Bob Dylan’s Voice – These Days

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Anyone who knows me knows that I am, and have been for decades, a huge fan of Bob Dylan. Some might even call that an understatement!

I first saw Bob Dylan in concert at the Earls Court arena on 30th June 1981, during his much maligned Christian religious phase. The fact that I too was going through the exact same religious conversion phase at more or less the exact same time only served to draw me to him and his world of music (it’s okay, I eventually recovered… as did Dylan). I came out of that concert feeling on a high. Most of that was definitely the music and the experience of my very first rock concert. Part of it might well have been due to some strange herbal smoke wafting around the upper tiers of the Earls Court!

I have seen Bob Dylan in concert dozens of times since (although sadly, the last time was a very distant 1998, due to my cats keeping me home!). And I have been a collector of his music and overall enthusiast about Bob Dylan for thirty-one years now. In fact, I still am.

However, I have something honest to say that I never thought I would say, which it pains me to say, and which will make people who have known of my “Dylan-mania” drop their jaws in shock. So, with great reluctance, here it is…

I can no longer bear to listen to his “recent voice”; the one we have been hearing in concert for the last four years or so. Yes, I have heard some of the concert recordings. And it has come to the point where I can no longer bear to listen to the current Bob Dylan voice. And that is really a first for me, because I have been able to listen to, and for the most part, love all of his previous voices, not to mention his phase changes, over all the decades of his career to date.

Now, to his great credit, Bob Dylan has been touring more in the past decade (or even two) than he used to in all of the previous decades put together. In the eighties for example, three years might pass before Dylan took to the road again. Nowadays, he barely ever stops. And yes, he has been doing some truly great concerts throughout the new century. Of that, there can be no doubt.

However, Bob’s non-stop touring is taking its toll on his voice, and I am left wishing that he would actually stop, just for a year or so, to give his voice a much needed rest. At present, it sounds like an acute case of Laryngitis, with Dylan basically failing to reach not just the high notes, but most any notes at all. What we get instead is a shudderingly awful rasp. Of course, some sad people would maintain that he was always unlistenable, but they are just total Philistines, so we need pay no attention!

The band sounds invariably excellent, but Bob’s voice has been letting things down over the last few years. That is not to say that he still gives some very passionate and effective performances. However, for me, I have come to the point where post-2007/8 live Dylan is no longer listenable.

Of course, that is just my personal opinion. I know that there are many fans out there still raving about the latest concerts, and in a way, they have a point. Bob Dylan does give it his all much of the time. He really is trying. However, for me personally, it would be better if he took a rest and got his vocal chords back in order.

That way, his voice will get the chance to recover somewhat. Only a few years ago, pre-2007 or so, it sounded perfectly fine, indeed absolutely wonderful, with the new bass range he seemed to have discovered in his old age. However, to quote a song title of his, “Things have changed.”

So please Bob, let’s take time off and get rid of that rasp. Please?…


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Copyright 2012 Asoka Selvarajah . All Rights Reserved.

One comment

  1. Actually, as of late 2013, there is good news. The voice has started to improve at last! it is listenable once more. That horrid rasp that persisted from 2009 through the mid-2013 is gone. It wasn’t on the Tempest album, and it is no longer in the late 2013 concerts, as far as I can hear.

    It’s a welcome thing as the concerts are actually extremely good and interesting. Here’s hoping things continue that way!

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