Exhuming Bob XX: Bob And Johnny: In Defense Of Dylan

May 31, 2009

 

Exhuming Bob XX:

Bob And Johnny:

In Defense Of Dylan

by

R.E. Prindle

http://www.independent.ie/national-news/dylans-view-of-cash-shortchanges-legacy-1756667.html

 

     The least said, the soonest mended.

     In Dylan’s recent interview published by Rolling Stone Magazine Dylan raised his own litle fire storm.  Dylan BanjoWhatever his intent the appearance was that he was trashing Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, both more important and stellar than himself.

     Both Presley and Cash were originators while what followed including Dylan were epigones.  Accident of time, like it or not, Dylan and the rest are derivatives.  They can never exceed their masters.  So Dylan should have retained his modesty.  However I come not to bash Bob but to defend him.

     While  I think there is a growing arrogance in his attitude as he seems to be beginning to believe his press releases, and while with Cash there may be something else going on in the background, yet, I am in sympathy with his opinion but not to the point of blackguarding Cash, I just listen to my favorites, among which is Big River, when I listen.  That isn’t too often anymore.

     One who did take deep offence to Dylan’s comments was fellow artist Joe Jackson of the pointy shoes in the Irish Times:

     … in the Rolling Stone interview, which was reprinted in last weeks Sunday Times, Bobby, Cash 1baby, finally revealed himself to be a musical illiterate, in one quintessential sense, when he stupidly dismissed as “low grade” everything Johnny Cash recorded after leaving Sun Records in 1958.

     Dylan didn’t express himself very well, but he is a sort of an authority, he was there while Joe only heard Cash well after the fact having therefore a historical perspective having probably heard the old stuff after he heard the new stuff.  Dylan was born in ’41 while Jackson was born in ’54.  It therefore behooves someone born in ’54 to be rather circumspect in criticizing the opinion of someone who was there or almost there.  I’ve got three years on Bob and was actually there at the creation.  Dylan’s taste in music is nevertheless impeccable.

     As I say, Jackson knows early Cash only in a historical sense.  Time dulls all brilliance.  No one can really

Joe Jackson at 52
Joe Jackson at 52

understand the effect of the music of Johnny Cash on the people who were there if they weren’t.

     The early Sun of Cash was volcanic, other worldly, the equivalent of five or six of those mushroom clouds over Hiroshima.  And remember, as a country artist Cash debuted in heavy traffic, the greatest of the great where reaching their apogee- that is to say Hank Snow and Webb Pierce and a host of other lesser lights but still greats.  Dylan and I both revere Hank Snow, hey little buddy?  Webb is unbelievable so into this milieu strides Johnny Cash with three or four mind stunners followed by I Walk The Line, not to mention writing Warren Smith’s Rock n’ Roll Ruby.  Now, not everybody got it at the time, you had to be hep, you had to know in your guts.  We were the congnoscenti.  Of course by Line the word was out.

     But these records of incomparable genius were as we said at the time Cash’s wad, after he shot it every thing was of a lesser quality;  even on Sun, he followed up with Ballad Of The Teenage Queen and other such drivel only for the die hards  of which I was one but I knew the best of Cash was in the past.  Dylan apparently did too but that early flowering was enough to respect Cash forever.  Dylan should have expressed himself differently.  After all it was Cash’s endorsement that opened much wider horizons to Dylan.

     Pushed by the interviewer further Dylan was quoted:

          I tell people if they are interested that they should listen to the Johnny on his Sun Records and reject all the notorious low grade stuff he did in later years.  It can’t hold a candlelight to the frightening depth of the man you have on early records.  That’s the way he should be remembered.

     That seems unduly harsh about a singer who followed his Sun hits with Ring Of Fire and many other excellent recordings although he may not have written them.  In any event Dylan’s career parallels that of Cash:  A short burst of relative genius followed by a long tedious fifty years.

     So while I sympathize with Joe Jackson’s outrage at Dylan’s inexplicable gaucherie I understand what Dylan means.  He was there and Joe Jackson wasn’t and that’s the difference, different memories.  What was it Zappa said?  Shut up and play yer guitar.

     I fondly remember both Cash’s and Dylan’s best.

Jackson 1

                                                                                              Cool Cat Jackson

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