Bob Dylan’s Legal Legacy

The cover of the Bob Dylan LP "The times they are a-changin"

The cover of the Bob Dylan LP "The times they are a-changin"

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows|

A personal note: I have been stupidly tired lately, and have lost the rhythm of writing articles most evenings. But this evening I still felt fresh at 10 p.m.  and so I sat down to write about the Shale Gas, but browsing the LA Times, I was distracted and amused by this article about Bob Dylan. The gist of the article is that in the United States, judges quote Bob Dylan more than any other artist as they seek words to illustrate their approach to a judgement.

I was born in 1959 and grew up in a house where my older brother Charles played Bob Dylan on our Dansette record player and so Dylan’s early music became woven in to the fabric of my musical universe. But even now aged 51 I am still occasionally shocked when I re-visit the perfection of one or two of his songs. Reading the article it struck me that Dylan’s legacy may well grow in years to come, and I would not be at all surprised if in future centuries he grew to be a kind of ‘Shakespeare of Popular Song’. I suggest this not just because I am a fan, but because Dylan started in the right place at the right time. Popular music in the 1960’s had not quite become as commoditised as it has today, but it was still multinational enough to create global stars. And into that arena Dylan brought some authentic artistic insight. In hindsight his artistic legacy contrasts ever more strongly with the trashiness of much popular culture, then and now.

I find it ironic that the judiciary – whom Dylan regularly portrayed as cold and heartless – might be inspired by his lyrics as they search for words to communicate the concepts of the justice.


2 Responses to “Bob Dylan’s Legal Legacy”

  1. Joanna Harker Says:

    I’m very much inclined to agree with you. My English Literature degree has a third year module on Bob Dylan, and Andrew Motion has said the only possible comparison for Dylan is Shakespeare… I guess we just need to if people are still singing him in a few hundred years time!

  2. protonsforbreakfast Says:

    OMG – Andrew Motion and I agree! I suspect at least one of Dylan’s songs will be sung in centuries in centuries to come, but I would not dare to pick which one.


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