Jeff Slate Speaks For No One But Himself
Sometimes I read a musical take that is so bad, it feels so like the author passed me in the street and punched me right in the gut.
I like Paul Simon, but I don't love Paul Simon. Every once in a while I'll hear a Simon and Garfunkel song on the radio and I won't turn the station. I personally think he is slightly overrated, yet I appreciate his contributions to music.
But here's the ruse. Paul Simon will not end up a historical footnote to Dylan. He won't and let me tell you why. According to Jeff Slate:
"It's hard to imagine that in 200 years or more — when historians dig into the culture of the late 20th century — anyone but the Beatles and Bob Dylan will be worth more than a passing mention." - NBC News
If we hopped in the time machine and fast forwarded to the year 2150, the only two artists they will be talking about will not be the Beatles and Bob Dylan. Let me tell you what they'll be talking about.
They'll still be talking about Elvis Presley and the Frank Sinatra from the 1950's. I just read an article asking whether Ronan Farrow was Frank Sinatra's love child this week, 70 years after his peak of popularity.
They'll still be talking about the Rolling Stones and the Beatles from the 1960's, like classical music fans debate Brahms vs. Tchaikovsky. If future music historians cull the Mount Rushmore of the 60's, it would be the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, & Jimi Hendrix. The most overrated musician of the second half of the 20th Century is Bob Dylan.
How do I figure? Bob Dylan is still alive, right now, today. Does his music pulsate with the youth? No. For a brief time in the 1960's, Dylan's brand of folk-rock resonated with dirty hippies.
Why did Jeff Slate take a run at Paul Simon, of all people? Because Slate's in a very small group of music snobs who sniff each others farts and talk about the greatness of Bob Dylan.
My kid, right now, this morning, is wearing a t-shirt he got from Target of the Beatles. The Beatles haven't released a note of music in over 50 years, yet I still occasionally hear Beatles music resonating in his room. Bob Dylan released Rough and Rowdy Ways last year, Rolling Stone magazine gave the album 4.5 Stars and named it the #4 album of 2020. Have you listened to Rough and Rowdy Ways?
Jeff Slate and Jann Wenner are two old peas in a pod who still think that they dictate musical tastes in America. Slate says the only 2 artists that will survive for centuries are the Beatles and Bob Dylan? You know what? Esteemed writer Fred Hunt at Beacon of Speech says that the only 2 artists' music that will survive the test of time are the Beatles and Alice Donut. Alice Donut captured the despair of the human condition in classic songs like Mrs. Hayes, Magdalene, and Prog Jenny....
You're yelling at your monitor, "you just said the Beatles and then picked your favorite band."
Let me ask you some questions to prove my point.
When is the last time you went to someones house and they were playing Bob Dylan music? (I have never had this happen in my life.)
When is the last time you went to a friend or family member's home and they told you that you should check out Dylan's latest release? (I have never had this happen in my life.)
When is the last time you saw Bob Dylan was coming to your town and you had to catch that concert? (I have never had this happen in my life.)
When is the last time you were listening to your favorite classic rock station (WNCX in Cleveland) and even NOTICED they were playing Bob Dylan? (I'm not saying that WNCX doesn't play Dylan, I'm saying that I have never even noticed it.)
If you go to Sirius XM rock section, you can listen to the Beatles Channel, the Bob Marley Channel, the Pearl Jam Channel, the Phish Channel, and the Bruce Springsteen Channel. No Dylan Channel. You know why? Because no one actively listens to Bob Dylan. At the bottom of the page, there's a Deep Cuts Channel where you can hear your favorite deep cuts from artists like Bob Dylan and Steely Dan.
During lockdown, while I was literally watching paint peel from the walls of my home, I revisited albums by prolific musicians as varied as Miles Davis, Prince, Frank Zappa, and Ginger Baker. I didn't even have an INKLING to revisit the Dylan Catalog.
Let's take it from another angle. 100 years ago today, April 3, 1921, a young Glenn Miller was forming his first band with a couple of his classmates. It could be argued that the Glenn Miller Band was the most popular band of the 1930's. But a hundred years later, big band is dead. Really dead. Do you even hear a passing reference to the genre in every day life?
Right now the most popular genres of music are rap and pop. Let's say rap and pop kill rock music. 50 years from now, it is feasible that people aren't talking about rock AT ALL. Historians would look to past masters like Run-DMC, Public Enemy, and the Beastie Boys.
In the year 2003, Rolling Stone Magazine named Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone the #1 song of all time. In the year 2016, Beacon of Speech ran a complicated algorithm and came up with Smells Like Teen Spirit as the #1 song of all time. If you go by physical sales, Bing Crosby's 1942 hit White Christmas is the #1 song of all time. If you go by digital sales, Ed Sheeran's 2017 hit Shape of You is the #1 song of all time.
My point is that Bob Dylan is not an ubiquitous artist of the 20th century like the Beatles. He's in a niche of most popular folk-rock artists of all time....
Like Paul Simon.