Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Bob Dylan Is Second Tier
You recently said you didn't consider yourself to be at the top when considering the pantheon of popular songwriters. Who is at the top in your view?
(Ponders) I'd put Gershwin, Berlin, and Hank Williams. I'd probably put Paul McCartney in there too. Then I'd have Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Then, in the second tier, Lennon is there. Dylan is there, Bob Marley and Stephen Sondheim are there, and maybe I'm there, too. It's about whose songs last.
There is a world of discussion here, starting with Dylan in the second tier. That wouldn't strike me as curious if both Lennon AND McCartney were in the first tier. But if I had the chance, and Mojo did, I would have sacrificed the question about "The Rhythm Of The Saints" and asked for further insight to Simon's ranking. Paul over Bob?
Could "Wiggle, Wiggle" have hurt Dylan that much? And if so, why didn't "Biker Like An Icon" and most of "Wildlife" hurt Paul? Or, "Pipes Of Peace?" Or, "Nod Your Head?" Or...
I'm guessing, most everything after "Imagine" has tarnished Johnny Boy. Nothing, not even "Woman" and "Beautiful Boy" could make me forget "Rock & Roll," one of my least favorite records by anyone. I know it's unfair to place a drunken covers record in the mix, but I hate that record THAT much.
I don't think I could pit Lennon and McCartney against each other. I think most would agree, Paul's solo output was far more consistent, though we must take into account the 30 extra years he had to work. But, Lennon seemed to get his mojo back with "Double Fantasy," so who really knows what was coming down the pike. As a team, I still feel, unequivocally, no one will ever come close to John & Paul.
But Dylan? Second tier?
"It's about whose songs last."
Shouldn't the amount of songs that last also be a consideration? Hank Williams' followers may know the depth of his catalogue the way Dylan fanatics call out "Yea Heavy, & A Bottle Of Bread" at concerts. But don't you think Dylan has a larger amount of songs that has lasted than Hank? "Old Folks At Home" has outlasted both of these guys, but I don't think Stephen Foster is the better songwriter. I guess that isn't criteria for what makes a better songwriter, but then I didn't make the statement.
What's my point? Uh...the point? Honestly, I'm not sure. Simon mentions 10 songwriters, 11 if you count Simon himself, and I'm hard-pressed to find a single reason to not include any of them in this pantheon. I'm just wondering if anyone is as surprised as I am at Simon's ranking, and if anyone wants to share their feelings on all of this.