What Dylan Did to Country
Everyone knows the earth-shattering impact Bob Dylan had on folk, pop, and rock in the ‘60s, but his game-changing effect on country music is far less frequently acknowledged. Between the mid ‘60s and the early ‘70s, a new generation of songsmiths busted country conventions wide open by treading a poetic lyrical path while incorporating influences from the folk and rock realms. This revolutionary development didn’t occur out of nowhere -- without the influence of Dylan’s daring sojourns, it surely would never have happened.
Roger Miller and Tom T. Hall were among the first to take advantage of the new possibilities in the air. Miller reached the upper rungs of the country charts with a good-humored absurdism closely related to the more whimsical end of Dylan’s early output, while Hall’s sharply turned storytelling style and idiosyncratic touch edged country music into a downright literary lean. Kris Kristofferson was country’s first real countercultural hero, and he helped open the floodgates for an unprecedented onslaught of artists combining post-Dylan singer/songwriter sensibilities with country/folk influences, like Mickey Newbury, Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. Just as he’d done in other areas of American music, Dylan opened a door for country that could never be closed again.