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

Randy Newman Sings “Sail Away”

Listen to this track by former songwriter-for-hire , current sought-after soundtrack composer, and musical satirist Randy Newman. It’s his 1972 song “Sail Away” as taken from the album of the same name, Sail Away.

Although known in more recent years mostly for his Grammy-winning soundtracks to children’s films like Toy Story and Monsters, Inc., Newman stands as one of America’s greatest satirists on record. And this is certainly one of the best examples of this sphere of his work; a pitch from a slaver to a potential slave.

Newman had made a name for himself primarily as a West coast Brill Building-style songwriter from the early 1960s, penning songs for acts like The Fleetwoods, The O’Jays, Cilla Black, Gene Pitney, and Harper’s Bizarre, among others. He’d also work as a sessioner with other notables including Van Dyke Parks, and Leon Russell, working with his friend and long-time collaborator Lenny Waronker.

But, later he’d branch out more as a performer in his own right, an area he’d only dabbled in during his songwriting years creating tunes for other acts. By the end of the ’60s and early ’70s, audiences were ready for a singer with a unique voice such as Newman’s. And they were ready for their pop music to contain more than one layer of meaning, too.

And that’s certainly what they got here, a tale as told by an unreliable narrator (a Newman specialty). But, in addition to the story of a wondrous land of opportunity, with a life of toil and cruelty hiding behind it, there are other layers to be found in this song besides. Read more