Though he is not performing this year at Bonnaroo, the long shadow of Bob Dylan definitely has influenced many of the acts playing there. Bonnaroo is the annual music and arts festival that attracts 80,000 each year to the small town of Manchester, Tenn, in mid-June.
The simple truth is that Bob Dylan is the most influential musician of the last 50 years. I am sure many would disagree with this assertion, but when looking at his body of work and who he influenced, this fact becomes clear.
Late last month, Dylan turned 70 years old with little fanfare. Last year, the late John Lennon's 70th birthday was observed in multiple ways ranging from television specials to re-issues of his music.
However, Dylan remained largely silent. This really should not come as a surprise. Dylan has played out his career on his own terms, and for better or worse, his birthday did not get the recognition it deserved.
Dylan's influence on popular music cannot be overstated. When comparing him to major acts like the Beatles, it is clear that he influenced them far more than they influenced him.
Exhibit A in this debate is the music produced by the Beatles after they became acquainted with Dylan. If nothing else, Dylan showed musicians that just about any topic was fair game when it came to developing subject matter for songs.
In the Beatles' case, they rapidly changed from a band that almost exclusively focused on love songs to a band that would try anything. Particularly Lennon and George Harrison picked up on what Dylan was doing.
Beatles' masterpieces like 'I Am the Walrus' simply could not have been composed without exposure to Dylan's brand of imagery and surrealism in the mid-1960s.
Was Dylan equally influenced by the Beatles? Probably not, but it must be acknowledged that the Fab Four had an impact on him. After all, he was making his transition from folk music to rock and roll just after Beatlemania hit America.
Likely, there was some inspiration there, but Dylan's musical vision was definitely his own.
Last month, the Nashville Scene magazine had a fascinating article about Dylan's album Blonde on Blonde, which was recorded in Nashville in 1966. The album is one of the greatest in rock and roll history. However, the article made a compelling case that it not only helped revolutionize rock and roll but also how music was made in that city.
Article writer Daryl Sanders interviewed several of the surviving musicians who played on those sessions. They stated they had never experienced anything quite like it before or since.
Making their living as musicians in Nashville, these men were fantastic artists. However, Dylan's approach was new and refreshing.
Instead of simply arriving for a session and working on a three-minute song, they found themselves playing on songs that lasted as long as 11 minutes. By today's standards, this does not appear too revolutionary, but it was at that time.
Because Dylan was able to break down these boundaries of conventional record making, many of the artists performing at Bonnaroo grew up in a musical environment that showed them anything was possible.
When reviewing Dylan's 50 years of work, it is quite eclectic. Folk, rock and roll, country, and Biblical music all have significant places within his work.
However, when re-reading his autobiography Chronicles: Volume 1 recently, I could not help but feel that his career had taken a tremendous toll on him. Many thrusted the title 'Spokesman for a Generation' on him, but he really did not like it.
I got the feeling that he really craved a simple life, but all the fame he had achieved would not allow it. That is a shame, but maybe that is why his recent birthday occurred so quietly.