Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Oh Shenandoah / River imagery / Bob Dylan's voice

I prefer Bob Dylan's version of "Oh Shenandoah" but was moved by the river imagery in the first video, and that prompted me to look for Bob Dylan's version on YouTube.   I am always puzzled when I hear someone say that they like Bob Dylan's songs but not his voice.  There is something in his voice throughout the years that has held my attention in a way few other voices have.  Considering how much Bob Dylan's voice has changed since I first heard it in the early 1960s, maybe it is not the voice itself but that something in his voice. Try muting the voice on the river video and listening to it with Bob's voice:

These other lyrics come to mind:

"... It was for her I crossed the water ..." (from the version of "Oh Shenandoah" that Bob Dylan sings)

"I crossed that river just to be where you are ..." (lyrics from "Mississippi" on "Love and Theft")

The water is wide, and we can cross over.  That's the story I hear Bob telling in these songs.


The Solitary Walker said...

Oh, am, the number of times I've heard people say they like Bob's songs but not his voice! It's almost a cliché. There's just nothing you can reply.

Don't get me wrong – there are many non-Bob versions of his songs I really love: Hendrix's All Along the Watch Tower, Mister Tambourine Man sung by the Byrds, Sinéad Lohan's To Ramona, the Staple Singers, many, many more... And I know you love these too.

But the timbre, the authenticity, the essence of his voice, of something in his voice, yes, that's the thing... Completely attention-grabbing, and inexplicable really.

Dale said...

Yes! That ragged openness of his voice.

am said...

Thank you for knowing what I am talking about Solitary Walker and Dale!

Whatever it is, it's not just those from our generation who can hear it or those whose first language is English. It's something else.

Zhoen said...

I love his voice, that authenticity, that gravity, beats all the pretty in the world.

am said...

Hi Zhoen. Thank you for your comment!

Goat said...

I remember long ago reading that an early reviewer compared Bob's voice to "a cow stuck in a fence". That's an awesome phrase but no, I don't share that view.

I was going to send you a clip I found my accident of Bob and Johnny Cash doing 'Girl from the North Country' on JC's TV show. It was live, not lip-synced. However no sooner had I sent the link to a few people when it was pulled from You Tube over some copyright infraction. There's a version there now with a lot of views which appears to be the live performance from the show crudely dubbed with the album version!

Anyway shows like American/Australian/Uzbeki Idol have helped kill off whatever minimal taste remained among the music-buying/downloading public. The ideal nowadays is to be BIG and LOUD and above all to EMOTE far beyond what is appropriate for one's years or life experience.

Most of the best singers in popular music, in my opinion (perhaps Sinatra is an exception), have not been "singers' as such...but they have an authenticity and simple honest power in their voices that comes from something more vital than a big pair of lungs and a Whitney Houston collection.