Bob Dylan: Jeff Zelevansky/AP/Wide World
October 09, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Does Bob Dylan still matter?

”Bob Dylan? I heard one of his records once and I didn’t like it.”

The person who uttered that offhandedly heretical statement was a twentysomething female acquaintance. We were talking music, and I’d just said I was totally under the spell of Dylan’s new album, ”Love and Theft.” I was so stunned by her blunt dismissal of Big Bob that I didn’t even think to ask her just what Dylan album had turned her off.

To be sure, Dylan has released a lot of dodgy records over the years, particularly in the ’80s. But the idea that someone could write off an artist of his stature and remain oblivious to his mythos and importance brought me up short. Had this woman never heard and been struck dumb with awe by ”Like a Rolling Stone” or ”Positively Fourth Street” or ”Subterranean Homesick Blues”? Had she never dug the zany wordplay and ragged-but-right musicianship of the Basement Tapes? Hadn’t she ever at least heard Jimi Hendrix’s version of ”All Along the Watchtower” (possibly the only documented case of an artist improving on a Dylan song)? What’s wrong with this younger generation, anyway?

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