Sunday, April 3, 2011

Guy Clark: A Dylan Favorite

In April 2009, prior to the release of his latest album, Together Through Life, Bob Dylan sat down with rock critic and MTV producer Bill Flanagan for a rare interview. I'd like to share here two of Dylan's responses that I found the most fascinating. They both deal with his opinions on other musical acts that are his contemporaries. With Dylan so infrequently being quoted, they provide an interesting insight to how aware he is of the greater music scene, which breaks a misconception that he's lived his life out of tune with mainstream culture.

BF: A lot of the acts from your generation seem to be trading on nostalgia. They play the same songs the same way for the last 30 years. Why haven't you ever done that?

BD: I couldn't if I tried. Those guys you are talking about all had conspicuous hits. They started out anti-establishment and now they are in charge of the world. Celebratory songs. Music for the grand dinner party. Mainstream stuff that played into the culture on a pervasive level. My stuff is different from those guys. It's more desperate. Daltrey, Townshend, McCartney, the Beach Boys, Elton, Billy Joel. They made perfect records, so they have to play them perfectly ... exactly the way people remember them. My records were never perfect. So there is no point in trying to duplicate them. Anyway, I'm no mainstream artist.

BF: Who are some of your favorite songwriters?

BD: Buffett I guess. Lightfoot. Warren Zevon. Randy [Newman]. John Prine. Guy Clark. Those kinds of writers.


The one artist on this list that you might be the least familiar with is Guy Clark. Clark is a songwriter's songwriter from Texas, inspiring Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt, and as we've now learned Bob Dylan himself. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004 and at age 69 is still touring and playing live.

I encourage you to spend some time checking out Guy Clark's catalog.  If my word isn't good enough, take it from Dylan:

Guy Clark
Dublin Blues

Guy Clark
Hemingway's Whiskey


WeightStaff said...

Buffett? I'm sorry. I never understood the mass appeal. Apparently I'm the one person who fails to grasp his legacy. Can someone please explain?


Anonymous said...

i kind of agree with you ds. REALLY? first name that comes to mind when asked about your favorite song Buffet? come if Dylan is walking around humming "cheeseburger in paradise" backstage prior to this interview. this is another example of dylan squirting his audience (and more likely Bill Flanagan) in the eye with a lemon.

no one will complain about randy newman, Zevon or even john prine (way to get some songwriter street cred) but you have to imagine his full answer would/should include Leonard Cohen and Townes Van Zant...but nope...lets start off with Buffett. classic dylanizm.

also, Guy Clark? really bob? of all the outlaw classic country songwriters..your favorite is Guy Clark? here comes the lemon in the eye again.

Dylan loves to screw with journalists, and my guess is he knew Flanagan would know who all these guys were and it would leave him with a brain cramp.

or maybe he just put no thought into his answers.

WeightStaff said...

If your only example of Buffett is 'Cheeseburger in Paradise', then of course you're going to have a problem with what Dylan said. But that's like citing 'Freedom' or 'Flaming Pie' as a criticism of Paul McCartney. You need to go back to earlier Buffett albums to appreciate his songwriting talent. Cheeseburger in Paradise wasn't released until his 8th album. Dylan cites both 'Death of an Unpopular Poet' and 'He Went to Paris' as two of his favorite Buffet songs. Go check these out...

As for Guy Clark and the others, I think you should give Dylan a bit more credit than just assuming that he chose these artists to mess with the interviewer. Bob was very candid throughout and I believe he gave honest answers.


WeightStaff said...

Dylan endorsement or not, I'm sorry; the thought of middle-aged suburbanites in Tommy Bahama gear and flip flops at Merriweather has completely ruined any credibility I want to give to J. Buffett.

And wasn't it Dylan who said, "Half of the people can be part right all of the time, some of the people can be all right part of the time, but all of the people can’t be all right all of the time."
Or maybe it was Abraham Lincoln...