It’s fair to say that no other musician has been a bigger influence to so many than Bob Dylan.
For more than five decades his creaky, heartbreaking voice together with his poetic lyrics, have given us some of the most unforgettable songs ever written.
Since he burst on to the music scene in the 60s, Dylan was always known for being mysterious, elusive and fascinating – just like his music.
Over the course of his career, Dylan has given us more than 30 albums – and still counting with the release of ‘Triplicate’, last month.
Like his previous two studio albums, it features covers of classic American songs.
“The songs are spread over three CDs because that’s the way I wanted it,” he said, explaining the album’s three-disc concept. “Each record is a sequel to the other and they belong together. The songs are too long for a regular LP and I wanted to do them justice.
“The songs are a great source of inspiration that has led me to one of my most satisfying periods in the studio. I’ve hit upon new ways to uncover and interpret these songs that are right in line with my own, and my band and I really seemed to hit our stride on every level. I used to look back at the music that I wrote with some sort of surprise, but I don’t anymore. The surprise I would put down to the fact that I’m not quite sure how I got to write those songs. There is some sort of magic about them.
“Many singer-songwriters will attest to that. You sit down and write, and something quite...mystical takes over you. Whatever it is, it’s hard to put into words. There are no words to describe the songwriting process apart from magic and mysticism and some talent thrown into the pot for good measure. And you know, I did it.”
His songs are more like stories, they tell of love won and lost, loss and revolution.
“Yes, like you said, they are so much more than lyrics and music, they are small stories captured in three or four minutes,” Dylan agrees. “They tell of love, of life lived and destroyed, of having the courage to stand up for something even if you might fall.
“They are your stories the same way that they are mine. Songs have the ability to bind the artist and the listener together. But you can’t tell the same story over and over again and expect to get away with it forever. But my music now captures different stories, different memories.”
It was at the age of 19 that Dylan made his way to the bright lights of New York City, more specifically, Greenwich village – the epicentre of the 1960s counterculture. Within months, he had signed a recording contract with Columbia records.
Greenwich was a world away from his life in his hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota.
“I’m not sure that my parents wanted for me what I eventually got,” Dylan said. “They didn’t understand the need to move to a place like New York. All they needed and wanted was right there in Minnesota. There is a certain beauty in that though isn’t there?”
So what pushed Dylan to make the break?
“I listened to the radio. I hung out in record stores and with like-minded people and I fooled around on the guitar and piano, and I always wanted more,” he said. “At the time I felt like destiny was looking me right in the eye and I couldn’t look away. It’s a feeling you have, it’s what you are supposed to do with your life. You kind of have to keep that feeling to yourself because it’s just so fragile.
“And if you put it out there, somebody will kill it, it could be shattered in the blink of an eye. Speaking it out loud may diminish it even though it was limitless when it was kept unspoken. So, it’s best to keep that all inside. But sometimes it breaks out.”
Like many musicians, fame soon took its toll on Dylan. ‘I’m a wordsmith from bygone days’ he said of himself at the time.
“I wasn’t getting any thrill out of performing anymore,” he said. “And what good is a musician who doesn’t like going on the road? I thought it might be time to shut it down.”
But that was then and this is now.
At 75, Dylan still remains a voice that is as unique and powerful as ever. He’s back on the road and fresh from the success of ‘Triplicate’, there is yet more music in the pipeline. There’s more Sinatra coming out later this year and after that, who knows,” he said. “I’m still here and that’s something I don’t take for granted; music is a very fickle business.
“Touring isn’t something that I particularly enjoy, but for me it is no longer the chore that it once was. I’m on the road this year and I’m content about that for the time being.
What can fans expect?
“They can expect me, whoever that may be,” he said laughing, paraphrasing that well-known Dylan quote.
Catch Bob Dylan and his band at the Clyde Auditorium on May 7.
For tickets: visit