Who Is The Next Bob Dylan?: 10 Songwriters Once Voted Most Likely

Bob Dylan
photo: Simon Murphy

From the mid-60s and into the 1970s especially, a new trend in music journalism ramped up into high gear. It was the only one that would rival the whole “will the Beatles get back together?” question that helped to mark those times. That question was: who is the next Bob Dylan?

During the course of his career Bob Dylan took a lot of risks; going electric, changing his voice from time to time, quitting the touring treadmill for almost a decade, and making records that people didn’t expect him to make. And he’s still doing it today – Christmas In The Heart, anyone? That most of these risks tended to pay off was beside the point.

But, during the eighteen months that everyone had to wait as Bob recovered from his motorcycle accident in late 1966, maybe the label, the fans, and the press perhaps realized that putting all their eggs in one basket was the riskiest move of all. As a result, a lot of performers would be tagged with the whole “Next Dylan” or “New Bob Dylan” labels, despite the fact that Dylan himself was still very much in his prime.

Maybe this was because it was just a safer bet to hang one’s hopes on a new artist just starting out, than on one who continually made himself a moving target. In some respects, the comparisons were meant to be complimentary to these new artists. But, as some of these artists evolved, audiences began to see that they weren’t the next anyone, other than themselves – original voices. This is how it should be.

But, who were these artists? Well,  here’s a selection of 10 who are standouts for me in the Who Is The Next Bob Dylan? stakes. Some are big names, as big as Dylan is by now. Others can be called ‘cult artists’, albeit ones with respectable back catalogues of their own. So, judge for yourself to see whether or not the Next Dylan tag applies to any or all of them. And decide too whether or not the passage of time makes the comparison a fair one, or completely absurd. Read more

Bob Dylan Sings “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”

Here’s a clip from Minnesotan singer-songwriter who has had some success over the years after being born on this very day, May 24th 1941; Bob Dylan. It’s his “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”, a feature from his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home, and one of his greatest love songs. It may be one of the greatest love songs written by anyone.

Bob Dylan 1965
Photo: dag

In this particular instance, the song was performed, and captured for posterity in D.A Pennebaker’s film Don’t Look Back. The film documented Dylan’s 1965 tour of the UK, as well as Dylan’s rising fame that began to have an impact outside of his folk fanbase. This sequence was filmed in a hotel room with a very engaged audience looking on, knowing perhaps that they were witnessing a historically significant artist during an important phase in his development.

This performance of the song would be noted especially for the presence of Donovan Leitch, an artist who had been touted at the time as something of a British counterpart to Dylan. And it’s clear that the song, along with “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”,  was performed as a way of showing up the competition by raising the bar. You can see that it worked just by Donovan’s reaction, realizing that he’ll have to work that much harder from that point on.

But, Dylan himself was at something of an artistic crossroads by this time. And if it looks as though he’s bating Donovan (which to be honest, looks pretty evident), Dylan is raising the bar for himself, too, and at a crucial point in his career. Read more

60s British Folk-Pop Singer Donovan Talks About Music and the Creative Process

Here’s a link to a page which contains a short flash movie clip of 60s British folk-pop singer Donovan talking about songwriting, myth, and the creative process. Once you get to the page, click the play button to view. Filmmaker David Lynch is also interviewed on the same subject in an attached clip, so be sure to watch that one too, good people. Thanks to The Atlantic.com for directing me to this clip.

DonovanDonovan had a several hits in Britain in the mid-to-late 60s – “Sunshine Superman”, “Mellow Yellow”, and “Hurdy Gurdy Man”, among others. He welcomed Bob Dylan during Bob’s 1965 UK tour (captured for posterity in D.A Pennebaker’s Bob Dylan – Don’t Look Back), and went to the same “summer camp” as the Beatles when the Fabs went to India to learn how to meditate with the Maharishi Mehesh Yogi in 1968.

Before then, Donovan was hailed as Britain’s answer to Bob Dylan. Donovan’s initial interest in Woody Guthrie, the Beat poets, and the itinerant lifestyle they led is an obvious parallel to Dylan. And like Dylan, he took a stylistic turn for more commercial music when he teamed with producer Mickey Most in 1966. But otherwise, the two artists were world’s apart in terms of approach, attitude, and range. Donovan’s oeuvre isn’t quite as ambiguous in its subject matter, and a bit more on the side of tweeness by which the hippy counterculture is often characterized.

His fascination with nature, and with mythical tales are revealed both in his songs (‘Atlantis’, for instance) and in this interview. In this, he was an important figure in the celebration of British folk traditions as presented in the popular culture of the 60s, and one of the artists which can be credited for burgeoning interest in Britain’s mythical past. His optimism tied him inextricably to the decade, meaning that the next few decades were a little rough going for him. By the 90s, he’d mounted somewhat of a comeback, putting out a new record and touring the folk festival circuit for the benefit of a new audience who had come to be fascinated with the era out of which Donovan had come.

All of this aside, if Donovan can be credited for only one thing in his long career, it might be his instruction to John Lennon in the art of the clawhammer fingerpicking style, which Donovan taught John while both men were in India. This allowed Lennon to write “Julia”, so that’s no small accomplishment. Thanks, Donovan!

Enjoy the clip!