Bob Dylan Speaks: Thanks the Musicians Who Helped and Influenced Him

I’f you’ve followed Bob Dylan for a while, you know he doesn’t speak very much. Since the early days when he would give truculent responses to some ridiculous questions asked of him in interviews, until the present when interviews are few and far between.

Bob seems to be changing his tone. He gave a long interview to AARP Magazine, discussing his new album, Shadows in the Night. And last night, Dylan was feted by the Grammys as the MusiCares Person of the Year, which honors musicians for their achievement in the music industry and dedication to philanthropy. He gave a 35-minute speech. That’s more than he’s said in front of an audience in all his appearances combined for many years.

Dylan mostly used this speech to thank the people who helped him in his career: the people from record labels who believed in him, the musicians who covered his songs, and the songwriters who inspired him.

Dylan also talked a bit about where his music came from:

“I’m glad for my songs to be honored like this. But you know, they didn’t get here by themselves. It’s been a long road and it’s taken a lot of doing. These songs of mine, they’re like mystery stories, the kind that Shakespeare saw when he was growing up. I think you could trace what I do back that far. They were on the fringes then, and I think they’re on the fringes now. And they sound like they’ve been on the hard ground.”

And about his voice, often criticized:

“Oh, yeah. Critics have been giving me a hard time since Day One. Critics say I can’t sing. I croak. Sound like a frog. Why don’t critics say that same thing about Tom Waits? Critics say my voice is shot. That I have no voice. What don’t they say those things about Leonard Cohen? Why do I get special treatment? Critics say I can’t carry a tune and I talk my way through a song. Really? I’ve never heard that said about Lou Reed. Why does he get to go scot-free?”

You can read a transcript of Dylan’s speech here. I have yet to see a video of the event, but there certainly must be one. It would be wonderful to see it; Dylan was introduced by former President Jimmy Carter, and a whole slew of great musicians played his songs. Here’s the setlist:

Beck — “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”
Aaron Neville — “Shooting Star”
Alanis Morissette — “Subterranean Homesick Blues”
Los Lobo — “On A Night Like This”
Willie Nelson — “Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)”
Jackson Browne — “Blind Willie McTell”
John Mellencamp — “Highway 61 Revisited”
Jack White — “One More Cup Of Coffee”
Tom Jones — “What Good Am I?”
Norah Jones — “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”
Dereck Trucks And Susan Tedeschi — “Million Miles”
John Doe — “Pressing On”
Crosby, Stills & Nash — “Girl From The North County”
Bonnie Raitt — “Standing In The Doorway”
Sheryl Crow — “Boots Of Spanish Leather”
Bruce Springsteen — “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”
Neil Young — “Blowin’ In The Wind”

18 thoughts on “Bob Dylan Speaks: Thanks the Musicians Who Helped and Influenced Him

  1. I read the transcript earlier and was amused how he pointed out Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen (2 favorites of mine) I was surprised he reads so much music criticism, of himself and others.
    Nice speech Bob.

    • Yes, I agree on both counts. I hadn’t expected he reads a lot of reviews. As for the voice, he’s right. I’m not a Leonard Cohen fan, but I’ve long loved Lou Reed, who certainly does not have a great voice.

  2. I read the transcript earlier and was amused how he pointed out Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen (2 favorites of mine) I was surprised he reads so much music criticism, of himself and others.
    Nice speech Bob.

    • Yes, I agree on both counts. I hadn’t expected he reads a lot of reviews. As for the voice, he’s right. I’m not a Leonard Cohen fan, but I’ve long loved Lou Reed, who certainly does not have a great voice.

  3. The last couple of years AXS TV in the U.S. announced US rights to the Musicares shows. Hopefully someone in the UK will pick it up too.
    I love Lou much more than Cohen, but appreciate Cohen’s lyrics. It was sad losing Lou.

  4. The last couple of years AXS TV in the U.S. announced US rights to the Musicares shows. Hopefully someone in the UK will pick it up too.
    I love Lou much more than Cohen, but appreciate Cohen’s lyrics. It was sad losing Lou.

  5. One thing that struck me only recently is that it seems like pop music mainly values the upper register in male singing. If you can hit those higher notes, you’re a real singer. Witness Sam Smith’s recent Grammy success. When it comes to male singing, it’s definitely not all about that bass. I mean, obviously some of the greatest stars in history have kept it in a more natural male vocal range — Elvis, Johnny Cash — but when I think of contemporary music, from Bono to Ben Gibbard, they all seem to want to soar up high.

      • You know, I hadn’t thought of that, not being at all familiar with opera beyond a few snippets on compilations here and there. I think of the big, booming voice and needing to cover the gamut of male voices. But it immediately makes sense now that you mention it. It’s the Three Tenors, not the Three Basses.

  6. One thing that struck me only recently is that it seems like pop music mainly values the upper register in male singing. If you can hit those higher notes, you’re a real singer. Witness Sam Smith’s recent Grammy success. When it comes to male singing, it’s definitely not all about that bass. I mean, obviously some of the greatest stars in history have kept it in a more natural male vocal range — Elvis, Johnny Cash — but when I think of contemporary music, from Bono to Ben Gibbard, they all seem to want to soar up high.

      • You know, I hadn’t thought of that, not being at all familiar with opera beyond a few snippets on compilations here and there. I think of the big, booming voice and needing to cover the gamut of male voices. But it immediately makes sense now that you mention it. It’s the Three Tenors, not the Three Basses.

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