Bob Dylan's lyrics are one of a kind. To me his songs are categorized as a different genre of music.

For example, his song 'Tambourine Man': He sings the song like prose with a tune, harmonica, and guitar.

Hey! Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you
Though I know that evening's empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming.

And then he uses figures of speech, figurative poems, allegorical meanings, euphemisms, and other literary devices extensively.

His songs 'Hard, Hard Rain's gonna fall', 'Love minus zero/Without limit', 'Desolation Row', 'Blowing in the Wind,' 'The times they are a-changing', etc., are similarly innovative.

Is Dylan's mixture as a poet, singer, and lyricist considered by writers, reviewers, or scholars to have created a new genre?

  • If you think he did start a new musical genre, who else would you put in there with him ?
    – Angst
    Oct 10, 2020 at 12:32
  • @Angst Johnny Cash, Cat Stevens and Gordon Lightfoot fall kind of into that category. For example Johnny Cash's San Quinton, Cat Steven's Father and son and Gordon Lightfoot's A Winter's Night.
    – user9643
    Oct 10, 2020 at 12:49
  • @Angst Also Leonard Cohen's mystical song Hallelujah and You got me singing Hallelujah song.
    – user9643
    Oct 10, 2020 at 12:59
  • There are plenty of other singer-songwriters with intelligent lyrics.
    – PiedPiper
    Oct 10, 2020 at 14:16
  • @PiedPiper I was just saying Does Bob Dylan's song has a different vibe into it? A unique one maybe.
    – user9643
    Oct 10, 2020 at 14:20

2 Answers 2


Bob Dylan is rightly considered one of the more seminal figures in the history of American pop music. But he didn't emerge from nowhere, and he has never primarily been a genre innovator --his strength is as a synthesis of influences.

His original emergence was as part of the 60s folk revival. He did not create the genre, but he quickly became the superstar of the movement, largely by pushing it in three different directions at once. First, towards the production of more original music, instead of old classics. Second, toward more complex and literary lyrics. Third, towards a more pop, less traditionalist sound.

What made him groundbreaking is primarily that his lyrics were so far advanced above the simplistic lyrics of 50s rock and pop. Yet folk music already had a tradition of more challenging lyrical content --Pete Seeger's "Turn Turn Turn," for instance, predated Dylan by several years, and featured lyrics inspired by a particularly philosophical passage of the Bible. So what really made him special was his introduction of complex lyrics into the world of pop music, both directly, and through his influence on contemporaries such as The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Paul Simon (although it's worth noting here that jazz standards --the pop music of an earlier generation --also often featured complex, psychologically advanced lyrical content).

If Dylan was present at the birth of a genre, it was folk rock. He, and his visionary, African-American producer, Tom Wilson, played perhaps the largest role in making this fusion of folk lyrics, melodies and harmonies with rock instruments and beats popular. But they didn't create it --that honor is typically assigned to the British folk-rock group the Byrds (who were, however, heavily influenced by Dylan).


We didn't have 'genres' in the 60s ;)
Few people would even know what you meant by the word 'genre', in general conversation.

Music was very very broadly categorised - classical, pop [or light music], jazz [big band, swing, bebop, rock'n'roll] & folk. Blues existed but it wasn't really yet known to the majority white audience [times have changed in many respects since then, thankfully.]
There wasn't even 'rock' in the early 60s. Dylan would have just been 'folk' at the time.

Genres, especially the smaller & smaller categorisations we have now, are a relatively modern invention.

  • Even though the very fine categorisation of today did not exist then and the word 'genre' was unknown to the general public, there certainly were genres and they were a lot finer than just e.g. four sub-genres of jazz. Dylan's music still belongs in the 'folk' category, even though a lot of Dylan's later concerts were often more in a 'rock' context.
    – PiedPiper
    Oct 13, 2020 at 14:41

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