Should Dylan Retire?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal asked whether 69-year-old Bob Dylan should retire from the concert stage.

However, Jon Jurgensen, author of the WSJ piece “When To Leave The Stage,” wasn’t zeroing in on Dylan’s age as the reason for the troubadour to cash in his musical 401k. Instead, much of Jurgensen’s essay was about Dylan’s voice, describing it as a “laryngitic croak.”

Photo: Bobby Talamine /
Riviera Nightclub, Chicago, Ill.

Of course, part of the Dylan mystique during his 50-plus years performing has been the raspy, dust bowl-influenced voice that delivered classic songs such as “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Lay Lady Lay” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” It’s never been a pretty voice, but it was always an authentic representation of an artist that always pushed the envelope, refused to be pigeonholed and constantly followed his own muse.

Jurgensen points out that Dylan’s voice has been more gravelly than legible in recent years, saying, “He’s been sounding like a scatting Cookie Monster.” Add that to reports from audience members saying they couldn’t even identify what Dylan was singing, and the question as to whether he should retire doesn’t seem so preposterous.

So far, rock has shown that reaching AARP age alone shouldn’t be a determining factor for swapping out the tour bus for a RV, or trading in the gold records for a golden parachute. After all, Springsteen is 61 and shows no sign of hanging it up. At the age of 84, Chuck Berry still does several dates a year. One of the signature faces of the 1960s, Paul McCartney, is 68 but no one is asking him to kick back and take it easy while reflecting on his long and winding career road.

Photo: AP Photo
1st Mariner Arena, Baltimore, Md.

Then there’s Leonard Cohen, who began his recent world tour in 2008 when he was 74 years old. No one is screaming for his retirement.

But getting back to Dylan: What do you think? Has his voice become so ragged and worn that his concerts are more about allowing fans to share the same room he’s in for a couple of hours than it is to hear those timeless songs one more time?

Or is it just another side of Bob, and we should be happy that he’s still around, testing our preconceived notions about how we think he should sound?

Photo: Bobby Talamine /
Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, Ill.

Click here for the Wall Street Journal item (subscription may be required).