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Creative Inspiration via Neil Young and Bob Dylan

February 25, 2014

In 1969 and 1970, when I was 14 and 15 years old, it was Bob Dylan’s album Nashville Skyline and Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush that I listened to some nights in order to blocked out the world and swim in the angst of my unrequited love of a friend of one of my older brothers.

Love at that age has a pure and true nature of its own. If it could be bottled and sprinkled around the world we’d live in a much better place.

Bob Dylan and Neil Young (and the bands he was associated with) were my favorite musicians of that time though there were so many others, for me, in the same orbit – The Beatles, Van Morrison, Jimi, The Allman Brothers, The Doors, The Supremes, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Janis,  Stevie Wonder. And Carole King has to be singled out for her prolific songwriting contribution to the music of that era.

Even today, some of the songs from Nashville Skyline and After the Gold Rush bring back the melancholy of my long nights at home, as I sat in the dark for hours listening through huge headphones to Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Don’t Let It Bring You Down, and Oh, Lonesome Me (from After The Gold Rush), and To Be Alone With You, I Threw It All Away, Tell Me That It Isn’t True, and Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You (from Nashville Skyline).

Though it wasn’t considered one of Dylan’s best albums, Nashville Skyline is a favorite of mine – probably for sentimental reasons. I love every song on it, even still.

After the Gold Rush achieved acclaim in time but the talent of Neil Young was not lost on me when I first heard it. I listened to that album over and over, getting more meaning from it with each spin of the vinyl.

That’s a long introduction to the purpose of this post. The point I’m making above is that, for me, when these gents sing or talk, I listen.

This past weekend, I stumbled into online recordings of interviews with both Bob Dylan and Neil Young in their older years. The interviews address their creative journey, which for each was a deliberate, single-minded focus on their music and, very consciously, not on market demand. 

I don’t think that every artist, writers included (since this is a writer’s blog), who sticks to the inner inspiration that drives his or her artistic impulses will reach the heights of success that Dylan and Young achieved. But I do think that if artists following that inner inspiration, their gift to humanity will be of better quality.

Whatever your artistic craft, I hope you’ll set aside time to watch and listen to these interviews.

In watching them, I found that Dylan is forever Dylan – he’s one of a kind – and Young, I suppose, is forever Young (intended) as he kept in step with the organic evolution of music, a recurring birth. Young is also an engaging, comfortable-in-his-own-skin, funny and serious person.

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