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Should Dylan Retire?

03:01 PM Monday 12/13/10 | |

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal asked whether 69-year-old Bob Dylan should retire from the concert stage.

However, Jon Jurgensen, author of the WSJ piece “When To Leave The Stage,” wasn’t zeroing in on Dylan’s age as the reason for the troubadour to cash in his musical 401k. Instead, much of Jurgensen’s essay was about Dylan’s voice, describing it as a “laryngitic croak.”

  • Bob Dylan

    Riviera Nightclub, Chicago, Ill.
    October 30, 2010

    (Bobby Talamine / SkipTheDial.com)


Of course, part of the Dylan mystique during his 50-plus years performing has been the raspy, dust bowl-influenced voice that delivered classic songs such as “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Lay Lady Lay” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” It’s never been a pretty voice, but it was always an authentic representation of an artist that always pushed the envelope, refused to be pigeonholed and constantly followed his own muse.

Jurgensen points out that Dylan’s voice has been more gravelly than legible in recent years, saying, “He’s been sounding like a scatting Cookie Monster.” Add that to reports from audience members saying they couldn’t even identify what Dylan was singing, and the question as to whether he should retire doesn’t seem so preposterous.

So far, rock has shown that reaching AARP age alone shouldn’t be a determining factor for swapping out the tour bus for a RV, or trading in the gold records for a golden parachute. After all, Springsteen is 61 and shows no sign of hanging it up. At the age of 84, Chuck Berry still does several dates a year. One of the signature faces of the 1960s, Paul McCartney, is 68 but no one is asking him to kick back and take it easy while reflecting on his long and winding career road.

Then there’s Leonard Cohen, who began his recent world tour in 2008 when he was 74 years old. No one is screaming for his retirement.

But getting back to Dylan: What do you think? Has his voice become so ragged and worn that his concerts are more about allowing fans to share the same room he’s in for a couple of hours than it is to hear those timeless songs one more time?

Or is it just another side of Bob, and we should be happy that he’s still around, testing our preconceived notions about how we think he should sound?

  • Bob Dylan

    Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, Ill.
    October 31, 2009

    (Bobby Talamine / SkipTheDial.com)


Click here for the Wall Street Journal item (subscription may be required).


  1. oregonguy wrote:

    08:10 AM, Dec 17, 2010

    Then dont go see him people! I have seen him 10 times in the past 10 years  and have never been disappointed. He is as real as you are gonna get. The band plugs in and plays. No tapes, no phonies. This is live rock and roll. Welcome to Bob's world. He don't care if you are there are not. Bob's light will shine brighter forever than any of those novelty acts out there.

  2. billwould wrote:

    09:19 PM, Dec 15, 2010

    I always go to the Wall Street Journal for musical advice. Christ those guys couldn't even predict the sub prime disaster. The guy has no clue.

  3. DeltaSigChi4 wrote:

    03:18 PM, Dec 14, 2010

    I've seen him several times in the last years and I say NO! The fact of the matter is that it isn't up to me, or some douche from the radically extremist right-wing Journal, or some other douche who posts comments on pollstar; it is up to the man himself. Bob says when it is time for Bob to quit. No one else is relevant.

    If you don't like his voice, don't give him your patronage. Period.


    Postscript. And *** off.

  4. Sandanista wrote:

    05:19 AM, Dec 14, 2010

    Dylan can still be amazing in concert. Read this review of a recent show: blogs.mcall.com/.../review-bob-dylan-brings-it-all-back-home-at-stabler.html

  5. ahhhhhh wrote:

    07:30 PM, Dec 13, 2010

    Hes not a relevant performer anymore.

    Thats no reason to push him off the stage. Its a pretty sound opinion that hes not ever GREAT live now. If people want to pay for that go ahead.

  6. Snake_Pliskin wrote:

    07:27 PM, Dec 13, 2010

    You should do what you enjoy in life.  He enjoys performing and why should he stop?  If you don't like his voice, don't go to the show.  Yes, his voice isn't really good anymore but he's 69 years old.  Leave the man alone!

  7. aalbert wrote:

    05:24 PM, Dec 13, 2010

    It's a bit presumptuous for people to suggest that an artist of Dylan's calibre retire (I'd like to see Jon Jurgensen make that suggestion in person).  However, I believe the comparison to Leonard Cohen is apt.  I have seen Dylan many times, but he hardly seems to care anymore.  It is true that his newer material can sound good, but I remember one of the last times I saw him when, after 2 verses of a song, someone near me got all excited because he finally figured out what song it was (and it wasn't an obscure song, they kind of all sound the same these days).  In contrast, Leonard Cohen's presentation of each song was impeccable and he was very gracious to his band, the audience, even the staff at the theatre.  I still love Dylan's songs, but I avoid the live shows.  Others still enjoy them, so if Dylan wants or needs to perform, why not?

  8. hcfan07 wrote:

    04:43 PM, Dec 13, 2010

    Yes! For the love god, retire! Keeping in mind the prohibitive costs of concert tickets, people want to see a really good show for the price they pay. Plus, Bob Dylan sucks, I'd pay to see Lady Gaga any day over that shriveled turd.

  9. djdruemitchell.com wrote:

    04:21 PM, Dec 13, 2010

    AMEN @ Dr. Jackal!!! How about it takes time to be honing your craft. Dylan is amazing and his last 4 studio records are testement to it. How about that chic Justin Beiber retires instead!

  10. Kinks wrote:

    03:54 PM, Dec 13, 2010

    If vocal ability were the barometer, we would be saying goodbye to Britney, Kanye, and many of the current pop stars first

  11. Dr. Jackal wrote:

    03:54 PM, Dec 13, 2010

    Dylan has recorded some of his best music in the past 15 years.  I have seen him several times during this period (including 2 months ago) and have enjoyed him immensely.  If you think he should retire, do us all a favor and just stay home the next time he comes to your town.  I'll feel less crowded at the show and won't have to overhear casual fans whine about how he didn't play "Maggie's Farm" the exact same way he did in 1965.