Why Michael Jackson will be remembered as greater than Dylan

Canadian photographer, Kevin Statham sent an email to a group I subscribe to and it is the best piece I have seen written on just how influential Michael Jackson was and offers a great comparison to Bob Dylan. Thank you to Kevin for giving me permission to reproduce this email. It’s worth visiting his website www.shotbykevin.com and checking out his portfolio – he does some great work.

I think that Dylan, although hugely revered, is somewhat overrated. I agree that he is an excellent songwriter and has written some classic songs that will live forever. I think the biggest thing that Dylan accomplished was to develop a huge cult of personality. People trip over themselves to praise the ground that he walks on. Dylan’s best years were over by….maybe 1967 or so. Except for the odd highlight since then, Dylan will forever be connected to the 60’s and hippies.

I don’t think that using an electric guitar at a folk festival had the same cultural significance as Billie Jean being the first video by a black artist played on MTV. That one video caused a huge racial shift in the US. Without that event, we might not have had an artist like Prince. People like James Brown may not have had a resurgence in the late 80’s. Would Run DMC have “walked that way” if Michael Jackson hadn’t used Eddie Van Halen on Beat It? Michael Jackson was miles ahead of everyone else on so many levels it is mind boggling.

I also think that Michael Jackson had a rare talent that is seldom seen. His singing was incredibly good. His dancing was amazing. With the help of Quincy Jones, his attention to detail in the recording studio led to some of the best recordings of all time. Thriller was a total monster of an album.

I think Michael Jackson had a vision of what he could do with his talent that was beyond compare. Even as a little boy his talent was apparent. I don’t think Dylan could compete with that type of musical talent. Dylan could pen a tune, but really, unless you were stoned, could you really listen to him for very long (oi, that nasally voice…).

However, as reality goes, the bigger the rise, the bigger the fall. It is unfortunate that Michael Jackson became a child molesting, surgical disaster, monkey loving, demerol addicted mess. It seems to have been inevitable that this would happen. Much like the later years of Elvis, Michael Jackson¹s last years will haunt his legacy.

I do think that at the end of the day History will be kind to Michael Jackson and that all of the weirdness will just be a footnote to a stellar life lived totally in the public eye, for better or for worse.

So yes, I don’t think it is right that Michael Jackson died without having one last chance at reviving his career while Bob Dylan get to plod on preaching to faithful bowing at his feet yet again.

Another reason that Michael Jackson will be remembered well is because I can write this email acknowledging his talent and I am a middle aged redneckish white guy from Canada. That is how wide reaching his music and talent became.

Kevin Statham

Tell me what you think!

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  1. I can, in fact, listen to Bob Dylan for a long time. And I’ve never used illegal drugs in my life.
    It may be true that MJ will have a greater legacy, but I think this piece should focus less on who was the better musician (a subjective statement) and more on the sociopolitical reasons.
    Bob Dylan, overrated? Maybe.
    But Michael Jackson? Much more so.

    • Ham; I agreed with you on your comment that this piece should focus less on who was the the better musician (wich is a highly subjective statement) and more on the socioplotical reasons. Therefore I find it very contradictory that you in the next line states “Bob Dylan, overrated? Maybe. But Michael Jackson? Much more so”. This is clearly by itself a subjective statement, and it shines through that you obviously favor one musician over the other. As for the article, it’s ridiculous to compare two completely differnt artists, it would be like comparing Mozart to Jimi Hendrix, two musical prodigies in two different genres.

  2. I agree with Ham ; I listen to Bob Dylan for a long time too. Kevin Statham doesn’t seem to me objective.
    I want to add that Bob Dylan’s song can touch new generations because I’m a 27 years old frenchy.

  3. You are an idiot. To compare a great like Dylan to that freakish child molester is laughable. Might I suggest you seek some help?

  4. I’m a huge fan of Dylan and also love Michael Jackson’s work. I got to see Michael perform and, while I prefer Dylan, I think he was extraordinary.

    So…I AM open to hearing Micheal being spoken of in such terms and I do understand there is inconsistency in Dylan’s work. But when I get to a line like …

    “…unless you were stoned, could you really listen to him for very long (oi, that nasally voice…)…” …

    this piece loses ALL credibility.

  5. You write: . “Dylan’s best years were over by….maybe 1967 or so. Except for the odd highlight since then, Dylan will forever be connected to the 60’s and hippies.”

    Well that’s just historically inaccurate. Dylan’s work in the mid 1970’s, including particularly the album “Blood On The Tracks” but also “Desire,” is considered some of his best work ever.

    To suggest he had a mere seven year run is absurd in the extreme.

    Beyond that, he won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 1998 for the album “Time Out Of Mind,” won the Academy Award for Best Song in 2001 for the song “Things Have Changed,” and was nominated again for an Album of the Year Grammy that same year for “Love And Theft.”

