To the Editor:
. . . Although I found most of Ellen Willis’s article interesting and illuminating, I think that a certain point was passed over too quickly [“The Sound of Bob Dylan,” November 1967]. Intellectual discussions of Bob Dylan’s use of words, manipulation of imagery, and manipulation of his own image are minor considerations when one views him as an artist. We must ask, what does a Dylan song evoke in the person who is listening? . . .
As a contemporary of Mr. Dylan’s, I have always been “reached” by him. His earlier work in the folk tradition was a familiar and refreshing addition to an already rich field of very fine music. When his sound changed to folk-rock and abandoned earlier themes of social and moral injustice, I was disappointed and felt spurned by the culture hero. But after the initial shock, I learned that Dylan was only exploring another area of my (and his) complex field of responses and attitudes.
It is not always his words or imagery that convey the feeling he wishes to communicate; but rather the mood his voice expresses by its subtle innuendoes, even if it often sounds harsh and flat. Miss Willis is correct in saying Dylan’s art cannot be appreciated, or even understood, by mere reading. It takes the combination of his quite flexible voice (for his purposes), his instrumental abilities, and finally, the phrases themselves. . . .
Ithaca, New York