The one musician Bob Dylan called “the definition of cool”

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Bob Dylan developed a teen affinity to 1950s rock ‘n’ roll before becoming more conscious of a wordier and more expressive musical approach. After basing his early compositions on Woody Guthrie’s folk heritage, Dylan broke out to create his own distinct style of folk rock, which was initially demonstrated in his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home.

During the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, Dylan “went electric” during his most creative run, much to the chagrin of folk purists, and proceeded to dance to his own song for many more years. As a musical pioneer, Dylan took influence from a variety of genres both old and new while choosing to keep a modern sound for many years.

Dylan has always been exceedingly fashion-conscious, even if you’re unlikely to hear him spouting bars over a drum machine rhythm and a synth loop. In a Wall Street Journal interview at the end of 2022, 81-year-old Bob Dylan described his cool taste in contemporary music.

Eminem and Wu-Tang Clan, two unexpected rap groups who Bob Dylan claimed to be “fan of,” were included on his eclectic list. He complimented them both for having a “feeling for words and language,” and he said that he likes “anyone whose vision mirrors mine.” Royal Blood, Celeste, Leonard Cohen, Rag’ n’ Bone Man, and Nick Cave were also included in that praise.

He added, “Some I’ve seen live, The Oasis [Gallagher] brothers, I like them both, Julian Casablanca, the Klaxons, Grace Potter. I’ve seen Metallica twice. I’ve made special efforts to see Jack White and Alex Turner. Zac Deputy, I’ve discovered him lately. He’s a one-man show like Ed Sheeran, but he sits down when he plays.”

Bob Dylan still has a strong sense of what is “cool,” as is evident. His musical taste and dress sense have influenced later generations for many years. For instance, I hazard a guess that Ray-Ban has benefited from Dylan’s preference in eyeglasses at some point during the previous six decades.

Dylan told Scott Cohen in 1985, “I started out with Batman and Robin-type sunglasses. I always thought the best kind of sunglasses are the motorcycle helmets with the black plastic masks on them. That way, nobody can recognise the back of your head either. With sunglasses, you buy them off the rack, if they fit, and put them on. Shoes are tougher. You go into a store, try this pair on, that pair on. I feel I have to buy something if I put it on. What I’m looking for is a pair of glasses that can see through walls, whether they’re sunglasses or not.”

Bob Dylan later shared his concept of “cool” with Cohen during their talk. Dylan singled out the renowned jazz musician and composer Miles Davis in a heartfelt recommendation from one supporter of sun protection to another.

He told Cohen, “Miles Davis is my definition of cool. I loved to see him in the small clubs playing his solo, turn his back on the crowd, put down his horn and walk off the stage, let the band keep playing, and then come back and play a few notes at the end. I did that at a couple of shows. The audience thought I was sick or something.”

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