The first time that I heard Bob Dylan, I was in the car with my mother, and we were listening to, I think, WMCA, and on came that snare shot that sounded like somebody kicked open the door to your mind, from “Like a Rolling Stone.” And my mother, who was no stiff with rock & roll, she said, “That guy can’t sing.” But I knew she was wrong. I sat there, I didn’t say nothin’, but I knew that I was listening to the toughest voice that I had ever heard. It was lean, and it sounded somehow simultaneously young and adult, and I ran out and I bought the single. I played it, then I went out and I got Highway 61, and it was all I played for weeks. Bob’s voice somehow thrilled and scared me. It made me feel kind of irresponsibly innocent. And it still does. But it reached down and touched what little worldliness a 15-year-old kid in New Jersey had in him at the time.
Dylan was a revolutionary – the way that Elvis freed your body, Bob freed your mind. He showed us that just because the music was innately physical, it did not mean that it was anti-intellect. He broke through the limitations of what a recording artist could achieve. Without Bob, the Beatles wouldn’t have made Sgt. Pepper, maybe the Beach Boys wouldn’t have made Pet Sounds, the Sex Pistols wouldn’t have made God Save the Queen, U2 wouldn’t have done “Pride (In the Name of Love),” Marvin Gaye wouldn’t have done “What’s Going On,” Grandmaster Flash might not have done “The Message,” and the Count Five could not have done “Psychotic Reaction.” And there never would have been a group named the Electric Prunes, that’s for sure.
This story is from the November 26th, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone.