Name an Influence

November 13, 2010
I was just trying to find some good music. Scrolling down Rolling Stone magazine’s music lists of the greatest musicians and bands in hopes to fill my Ipod with some good music, I spotted his name, Bob Dylan, ranked number one with the greatest album of all time. I gawked at this peculiar black and white picture of a sullen-eyed teenager with indifference and despondence in his eyes looking away from the camera. A sunburst Fender Jazz Bass was strapped around his back. I read the article and several others to find they all had the same opinion: “World’s Greatest Songwriter,” “America’s Lyricist,” and “Rock Music’s Poet Laureate.” I wondered how such a meek looking man could earn such titles among the music community. I had to find out for myself what made this strange kid so great. I looked up “Like a Rolling Stone,” the “widely acclaimed,” “legendary,” and “greatest song of all time.” Unknowingly it became the catalyst for my love of music, literature, film, and art.

No other words can accurately express how I felt when I initially heard the song than in the words of Bruce Springsteen: “it was like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind.” The song opened with a snare drum shot and at that moment the veil that shrouded my mind was ripped off as I was sent plummeting down to experience life’s brutality spoken in beautiful poetry. The music was a distorted whirling storm full of organ, guitar, and piano riffs, a frenetic chaos all carefully designed to have their hooks and melodies. As his voice emerges from the tumultuous racket, the listener is told a story about a wasteful and oblivious woman who goes through the pitfalls of life, being stripped of her securities and left to survive on her own. I gazed upon her with contempt, fueled by the seething words of Dylan as he mocked her with “How does it feel?” Dylan and this song have influenced me in my actions and thoughts in a way that differs from most people. Without his influence my life would just be filled with ordinary teenage thoughts.

I wouldn’t examine lyrics or any type of art form if I had not listened to his songs. “Like a Rolling Stone” showed me that lyrics could be poetic and have a greater meaning. I began analyzing the song line-by-line, infatuated by the poetic prowess of the lyrics. My mind began to swirl with ideas and thoughts about the meaning of the song. As contemplation lingered through my mind, I found my thoughts becoming more philosophical and my taste becoming more intellectual. My mind thirsted for more poetic literature so I researched what his influences were and what kind of books he read and music he listened to. This exposed me to the works of Rimbaud, Dickenson, Baudelaire, and Wilde.

By being exposed to a higher level of thought and ideas, I’ve filtered my interests and thoughts to something of a more intellectual nature. Bob Dylan has influenced my life by destroying all preconceptions that I have ever had on life and forcing me to slowly rebuild, questioning each notion I have ever had, constructing a foundation built on personal philosophies and literature. He shattered my teenage delusions and gave birth to a golden age of intellectual curiosity for the arts.

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