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A Poet, and You Didn’t Even Know It

Evaluating Rock's greatest poet-lyricists.

by Dr. Spin
November 4, 2002

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A Poet, and You Didn’t Even Know It_Dr. Spin-Evaluating Rock's greatest poet-lyricists. Dear Doctor S,

Who is the best poet-lyricist: Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, or Tom Petty?

Justin Case

Dear Justin C,

The best poet-lyricist bar-none is Jon Bon Jovi. Don’t believe me? Let me give you a few examples: From “I’ll Be There For You,” “I’ll be there for you/these five words I tell you true/I’ll be there for you” or “Livin’ On a Prayer,” “We got to hold on to what we got/hold on if we make it or not” Ouch.

Dylan’s ok, Simon can pen a good tune, and even Petty is good with a ditty, but I’m sure you can see Jon Bon Jovi is THE master when it comes to putting words to song.

Dear Dr. Spin,

In your opinion, what artists or groups born after 1965 carries on the best traditions of Rock 'n Roll, including the tradition of musical innovation? Does anyone successfully carry on these traditions who have been born after 1975? How about 1980?

Bored with Today's Hits

Dear Bored,

The only band created after 1965 (and I don’t know when they were born) to truly carry the tradition or spirit of early Rock ‘ n’ Roll was the Stray Cats. They were Rockabilly when Rockabilly wasn’t cool. But as far as embodying the spirit of innovation, I fear there is little innovation left, and corporations more interested in bottom line than music are squashing that.

If I am reading your letter correctly, what you’re really asking is are there any good band or artists created after 1990. Grunge bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the Smashing Pumpkins all came out in the 90’s, and I believe all their members were born after 1965. While I was never a fan of grunge, I do see their significance, and appreciate their contributions to Rock.

I think one of the most innovative bands in recent years is the Barenaked Ladies. Maybe it’s because they can inject humor into their songs, or maybe it’s because they know how to write ballads without borrowing Arena Rock clichés, but the BNL have a wonderful way of making their records sound like they were as fun to make as they are to listen to.

Wilco has received a lot of musical praise from critics and fans alike, though I must confess I haven’t gotten into their music as much.

As far as most recent bands or artists, I find myself drawn to the music of the White Stripes. They are a brother and sister duo, with the bare minimum of drums and one guitar. They have the snarl of Punk and early Kinks, but there is something unique about them. Only time will tell if they have any significance to the future of Rock.

Most artists born after 1980 are releasing their first material, so I doubt they can bring much “innovation to the table yet.

If you are truly bored with today’s hits, my guess is your not listening to the right radio stations. Dial around, stop listening to AOR (Adult Oriented Rock) stations, and ask friends what they’re listening to. If you still can’t find anything you like, start combing for the older bands that were overlooked in their heyday. They may not be “new,” but they’ll be new to you.

If you still can’t find anything to enjoy, start heading for the old folks home. And keep repeating, “Back in my day, they had REAL music, like…” Bon Jovi!

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