Mailbag: Don't think twice, Dylan's all right

I enjoyed some of what you had to say about my friend Bob Dylan ("Dylan worth the time, no matter the quality," City Lights, July 14). As for what the media has to say about him, it's the same old stuff. And as for the word "icon," you in the media need to buy dictionaries and learn some new words. The Black Madonna is an icon, if you know who she is, but Dylan is just a guy who decided to write and sing songs. He was never really a folk singer. And Robert Zimmerman never really became Bob Dylan. It's just his job.

I've been to some rough Dylan shows. I heard him sing "Moon River" the night after Stevie Ray Vaughan died. Rough and awesome. Of course, in this "culture," most of the audience wouldn't even know the song. I've never heard Dylan sing "gibberish." But if you've never heard his music before, how would you know what he's singing anyway? I've never had a hard time recognizing his songs live.

His voice isn't bad because of smoking. He has overused and abused his voice. And I think he refuses medical care for fear that it could disappear entirely. Sinatra was a drunk and a heavy smoker. But it didn't ruin his voice. Dylan chose to sing so much because he enjoys it. And he does appreciate his audience. But he is a quiet man.

What Dylan has really done is to show people how they can take American musical forms and fill them with new things. No one else has done the range of American genres he has: blues, folk, a bit of jazz, rock, gospel, popular song. I've heard him yodel and do Celtic stuff. He is truly the American self-made man.

There isn't a record of his out there, not one, on which there are at least a few of my Dylan favorites. Just go listen to his version of "When Did You Leave Heaven?" One of my absolute Dylan favorites. As for "the media," I quit reading the newspaper or watching TV news after 9/11. Yeah, I'm an icon. [Laughs.]

John Desmond

Fort Wayne, Ind.

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