50 Years Too Late, the New York Times Wonders if Bob Dylan is a Poet

The headline in today’s New York Times: “Bob Dylan: Musician or poet?”

I’m always happy to see Dylan written about in the New York Times. They’re no johnny-come-lately as supporters of Bob Dylan.

It was their music critic Robert Shelton who gave Dylan his first serious, high-profile review, following a performance at Gerdes Folk City in the Village, September 26, 1961.

Still, here at the end of 2013, do we really have to ask? Is Bob Dylan a poet? Would the New York Times run an essay today titled “Was Einstein a genius? Well maybe, possibly.

I guess the question bothers me because it seemed so obvious from the start. I always thought Dylan was a poet. And a rock star. And a singer. And a musician. And he was damn funny too.

I first heard Bob Dylan on the radio singing “Like a Rolling Stone” in 1965 and it knocked me sideways, it was listening to one of Picasso’s cubist masterpieces, sent me right into some other world. I was 12 years old. When I bought Highway 61 Revisited, once I got past looking at the amazing cover photo, there was a lengthy piece of writing by Dylan that was clearly (to me) a poem.

Soon enough, by the time I was 13, I was reading Ferlinghetti’s “A Coney Island of the Mind” and e. e. cummings’ “a selection of poems” and Ginsberg’s “Howl.” If “Howl” was a poem, why not “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” or “Bob Dylan’s Dream” or “Desolation Row”?

We really don’t need the Times asking if Dylan is a poet 50 years too late.

Still, both essays in today’s Times — by Francine Prose and Dana Stevens — are worth reading (and are well written), but not because you need anyone to tell you whether or not Bob Dylan is a poet. You don’t need a weatherman, To know which way the wind blows.

Check the essays out here.

Allen Ginsberg on Dylan as poet:

John Corigliano – “Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan”:

Greil Marcus talks with composers John Corigliano and Howard Fishman at the CUNY Graduate Center about their respective projects based around the works of Bob Dylan. September 17, 2009:

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About Michael Goldberg

Michael Goldberg is a distinguished pioneer in the online music space; Newsweek magazine called him an ‘Internet visionary.’ In 1994 he founded Addicted To Noise (ATN), the highly influential music web site. He was a senior vice-president and editor in chief at SonicNet from March 1997 through May 2000. In 1997, Addicted To Noise won Webby awards for best music site in 1998 and 1999, and also won Yahoo Internet Life! awards for three years running as best music site in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Prior to starting Addicted To Noise, Goldberg was an editor and senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine for 10 years. His writing has also appeared in Wired, Esquire, Vibe, Details, Downbeat, NME and numerous other publications. Michael recently completed his first novel, Days of the Crazy-Wild, and is currently writing a second novel.

One thought on “50 Years Too Late, the New York Times Wonders if Bob Dylan is a Poet

  1. What’s comical about this discussion is that it might have been written in 1975, when it was already a decade dead. No wonder Dylan so often appears cranky. This is the kind of thing that makes artists move to New Hampshire where everyone is cranky. It would have been a better read if either writer had defended Dylan’s demented Christmas album. Perhaps in another forty years, when no one alive knows what the lucky writers are aruging about?

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