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What Bob Dylan said about people who say he can’t sing


What Bob Dylan said about people who say he can’t sing

There is no doubt that Bob Dylan is one of the most important and prolific songwriters of all time. During his career, the musician wrote more than 600 songs, sold millions of records and many of his tracks were covered by other famous artists.


He is not only part of the history of music, he was also a fundamental of the cultural revolution that started in the 60s. However, there are many critics who criticized him for his voice and way of singing. This really didn’t start with the internet where everyone has something to say about someone, it’s been going for decades. Dylan once talked about that and he gave his real opinion on people who criticize his voice and the way he sings.

What Bob Dylan said about people who say he can’t sing

The legendary Folk Rock artist talked about those critics during his speech at MusiCares, in 2015, when he was elected Person of The Year. The musician reflected on why critics have always picked him as the main target and didn’t mention other artists that have a similar voice like Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed and Dr. John.

“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?”

“What have I done to deserve this special attention? No vocal range? When’s the last time you heard Dr. John? Why don’t you say that about him? Slur my words, got no diction. Have you people ever listened to Charley Patton or Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters? Talk about slurred words and no diction. [Inaudible] doesn’t even matter. ‘Why me, Lord?’ I would say that to myself,” Bob Dylan said.

For Dylan, the message of the song is far more important than the performance

The musician also talked about critics who say he “mangle melodies” and that his songs are unrecognizable when performing live. That’s when reflected on singers who want to show the vocal range they have live and others like him who prefer not to do that and keep focused on how the song was written.

“Critics say I mangle my melodies, render my songs unrecognizable. Oh, really? Let me tell you something. I was at a boxing match a few years ago seeing Floyd Mayweather fight a Puerto Rican guy. And the Puerto Rican national anthem, somebody sang it and it was beautiful. It was heartfelt and it was moving.”

He continued:

“After that it was time for our national anthem. And a very popular soul-singing sister was chosen to sing. She sang every note — that exists, and some that don’t exist. Talk about mangling a melody. You take a one-syllable word and make it last for 15 minutes? She was doing vocal gymnastics like she was on a trapeze act. But to me it was not funny. Where were the critics? Mangling lyrics? Mangling a melody, mangling a treasured song? No, I get the blame. But I don’t really think I do that. I just think critics say I do,” Bob Dylan said.

To finish that part of his speech, the musician quoted the late legendary singer Sam Cooke. Once again, trying to explain that the voice is not as important as the message of a song.

“Sam Cooke said this when told he had a beautiful voice: He said, ‘Well that’s very kind of you, but voices ought not to be measured by how pretty they are. Instead they matter only if they convince you that they are telling the truth.’ Think about that the next time,” Bob Dylan said.

Although he pays attention to what critics say about him, Dylan never really changed his ideas because of that. For years already he rarely plays his hits live in concert and when he does perform them, he changes the arrangement and speed, for example.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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