Dylan As Singer

Thu Mar 19, 2009

I have a tin ear, and I once, remembering this opinion of Donald Fagen’s, played “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” for a date skeptical, let us say, of this:

An astounding record. You get to hear on this what a fantastic singer he was. His range, which now, as far as I can tell, has reduced to a perfect fifth, used to be enormous. He starts very high on the verse and then drops an octave in about a second and sounds like he’s doing a duet with himself. A perfect record.

While counting notes on her fingers, she proclaimed that he was impossibly off-key throughout. I’ve never thought much of it until now, when I just looked at the Amazon MP3 download best-sellers of Dylan’s songs. “It’s All Over” is, unless I’m missing something, an incredible #127. “Hurricane,” for example, is #6. You can talk about the effect of Dazed and Confused here, sure, but what explains this? I don’t have access to Itunes, but I’d like to know what that, presumably more popular, service has to tell us. (And if the customers have better taste.)