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The crucial songwriting lesson Bob Dylan taught John Lennon


As much as John Lennon worshipped the ground that Bob Dylan walked on, they were never truly friends. The hostile nature of their relationship was a result of the impact the folkie had on his career after the Beatle tried to mimic him after being taught one crucial songwriting lesson.

The level of fame both artists endured was significantly different during the 1960s, and Dylan never had the hordes of teenage fans stalking his every move in the same way as ‘The Fab Four’. On the other hand, he was more critically acclaimed, which made Lennon envious, who did everything in his powers to become a duplicate of the Greenwich village icon.

Lennon’s love of Dylan only amplified once they crossed paths in New York. The meeting, which was brokered by journalist Al Aronowitz at the singer’s suite at the Delmonico Hotel down Park Avenue in Manhattan, arrived after The Fab Four appeared at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens.

It was during this evening that Dylan infamously introduced the Liverpudlian band to cannabis for the first time, but, more notably, it would also colossally shift Lennon’s artistry. Once Lennon returned to England, his obsession with Dylan began to infiltrate his work with The Beatles. His new influence was particularly notable across Help! and Rubber Soul would confirm a shift in his artistry into becoming a more mature songwriter.

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For the first time, Lennon had adjusted his tone of lyricism and had started to assess his own emotions, which had a deeper level of meaning to his work, which he put down to his love of Dylan. Lennon later highlighted ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ from Help! as an example of him putting this lesson to practice. Lennon explained in the Anthology that it was him in his “Dylan period”, before adding: “It’s one of those that you sing a bit sadly to yourself, ‘Here I stand, head in hand’ I’d started thinking about my own emotions.”

Lennon continued: “I don’t know when exactly it started, like ‘I’m A Loser’ or ‘Hide Your Love Away’, those kind of things. Instead of projecting myself into a situation, I would try to express what I felt about myself, which I’d done in my books. I think it was Dylan who helped me realise that – not by any discussion or anything, but by hearing his work.”

Additionally, it wasn’t just Lennon who felt this way, and Paul McCartney referred to Dylan “our idol”. He explained: “I could feel myself climbing a spiral walkway as I was talking to Dylan. I felt like I was figuring it all out, the meaning of life”.

Surprisingly, Dylan was far from overjoyed with his influence on The Beatles, and he felt like they’d gentrified his art to sell to the masses. However, Lennon’s phase of wanting to be Bob Dylan wasn’t a devious attempt to sell records, and it was born solely out of his unadulterated love for him as a songwriter.