I just came across an article in the Guardian, dated June 30, 2008, by Germaine Greer. The thrust of the article is given in its heading:
Why do people think Bob Dylan was a great lyricist? That creep couldn't even write doggerel.
She's never forgiven him for delaying his Isle of Wight concert for 3 hours, and then quotes 7 lines from Visions of Johanna, beginning with
And Madonna, she still has not showed.
She then says, among other things,
"Fustian of this ilk crosses my desk every week. It's not verse, not even doggerel. Nor is it prose, because it doesn't make sense. Its combination of pretentiousness and illiteracy isn't surprising, which would be something; it's just annoying..."
You get the idea.
She then gives a beautiful eight line poem from Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience, and briefly analyzes it, and goes on to praise the singer/songwriter Morrissey and how beautifully he sings his material (in much the same way that critics say Dylan sings his material.) She ends with the sentence
"The music does what the words alone cannot do. To present the words without the music is to emasculate them."
Which is an admission that she emasculated the words to "Visions." She also mentions the British poet Byatt, who has also done her share of Dylan bashing.
Which brings to mind that the British Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, singled out this very Visions of Johanna as "simply the best song lyric ever written." (The Guardian, October 3, 1999.) Motion also states, "He's one of the great artists of the century" and has a lot to say positively about teaching Dylan in the schools.
So what is it with these Brits?
As a long time Dylan fan, this is of interest to me. In the Winter, 2009 session, I am giving a Dylan course "Bob Dylan: Music, Lyrics, and Influence" in The North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement at the Reuters Center of the University of North Carolina in Asheville. An article such as this is perfect for the course!
Thanks to Karl Eric Anderson's website "Expectingrain.com" for the leads to this article, and his continuing devotion to all thing Dylan.