Cleve Francis
cardiologist, musician

Cleve Francis

Cardiologist; President, Mount Vernon Cardiology Associates, Alexandria, Va.; musician.


His real fans understand

Q: Sure, Bob Dylan is "the age's iconic singer-songwriter and rock's poet laureate.'' All the same, the Wall Street Journal suggests, he should hang up his hat. The Journal caught Dylan, 69, at a bare ballroom in an Atlantic City casino, his voice a "laryngitic croak'' as people walked out to play the slots. Are there age limits on success? Do you go out at the top of your talents, or do you soldier on, doing what you love?

A few years ago, country vocalist Trisha Yearwood sang a song titled "The Song Remembers When." This song was about the essence of an artist-fan relationship. The artist and the songs will forever return to a specific time and circumstance.

This artist-fan relationship is very complex. In time, the artist and the fans will go through changes. The fan will not forget that, even though the artist may not look or sound the same.

The sound, the songs and the lyrics are forever imprinted on the soul of the fan. Some artists have the ability and talent to reinvent themselves over time and are able to entertain and gain new generations of fans (Kenny Rogers and Tony Bennett are two artists that come to mind), while others will represent one era in the life of the fan.

Bob Dylan was a very powerful artist in his prime and was the "spokesman" for millions of baby boomers struggling with identity and a war. He was never known for his vocal skills, but it was his instrument, along with the harmonica, through which he expressed and delivered some of the most powerful mind-changing lyrics ever written.

His current act is no longer at the forefront of any social movement and his vocal sound may have an impact on his gaining new fans. I suspect that this "croaking" singing style will do little to discourage his true fans, who truly remember him as an icon of their past . Most of them expect him to sound this way.

As to how long should he continue to perform? As long as he is willing to continue to write and perform and his fans who remember are willing to pay to see and hear him do another rendition of "Like a Rolling Stone," "Positively 4th Street," or "The Times They are a-Changin.'"

By Cleve Francis  |  December 20, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Success and age Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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OK. Bob Dylan is a great American singer and has been since he hit the scene in 1961. Woody Guthrie said, "I don't know if that boy can write but he can sure as hell sing." Bob sang for Woody as Woody languished in a hospital bed. I saw Bob a little over a year ago in Seattle and his voice was stirring and passionate and the audience was entranced. For me, since first hearing Dylan in 1967, it's always been the voice first, then the lyrics. Just for fun, go to and do a search of "Hallelujah" and "Bob Dylan" to hear Bob's amazing performance of the great Leonard Cohen's song.

Posted by: dalegood1 | December 22, 2010 11:03 AM
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What is an artist? What is art? It does not need to be pretty, or polished to be valid, or worth a look, or listen. Just as the news is typically ugly, but still worth a read to become aware, Dylan is an artist in the trueist sense of the word who can teach you so much if you want to know. Fortunately in the real world, we cant "vote him off the island" for sounding like an actual 69 year old working musician sounds. It is a voice of wisdom, truth, and comes from a very wide perspective of worldwide experience. He had his first record out at 18, and changed what a song was capable of doing. At 69 his songs old, and new are still valid. In this, he has no peers. Speaking from the point of view of someone who actually goes to his concerts, not watches an amateurish crappy sounding youtube clip,I will tell you that nobody else does the kind of music Bob Dylan does.It may not sound pretty, but it is definitely top notch music, of which I challenge anyone to find any that they can prove is better. Dylan is real, and real great. And btw music critics are to musicians as ornithologists are to birds. "Whats the matter with this cruel world today?"

Posted by: vomitexpress | December 22, 2010 10:27 AM
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It's true, Bob's 'real fans' have always know he is not a singer, but a brilliant and innovative songwriter, lyricist and rock icon. As a musician, it's painful for me to hear and/or watch guys [way] past their prime still trying to perform at the level they once achieved. Paul McCartney and Rod Stewart come to mind. Brett Favre and Terrell Owens in football.

But let's face it, those guys are not out there doing for us, they do it for themselves, as is the way it should be. So, they should decide when they are ready to hang it up. We can decide whether we want to watch!

Posted by: greggsol | December 20, 2010 12:43 PM
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Ive seen some Great Zimmerman shows in the past.that said,his recent oh 4 to 6 years shows have been bloody horrible,your not even able to decerne what the hell he's playing let alone what hes singing.But I love you Bobby.please go fishing.

Posted by: patmariegeraghty | December 20, 2010 12:33 PM
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I'm a Dylan fan, mostly because he is a connection to the music of Woody Guthrie, who was the real genius of the genre. But I have to disagree with all those saying he should keep on singing. Many of his performances in the past 15 years (several can be viewed on YouTube) are mumbling embarrassments that indicate his years of drug use took a heavy toll. He reminds me of a 40's heavyweight going into the ring for a beating just because people will pay to see him once again. Maybe it's profitable, but its sad. And for god sakes, why is he playing in a casino like a sideshow?

Posted by: SharptonVoter | December 20, 2010 6:25 AM
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