Thursday, October 21, 2010

Infidels: How I Learned to Not Love Dylan

(Serendipitously enough, Bob Dylan is in town tomorrow, something I didn't realize until I started researching this post.)

I write a lot about spending time with other music fans and for better or worse, being unduly influenced by their tastes. I mean, it's bound to happen: You want to like what you're friends do, and a huge part of being a fan is the community it fosters. However, I have one dirty little secret I keep from the general music nerd community.

I don't like Bob Dylan.

I tried to for decades. I bought all his records as they were re-issued and re-issued again, and although I can respect him as a songwriter and note his influence in nearly every young songwriter to come after him, his music never moved me the way it has pretty much everyone else in the known universe. Oh it me moved, but not as if I'd just witnessed the genius of the greatest poet of the last half-century, but more like I'd just gotten into an argument with the world's worst boyfriend or husband or random guy at the bar. In other words, Dylan reminds me too much of people I've known. Ironically, Sady Doyle's defense of Dylan succinctly sums up why I've been unwilling to embrace his music:

"Dylan is, among other things, a gigantic douche on occasion; very specifically, he would seem to be a misogynist of the old school, a member of the Grand Old Boner Party, the sort of man who can only deal with women – at least rhetorically – if they are childlike and precious, or strangely exotic objects on which he looks with fear, admiration, and deep distrust."

I don't know much about Bob Dylan's life outside his music, but I do know glassy-eyed worship is his reward for writing songs that infantilize women. Granted, it's naive to think that Dylan is alone in his misogyny, and if I removed all the songs from my iPod that were anti-woman in some way, I'd be left with... not much. It's more than that. It's the near-obsessive fandom, the unwavering critical acclaim, the unquestioned genius coupled with the long-standing -- and brushed aside -- belief that this guy probably doesn't like women too much that makes it hard for me to listen to his music. Call me an infidel if you must.

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