People like to give Bob Dylan flak for his voice. And as he made clear at Saturday night’s MusiCares event, where he was honored as 2015’s Person of the Year, he’s tired of it.
“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?” he said.
His reaction to criticisms of his voice was just a small portion of his lengthy speech (transcribed by the Los Angeles Times), which looked back at his decades-long career and the people who helped him—and who didn’t—along the way.
The singer name-dropped multiple musicians ranging from Johnny Cash to Jimi Hendrix, and took a few minutes to highlight fellow folk music icon Joan Baez: “People would say, ‘What are you doing with that ragtag scrubby little waif?’ And she’d tell everybody in no uncertain terms, ‘Now you better be quiet and listen to the songs,'” he said after dubbing her “the queen of folk music now and then.”
While Dylan spent a bit of time talking about how people reacted when he started changing up his sound, he also offered up some stories about creating the music he was originally known for: folk. “I learned lyrics and how to write them from listening to folk songs,” he said. “And I played them, and I met other people that played them back when nobody was doing it. Sang nothing but these folk songs, and they gave me the code for everything that’s fair game, that everything belongs to everyone.”
Dylan, who recently released an album of standards titled Shadows in the Night, ended his speech by thanking the MusiCares organization and offering a quote from Hank Williams: “Let’s hope we meet again. Sometime,” he said. “And we will, if, like Hank Williams said, ‘the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.'”
Read the entire speech over at the Los Angeles Times website.