Rolling Stone magazine has put out a list of the “500 greatest songs of all time,” although upon closer inspection they mean the 500 greatest rock ‘n’ roll songs of the rock ‘n’ roll era. But no matter: it’s a cool list, made up of votes from 172 “rock stars and leading authorities.”
Their #1 song? Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” Hey, I’m not gonna argue — it’s a fucking fantastic song — but I do wonder if that particular song was subliminally advantaged in this particular race. 🙂
But read about the song’s genesis and recording, and you can’t help but see rock ‘n’ roll genius at work. Dylan poured out pages upon pages of raw emotion that he later condensed into the lyrics of “Like a Rolling Stone.” His insistance on how the recording should sound may have seemed startling and controversial to the musicians sitting there in that session with him, but clearly, he had a vision. Whatever he channeled within himself or without, he produced a masterwork.
I love reading material like this. I’ve read every book of interviews with songwriters and musicians that I can get my hands on, and they’re always so very inspiring. What’s particularly interesting to me is how many of them say they don’t know where the song came from; that they must have drawn the inspiration from somewhere outside of them. Many make references to a collective consciousness or some mystic energy source that they feel they tap into now and then (especially through the use of intoxicants, no doubt). And quite a few admit to a tendency to create chaos in their lives because in times of peace, they’re not inspired.
And after reading all this, I sometimes wonder if it takes that level of eccentricity to create works of creative genius. And if it does, I’m grateful for the people who have that talent and the ability to push boundaries. I have no desire to live a jagged, painful existence, even if it means producing the most inventive works of art possible. I’m not saying I’m satisfied with mediocrity, but I’d be thrilled to make as meaningful a contribution to music as I can within the bounds of living a happy, well-balanced, healthy life. And if that’s being a sellout, show me the dotted line and I’ll happily sign it.