluctant figurehead of social unrest [Gray, 2006] and became a voice for a generation. His songs have been covered by many artists in a wide span of genres and he has remained a prominent and highly influential figure in the history of popular music over the past five decades. [Gates, David, 1997]

In the early sixties, before Bob Dylan emerged, the concept of folk and rock fusing was ludicrous. Folk prided itself on its ‘purity’ and diversion from mainstream culture while rock was deemed vulgar and commercial, apathetic with the more topical matters in folks lyrics. [AMG, 2002]. Woody Guthrie’s reinvention of the folk ballad as a form of social commentary and protest in the 30’s and 40’s and Pete Seeger, from his success with the Weavers in the late 40’s, through to his government blacklisting in the 50’s to the 60’s when he became a cultural hero through his outspoken commitment to the antiwar and civil rights struggles.[various authors, 2001] both laid an extensive framework for emerging folk, rock and popular music artists to utilise music as a medium of self expression and protest. Little Richard’s ‘Awopbopaloobopawopbamboom’ “distilled rock and roll into a ten syllable yawp” [Charles Bottomley, 2005] and established the rebellious spirit still imbued in rock and roll and the partying youth culture which has endeared in the genre till this day. [Various Authors, 2002].

Initially Bob Dylan had more of a social impact that a commercial impact. He proved to have longevity of career in a time when rock was deemed ephemeral and his incessant touring; such as ‘The Never Ending Tour’ of June 1988 established a new type of touring and a new vessel for mass communication of music. [Various Authors, 2001] He changed from an initially young folk audience yearning for protest songs and justice to a more commercial rock audience. His socially conscious and politically motivating lyrics appealed to the folk crowd who consciously turned away from mainstream culture. He appeared at cause concerts and voter registrations and began to receive acclamation as the voice for a generation. [Bob Dylan Live 1966, 1998] and provided a clue into the workings of an increasingly disenfranchised youth culture. [Author Unknown, Bob Dylan Bio]. He also assisted in the creation of folk rock and even hip hop and rap in some of his music, such as his 1965 tour of England “Don’t Look Back” with its free association lyrics harking back to the manic energy of ‘beat poetry’ a forerunner to rap and hip hop. [Marquesee, 2005]. He helped fuse and subsequently create the genre of folk rock. Rock was often the more prominent genre however the folk lyrics dealing with topical concerns were grafted into rocks commercially successful guitar patterns and melodies. This helped to expand the sonic and lyrical vistas of rock [Various Authors, 2002]. His lyrics were the first in rock to be considered literature and “By personalizing folk songs Dylan reinvented the singer songwriter genre”. [Various Authors, 2001]. He rewrote the rulebook of pop music [Robert Dimery, 2005] introducing confessionals, stream of consciousness and hallucinatory imagistic song writing into the rock music lexicon and pioneered emotional expression and idiosyncratic lyrics into rock. [Various Authors, 2002] He made rock a medium for self expression and protest more potent and expressive than any other medium. [Various Authors, 2001]

Bob Dylan completely rewrote the rulebook for pop music [Robert Dimery, 2005] and to this day his music has “Laid down the template for lyric, tune, seriousness, spirituality, depth of rock music”...
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