The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #142469 Message #3286628
Posted By: Stringsinger
07-Jan-12 - 01:56 PM
Thread Name: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
The problem is that those who claim Dylan's very good songs are not really defining why they think that these are good. My contention is that a good songwriter in the folk tradition can write succinct and pithy ideas with few words. Dylan is far too wordy for my taste. I'll take Woody's writing any day. Ludlow Massacre,1913 Massacre and Pretty Boy Floyd are folk masterworks. I feel the same about Jean Ritchie who is not as well recognized for her "L and N Don't Stop Here Anymore" and "Black Waters".
Most of Dylan's work impresses me as being preachy and pseudo-profound. The songs cited above as his best work, well I don't agree that they stand up that well.
Dylan cut an image for his time as the rebellious youth taking his initial appearance from Woody Guthrie's stance as an active socialist. Dylan was not that and I think he was kind of an imitator. He took on Woody's "raggedy" image for a show business market and many young people of the time identified that as being "honest" and "real" which I don't think it was. Having known Woody prior to his disability, I can say that Woody was real and who he was and he played a damned good harmonica as well.
A lot of cultish enthusiasm for Dylan's work has more to do with his "attitude" and "image" than a realistic view of his work.
I don't sense a real sincerity in his earlier work as I do with Woody. Tom Paxton is
a brilliant satirist and cogent writer as is Tom Lehrer. I think the latter two fall into the tradition of Yip Harburg who was one of the greatest lyricists of all time in my opinion. "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime" is a classic well-written protest song.
I know that my point of view will be contentious in some people's opinion, but I sense a falseness and hollowness in Dylan's work. "Like A Rolling Stone" was an interesting song but not one I would enjoy singing. "Tomorrow is a Long Time" is more sensitive and in my opinion may be one of Dylan's best songs and one I have enjoyed singing in the past.
McColl was a scholar of folk music and understood its function in a social context as well as an artistic one. This might be dismissed as some as being "political" but in the early days, Dylan seemed like he cashed in on the "protest market" because it was in vogue. McColl approached folk music much differently and over a period of time developed an appreciation that I don't think Dylan has shown.
I don't care for the pretentiousness of many revival folk singers who trade on appearance and image rather than the quality of their performance. Woody was who he was, not trying to push an image for the show business market. Burl Ives was a trained singer who presented his songs very simply early on with a trained pleasant tenor and a rudimentary guitar accompaniment. His early output were tried and true folk songs that he grew up with (except for the songs of John Jacob Niles). Richard Dyer-Bennet never tried to be anything other than what he was, a classical singer who interpreted folk music with musical taste and expertise. Josh White was a unique guitarist and singer who fashioned his act for the night clubs but he was a tasteful musician who wouldn't be sloppy in his presentation and would be embarrassed to display a pretentious harmonica blowing and passing it off as good playing.
In summary, there is much about the "revival" folk which is pretentious and image driven. The contemporary singer-songwriter has much to learn from the old masters such as Harburg, Johnny Mercer, Ira Gershwin, Gus Kahn and others.
Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell (her earlier work) along with Kate Wolf show a craft and sincerity as well as sophistication in the technique of songwriting.
Pete Seeger's presentation has been of a consistent high musical quality (there are very few banjo players that can match his clean articulation and exciting sound) and his "Darling Corey" album for Folkways is a high standard for a revival folk album.
The same can be said for Peggy Seeger's "Songs of Courting and Complaint".
The commercial output of much rock and roll has made pretentiousness more