Always Bob Dylan
19 March 2021-
Today marks the 59th release anniversary of one of music history's most important records — although largely unnoticed then: Bob Dylan's eponymous debut...
It is always so easy to analyze history in hindsight, and pinpoint when things changed — before anyone had time to actually notice. That is very much the case with legendary musician — and Nobel prize winner — Bob Dylan‘s 1962 eponymous debut album, released on this day 59 years ago. Indeed, the project didn’t seem like much at the time: first of all, the man was still largely unknown and the fact that he even had a recording contract rested solely with Columbia producer John Hammond, who was quite taken with the youngster’s sound.
Second, almost all the songs featured on this album are mere covers of traditional folk tunes. Not the most entertaining sort of music right when Rock n’ roll is starting to sweep the nation, the British invasion is finding its feet and the cultural revolution that the 1960’s came to represent is about to coalesce. Nevertheless, many of the arrangements of said tunes are new — at least to the listening audience: they are not in fact all stemming from Dylan’s otherwise prodigiously creative mind and there has famously been a debate over his take on “House of the Risin’ Sun”, whose arrangements were actually written by fellow folk artist Dave Van Ronk. The point is — they are there, and they do bring a degree of originality to the album’s track listing.
What is most interesting, though, is the overall approach Dylan has from this very first album: you can tell that his voice is limited (and his guitar skills, if we’re honest), you can also tell that he doesn’t care. In other words, you can literally hear the attitude here. More to the point, the two original tracks on the album are already quintessential Dylan songs: “Song for Woody”, a timely testament to musical mentor Woody Guthrie, could serve as textbook folk songwriting — of the Bob Dylan variety. In other words, although the man is not even 21 then, you can already foresee everything that will make him of music’s all time greats.
The following year’s Freewheeling Bob Dylan and its anthemic “Blowin’ in the Wind” would confirm all that. But, for a brief moment in time, only a handful of people, listening to that first album, came to first discover a true genius…