In recent years, a tiresome criticism of Bob Dylan is people cruelly commenting on his voice — mainly because there isn’t anything else that you can say negatively in his direction. Dylan’s songwriting is impossible to fault with any real credibility, so, instead, his voice has become what people choose to aim their digs at, and The Rolling Stones’ singer Mick Jagger couldn’t disagree more.
The two artists have been in the game together for most of their lives. Even though the time they’ve shared on stage together has been limited over the decades — unsurprisingly, they share mountains of respect for each other and lcan not only respect but love the music they have each created.
Jagger and Dylan have remained constants within an industry that has gone through multiple transformations. They are two of the few survivors that remain at the forefront of the industry today, and that alone should ensure some respect. However, they’re still subject to the odd bouts of ridicule.
“The Rolling Stones are truly the greatest rock and roll band in the world and always will be,” Dylan once famously said of his contemporaries. “The last too,” Dylan added. “Everything that came after them, metal, rap, punk, new wave, pop-rock, you name it… you can trace it all back to the Rolling Stones. They were the first and the last and no one’s ever done it better.”
The shoe was placed on the other foot when Mick Jagger appeared on a Dutch television programme and was faced with questions about the freewheelin’ troubadour. Luckily, Dylan could rely on the peacocking Stones frontman to be in his corner.
The host of the programme tries to speak to Jagger about ageing as a rockstar and turning 60. The singer then asks her if she likes Dylan, who Jagger says he enjoys watching despite his age; the presenter admits she does like Dylan before making a fatal error by making a snide remark about his voice.
“It’s a funny voice,” Jagger says in response. “It’s like a voice that’s never been one of the great tenors of our time, but it’s got a timbre, a projection, and it’s got a feeling to it. You were talking earlier about as you get older that you’re voice takes on a different resonance, different pitch and so on. So there’s something to be said for that.”
Jagger politely managed to get his point across and tell the host that the beauty in Dylan’s voice comes from it’s originality, which draws out emotion from a listener in a fashion that only he could pull off.
When Dylan spoke at the MusiCares Awards in 2015, he was more forthright during his speech when he picked a bone with those who have been critical of his voice. “Critics have been giving me a hard time since day one,” Dylan lamented. “Critics say I can’t sing. I croak. Sound like a frog. Why don’t critics say that same thing about Tom Waits?
“Critics say my voice is shot. That I have no voice. Why don’t they say those things about Leonard Cohen? Why do I get special treatment? Critics say I can’t carry a tune and I talk my way through a song. Really? I’ve never heard that said about Lou Reed. Why does he get to go scot-free?”
Despite everything that Dylan has achieved over his career, it’s ludicrous that he still finds himself forced to defend his voice and unfortunately, these shots won’t be disappearing anytime soon. Life would be boring if every singer had identical pitch-perfect vocals, and Dylan’s earthy voice provides the perfect foil for his lyricism.