Nicola Goren
Foundation president

Nicola Goren

President and CEO of Washington Area Women's Foundation. Previously chief of staff of the Corporation for National and Community Service.


Chasing the dream

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?

Convention in our society pushes people to retire, often before they are ready to retire. In many professions, age may play a factor in one's ability to continue the work at the level necessary for continued success. In an organization, for example, it may often make sense for a long-time leader to move on in order for the organization to continue moving forward. But that perspective does not universally apply.

Bob Dylan's continued performing despite, in this instance, the absence of an audience or obvious following might reflect that, rather than being out of touch with the decline in his voice or talents, he continues to pursue the dream he has pursued all his life -- to be a singer-song writer. It's not money or fame that drives him; it's what inspires him as a person. His continued stage presence may also reflect what made Dylan an icon in the first place, not his voice, but his message, which some might say is ageless.

So, in many ways, this question comes down to how you define success. In the case of Bob Dylan, no one can argue that he has not achieved success -- as one of the most influential singer-song writers and most recognizable voices of the last century. No matter what comes later, no one can take away that success from him.

Our society puts a high premium on youth and in many ways denigrates age. We don't like to think about our idols aging and perhaps not performing at their prime. If the public does not enjoy the performances or the music, they won't buy the records or attend the concerts -- that's their choice. But most people will remember Bob Dylan for the huge talent that he was and always will be, no matter how he rides off into the sunset.

Who are we to tell Mr. Dylan it's time to stop singing?

By Nicola Goren  |  December 20, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Success and celebrity Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The grace of age | Next: Repackage your act


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He picked the wrong venue. He can come sing in my living room any day.

Posted by: SarahBB | December 20, 2010 9:51 PM
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A terrible, wretched, stinko Bob concert is worth about 20 years of fantastic WSJ articles -- any day. The WSJ has never figured out that the heart bleeds red blood, not green promises. Does he give bad concerts? Certainly -- and not just recently, not just because he's no longer 20. Does he give the more-than-occasional mind-blower? Inevitably. As long as that continues, he can do whatever he wants & I'll pays me money & takes me chances... (and I'll bet he laughed his butt off over the "Freewheelin'" album cover update. I did -- it was the kind of snarl I could appreciate--thanks to his sixties snark.)

Posted by: spingle3 | December 20, 2010 9:13 PM
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Bob, all you gotta do is keep on keepin' on.

Posted by: Fan4Life1 | December 20, 2010 12:49 PM
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Keep playin' Bob.

Posted by: Bill8 | December 20, 2010 11:43 AM
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Dylan concerts are strange in that there is always a huge range in responses, from "Greatest show ever" to "Worst show ever". This has been true from the beginning for Bob. The folks hating his shows surely should quit going to see him, thus leaving more room and better vibes for the rest of us.

Posted by: dalegood1 | December 20, 2010 11:33 AM
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One critic from the Journal writes a sensationalist the meantime, hundreds, even thousands of devoted Dylan fans realized that this autumn featured some of his greatest performances of the past 10 years. Time out of Mind, Love and Theft, Modern Times: this trilogy of albums is the greatest he's made since Bringing it all Back Home, Highway 61, Blonde on Blonde. And he sings on all three in a croak--a bluesy croak that he can make work wonders.

Read what fans (who are not unforgiving apologists for all phases of Dylan's career, touring and recording) have to say: An excellent review:
Show by show reviews, written by fans (and you'll find negative as well as positive):

Part of the enjoyment of going to a Dylan concert is hearing how he's going to sing a song on a given night--how he'll emphasize the lyrics differently, how he'll give a song new shades of feeling and meaning. Fine, some songs aren't recognizable; but what dullness to go to a concert in order to hear what you could hear sitting at home on a couch.

Posted by: oboynton | December 20, 2010 10:59 AM
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Who are we to tell him? Some of us care about his contributions to the music world. We want him to be remembered for his great contributions not a talent long gone.

Posted by: James10 | December 20, 2010 10:38 AM
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We saw him in Ft Lauderdale several months back. Not one of his songs was recognizable. He has no voice. We also walked out.

Who are we to tell Bob Dylan to stop singing? Hey, if he refunded our ticket cost it would be cool. But this was a total scam.

Posted by: garyrosen1 | December 20, 2010 10:22 AM
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I saw him 15 years ago at Wolf Trap and he was embarrassing then. But I'd never tell him to stop. I just wouldn't listen.

Posted by: LifeBeforePrinciple | December 20, 2010 8:59 AM
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