What Bob Dylan Thought About The Who’s ‘My Generation’

Two excerpts from ‘The Philosophy Of Modern Song’ have been published ahead of the book’s upcoming release.

By Scott Bernstein Oct 13, 2022 9:36 am PDT

Bob Dylan shares his take on over 60 songs written by other artists for The Philosophy Of Modern Song. Two excerpts from Dylan’s first book since 2004’s Chronicles, Volume One have been shared by the New York Times, including the Nobel laureate’s essay and “riff” on The Who’s 1965 hit “My Generation.”

The Philosophy Of Modern Song arrives through Simon & Schuster on November 8. Bob Dylan examines compositions by Elvis Costello, Nina Simone, Ricky Nelson, Little Richard and many others in the tome. Nearly half of the essays featured in The Philosophy Of Song come with what are described as “dream-like riffs that, taken together, resemble an epic poem and add to the work’s transcendence.” The New York Times today published excerpts on “My Generation” and the Frank Sinatra-popularized “Strangers In The Night.”

“This is a song that does no favors for anyone, and casts doubt on everything,” begins Dylan’s “My Generation” essay. “In this song, people are trying to slap you around, slap you in the face, vilify you. They’re rude and they slam you down, take cheap shots,” added the 81-year-old artist about the song penned by Pete Townshend. “They don’t like you because you pull out all the stops and go for broke. You put your heart and soul into everything and shoot the works, because you got energy and strength and purpose. Because you’re so inspired they put the whammy on, they’re allergic to you, and they have hard feelings. Just your very presence repels them.”

Bob Dylan’s riff on “My Generation” is read by Oscar Isaac for the New York Times feature. Dylan puts the song in historical context, stating:

Every generation gets to pick and choose what they want from the generations that came before with the same arrogance and ego-driven self-importance that the previous generations had when they picked the bones of the ones before them. Pete Townshend was born in 1945, which puts him at the front end of the baby boomer generation, born right after the Second World War ended. The generation who fathered Pete and the rest of the boomers has been called the Greatest Generation — not a self-congratulatory term at all.

Bert Kaempfert wrote the music to accompany lyrics by Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder for “Strangers In The Night.” Frank Sinatra released his chart-topping version in 1966 as the title track to his most commercially successful album. “By the time Frank Sinatra stepped into the studio to record ‘Strangers in the Night’ on April 11, 1966, he had already been singing professionally for thirty-one years and recording since 1939,” Dylan noted to start his essay on the song. “He had seen trends come and go in popular music and had, in fact, set trends himself and spawned scores of imitators for decades.” Bob continued by writing:

Still, it was amazing that the soundtrack of the summer of 1966, according to the July 2 edition of the Billboard Hot 100, was topped by that little pop song. Amazingly, in the middle of the British Invasion, “Strangers in the Night” by Hoboken’s own beat out the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” and the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.” Today, the charts are so stratified and niche marketed, you would never see something like this happen. Nowadays, everyone stays in their own lane, guaranteeing themselves top honors in their own category even if that category is something like Top Klezmer Vocal Performance on a Heavy Metal Soundtrack Including Americana Samples.

Head to the New York Times for the complete exerpts and narration.

[Hat Tip – Stereogum]

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