Bob Dylan won the Nobel price for literature last week. There was a lot of praise and some harsh criticism, but above all it brought the artist some attention among people, who might not have known much about his work before. In the midst of all this I was asked “What would you recommend to look into to get a good overall idea of Bob Dylan?” I don’t think there’s any other living artist, for whom this question is harder to answer. He released his first album 54 (!) years ago, changed topics and musical styles countless times and reinvented himself well more than just once. For one I’d recommend Todd Haynes’ great movie “I’m Not There”. The fact alone, that he uses six actors to depict Bob Dylan, pretty much says it all.
The second way to grasp the influence he had on our culture and zeitgeist, is to have look at the – literally – thousands of cover versions of his songs. Jimi Hendrix’ “All Along The Watchtower” screams the sound of the sixties right from its first chords (prominently used in the Forrest Gump soundtrack). From “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” by Them, Manfred Mann’s take on “The Mighty Quinn”, countless versions of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” to Guns’n Roses’ version of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” all the way to Adele singing “Make You Feel My Love” in 2008. All of them are songs written by the only person (probably ever) to be decorated with a Grammy, an Oscar and a Nobel price for literature.