Bob Dylan on the musician who “should donate” their ear to the Smithsonian

Receiving musical praise from Bob Dylan is the highest honour imaginable for most musicians. Since arriving on the folk scene in the 1960s, Dylan has proved himself to be a vital cultural voice whose position in American history transcends music, and to be mentioned by him in a positive breath is a dream many share.

During the ’60s, the musical landscape was changing at an unprecedented speed, which set the foundations for the future. On a personal level for Dylan, within this decade, he went from an unknown troubadour with a dream to conquering more than he’d ever imagined, earning Messianic status before his fanbase turned on him for picking up an electric guitar, then falling in love with him once again.

It was an era of musical innovation, and Dylan knew he wasn’t the only one pushing boundaries. Another American who played a crucial role was Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, a figure Dylan holds in the highest regard and believes has an unmatched ear for melody.

A quote on Wilson’s official website from Dylan reads: “Jesus, that ear. He should donate it to the Smithsonian. The records I used to listen to and still love, you can’t make a record that sounds that way. Brian Wilson, he made all his records with four tracks, but you couldn’t make his records if you had a hundred tracks today.”

Dylan’s comments about Wilson’s brilliance shouldn’t surprise him, as he’s previously detailed his appreciation for The Beach Boys. During an interview with Rolling Stone in 1987, the singer-songwriter reflected on his 1965 song ‘Desolation Row’ and gave props to the pop group for their progressive approach to creativity.

He said: “I knew what the Beatles were doin’, and that seemed to be real pop stuff. The Stones were doing Blues things — just hard city blues. The Beach Boys, of course, were doin’ stuff that I didn’t think had ever been done before, either. But I also knew that I was doing stuff that hadn’t ever been done before.”

Additionally, his paths have crossed with Wilson, even though they’ve never worked together. In a social media post, the former Beach Boy detailed his first meeting with Dylan in the emergency room of a hospital in Malibu, recalling how “he had curly hair and was on the short side” and introduced himself to him.

Wilson remembered: “He was there because he had broken his thumb. We talked a little bit about nothing. I was a big fan of his lyrics, of course. ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ was one of the best songs, you know? And ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ and ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ and so many more. What a songwriter!”

The following day after their surprise meeting, Dylan visited Wilson at his home, and they bonded over their shared musical tastes. Wilson explained: “That was a longer conversation. We just talked and talked about music. We talked about old songs we remembered, songs before rock and roll. We talked about ideas we had. Nice guy.”

While music is a subjective art form, the contributions of Wilson and Dylan have objectively confirmed their status as legendary figures whom the Smithsonian should study.

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