by Jason Gubbels | October 1, 2013
"The New Dylan" -- it's the kind of designation that can make or stall a career. At one point the claim was made by both the press and savvy publicists about so many new artists that critic Greil Marcus parodied the trend in "The Book of Rock Lists," listing 57 "New Dylans" (100 in a later edition) running the gamut from Tim Buckley and Tracy Chapman to Dylan himself and his manager Albert Grossman. Sometimes the "New Dylan" tag meant a performer sounded a bit like Dylan himself (Donovan was one early adherent, although few copycats were as blatant in their emulation as Sammy Walker). Others trafficked in the same mode of solo acoustic protest music as Dylan did in his self-described "finger-pointin'" phase (Phil Ochs struggled with Dylan comparisons for most of his career, while Buffy Sainte-Marie took protest music to a whole 'nother level). And some had the title foisted upon them simply because they wrote songs with a lot of words and played harmonica.
Some New Dylans did just fine despite the hyperbole -- you've heard of Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith, right? Others faded into cult appreciation, like Steve Forbert and Elliott Murphy. And some just laughed it off, like Loudon Wainwright III, who jokes in "Talking New Bob Dylan" that he and John Prine "still get together every week at Bruce's house." No doubt there will be several new additions to the family by this time next year (or month). But for now, here are 42 of the very finest New Dylans, from Barry McGuire to Ezra Furman.