The musician Bob Dylan called “light years ahead of his time”

As the 1960s rock scene began, no one knew what to make of Bob Dylan. Although many folk artists may have come and gone throughout popular music, Dylan’s esoteric approach to his craft struck a nerve with people, identifying with the songwriter from day one while also acknowledging that they would never know the true face behind songs like ‘Blowin’ In the Wind’. Even though Dylan was opening the world up to what music could mean in a broader context, he thought one other artist towered above everyone else.

When it comes to the 1960s rock scene, many artists were making bold new strides for rock and roll that wouldn’t be appreciated until decades afterwards. While The Beatles would release the album Sgt Pepper to massive critical acclaim, artists like The Velvet Underground and The Stooges were stripping rock back to its essentials, mostly treated as lesser musicians until being heralded as forebearers of punk later on.

Dylan wasn’t even safe from scrutiny around his innovative techniques. When first going electric in the mid-1960s, Mr Zimmerman was initially faced with ridicule from his fans, thinking that their favourite artist was prostituting himself to the mainstream. If the electric guitar represented the mainstream, then Frank Zappa would use everything in his power to ensure he went against the status quo.

From the first few notes of Freak Out with The Mothers of Invention, Zappa was looking to break down the traditional tropes of a rock outfit, thinking that more interesting ventures lay in the sounds of avant-garde music. Throughout subsequent albums like Hot Rats and Apostrophe, Zappa was on the verge of creating the first jazz fusion records, even getting the closest to a hit with songs like ‘Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow’.

Whereas Dylan was known as the wordsmith, Zappa was also looking to go against the grain in terms of what was acceptable in lyrics. Since he intended to make his music as pure as possible, Zappa famously disregarded lyrics, often letting someone else sing or putting in ironic or nonsensical lyrics so that they would be accepted.

Even though Dylan may have had more respect for his words, he admired what Zappa brought to the table throughout his lifetime. From the first time the folk-rocker heard him, Dylan thought Zappa was on the cutting edge of something big, telling The Wall Street Journal, “I listened to The Mothers of Invention record Freak Out!, that I hadn’t heard in a long, long time. What an eloquent record. No doubt about it, Zappa was light years ahead of his time. I’ve always thought that.”

From his first record onward, Zappa would continue warping his sound into whatever his next muse would be, arranging different guitar solos to be played in string sections and treating the rest of his band like members of a rock and roll orchestra. While Zappa may have passed away over three decades ago, his body of work had the same message as Dylan’s early work. No matter how much trends might change, no artist can ever go wrong when following their muse.

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