DJ’s distaste for Dylan result of prevalence

By Caily Grube

I’m kind of ashamed to say this: I hate Bob Dylan.

Rather, it’s not Dylan I hate, but his… I’m kind of ashamed to say this: I hate Bob Dylan.

Rather, it’s not Dylan I hate, but his prevalence. Let me explain. As a child, all signs pointed toward Dylan fandom. I was interested in 1960s-’70s pop bands like The Zombies, The Hollies and The Byrds. I was rather interested in early country from The Carter Family and Hank Williams Sr. I attempted to read beat poets. All of this made it seem obvious that I would like Dylan.

But when I first listened to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and Highway 61 Revisted, I couldn’t jive with his highly esteemed records. It felt as if I had heard all of those songs before. I found no intimate connection with the record. His songs were so available already.

I initially shrugged off my distaste, thinking my opportunity to appreciate the intricacies of Dylan had yet to come. Maybe it was taste one acquires through age — like learning to enjoy onions or Bjork. But I’ve been patiently waiting for more than 12 years to dig Dylan, and it seems that my distaste is only getting stronger. And last year’s Christmas record didn’t help his case.

Still, it isn’t logical. Dylan has most qualities in a musician that I value. He has relevant lyrics. He was a prominent voice of generation’s subculture. He follows in the tradition of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music by reclaiming a homespun folk tradition. He influenced aesthetics that arguably led to crucial D.I.Y. American punk movements.

But at the end of the day, I still get the willies when I hear Bob Dylan in a movie soundtrack or while scanning Pittsburgh’s radio waves.

Lately, I’ve tried to pinpoint my distaste for Dylan. I’ve realized that it’s not really about him or his music.

John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing” helps me understand that my disagreement lies in the industry of Bob Dylan. Berger’s influential essay discusses the effects of mass reproduction and consumption of visual images of art on the object art itself. With the accessibility to art in modern times, “images of art have become ephemeral, ubiquitous, insubstantial, available, valueless, free.”

While Berger is talking about images and physical pieces of art, his critique voices exactly how I feel about Bob Dylan’s music. It is the redundancy of Bob Dylan that I hate. He is on par with a Che Guevara T-shirt in Walmart.

Throughout my entire life, I have been bludgeoned with the idea of Bob Dylan. Here is Bob Dylan in the audio bed of a laundry detergent commercial. Here is Bob Dylan in a crappy romantic movie scene. Here is an entire aisle full of Bob Dylan merchandise in Hot Topic. And here are the halls of your high school, full of tie-dyed shirts screen-printed with the face of Bob Dylan in sunglasses. All of these things have made Bob Dylan a totally available excess and valueless reproduction of art. His aura is gone to me.

And I don’t blame Dylan. I realize that I sympathize with him, as he constantly avoided the role of celebrity and became a recluse from his own stardom.

I don’t hate the actual living Bob Dylan/Robert Zimmerman. I hate the capitalist culture that makes art a commodity and sucks out its entire intrigue in the process. What is left of Dylan is the association with the thing I hate the most — a commercial product designed to be sold.

I’m not totally giving up on the possibility of liking Dylan one day. Realizing these sympathies is a good place to start. And maybe it’s enough that I’ll give those early records another chance.