The Electric Commentary

Friday, March 25, 2005

Covering Dylan is Hard?!

I read this article by Dana Stevens in the Slate this morning and I had the same reaction as Professor Althouse. First read this quote:

No living human could reproduce the precise blend of vanity, pathos, and smarm that Ricky Gervais, the co-creator and star of the British series, brought to the character of David Brent, but Carell wisely re-imagines the role from the ground up; his version is less a buffoon than a dickhead, with the knitted brow and aggressive physicality of Ben Stiller. He also wears his self-loathing closer to the surface than his predecessor did; where Gervais was wrapped in a cocoon of self-regard, Carell seems constantly on the verge of a temper tantrum, or possibly tears. Carell understands the needy, unlovable Michael Scott from the inside out. But some characters belong to the actor that created them; stepping into such a role, any other performer is as doomed as a singer covering a Bob Dylan song. (Emphasis added).

Now how could someone actually write that? All Along The Watchtower, anyone?

Bob Dylan is a great songwriter and an accomplished musician, but his performances, especially over the course of my lifetime, leave a lot to be desired. You can't understand Bob Dylan anymore. Back when he was still in his prime you could at least make out what he was saying, but now it sounds like he has a kazoo stuck in his throat. His ability to perform has never lived up to his writing and recording prowess, but now he's just abysmal.

Covering Dylan is a great way to generate a big hit, and, as Althouse points out, many people have done exactly that:

Dylan made his way into public favor through the work of the artists who covered him -- Joan Baez; Peter, Paul & Mary; The Byrds. A great thing about Dylan has always been how wonderfully well his songs transform in the hands of another singer.

Amen.

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