    All of this happened decades after the year 1967. Countless artists – male and female – continue to cover his work today, and he has continued to tour worldwide.

    I don’t compare Bob Dylan to Michael Jackson at all. Different artists, although both worked together on “We Are The World” and both appeared together on the cover of Life magazine that year (’86? ’87?)

    My point is that Michael was a worldwide pop phenom, and has been famous since he was 10 years old in ’69. Dylan has been a worldwide phenom since the early 60’s when he was just 20-21 years old.

    Neither of them deserve any shortchanging. Neither of them deserve any “who is better than the other” type silliness, either.

  6. The people with good sense and judgment have just landed on your website drawn by the complete idiotic nature of your claims. You sir, have lost the internet. Welcome to hell.

  7. I was sitting here at my computer, working, then a Bob Dylan song started playing in my ITunes. (I’m a fan of both Dylan and MJ, more so MJ) It made me stop and say to myself “No way, Michael went before Dylan? Are you serious?!!” So, i decided to try and Google possible comments Dylan may have made regarding Michael’s death, just out of curiosity. Then I came across this article. I’m glad I’m not the only one who had these thoughts. Wonderful read, thank you.

  8. I was a fan of MJ up until his death but to say his legacy will be more remembered than Dylan is silly. Both of them are different artists anyway.

  9. Different artists for sure but I don’t think Bob Dylan will ever have the broad recognition that Michael Jackson does/did – his appeal cuts across all ages and demographics and he’d be one of the most recognisable faces on Earth. Ask most teenagers who Bob Dylan is or show them a picture of him and they wouldn’t have a clue who it is.

    To be honest I’m not a huge fan of either musician but certainly recognise their talent and significance both musically and culturally. I have some Bob Dylan albums, don’t own anything by MJ.

    I’m a 40 something Australian guy – the only musician in my time who has died and had close to the recognition of Michael Jackson was Elvis (John Lennon would be third behind these two but it’s a distant third).

  10. Clearly Kevin Statham is an ill-informed self opinionated ignoramus.
    Dylan’s peers are the creative intellectual giants of the last 500 hundred years. To suggest that Jackson will be remembered in these ranks is just plain silly. In 50 years Michael Jackson won’t be remembered for anything!

  11. I find it interesting that Kevin insists that Bob Dylan is some kind of nostalgic has-been who peaked in the ’60s. In fact, the nostalgic has-been was Michael Jackson. Beyond his Jackson 5 era, his fame and reputation were built on 4 albums released between 1979 and 1991. Being generous, one could extend that to five with 1995’s HIStory, largely a greatest-hits compilation with some new songs that mostly complained about the media’s treatment of him for the freak-show life he led. Granted, he sold LOTS of records and won a bunch of Grammys, including for “Thriller,” the best-selling album of all time. That was recorded in 1982, 27 years ago. Someone said that he is the most- recognized artist of all-time, known by every generation. I say his recognition by many of those outside the 25-50 age rage, is mostly because of his lifestyle and legal problems. It’s really good to have
    great lawyers when you are child molester. To me, the artists that
    best fit that definition of being known and loved by every generation
    are Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley.

    Now, let’s take a look at the “overrated” Bob Dylan. Overrated by who? In his nearly 50-year career, Dylan has recorded 33 studio albums. His records have earned Grammy, Golden Globe, and Academy Awards. He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In the last 15 years alone, (during which MJ was completely musically absent) he has won Grammys for
    Best Traditional Folk Album (1994, “World Gone Wrong”), Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male (1996, “Cold Irons Bound”), Best Contemporary Folk Album and Album of the Year (1997, “Time Out of Mind”), Best Contemporary Folk Album (2001, “Love and Theft”), Best Contemporary Folk Album (2006, “Modern Times) and Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance (2006, “Someday Baby”). The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame lists five Dylan songs in its survey of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll. In 2000, “Times Have Changed” won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Besides his Hall of Fame inductions, he has won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Kennedy Center Honors, and a Pulitzer Prize. But what do those people know about music?

    As for nostalgia, his latest album “Together Through Life,” released
    two months ago, hit the number one spot on both the Billboard 200
    chart and the UK album charts in its first week of release.
    Furthermore, he has played an average of 100 concerts a year for the last 20 years to largely sold-out crowds all around the world.

    Nostalgia my ass.

    Kevin dismisses Dylan because of his “whiney” voice but I, along with countless millions others, obviously like “off-center” voices. Maybe that’s why some of my favorite vocalists are Neil Young, Jerry Garcia, Tom Waits, and Bob Dylan. Rolling Stone ranked Dylan at number seven in its 2008 listing of the “The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.” When the young Bobby Womack told Sam Cooke he didn’t understand Dylan’s vocal style, Cooke explained that: “from now on, it’s not going to be about how pretty the voice is. It’s going to be about believing that the voice is telling the truth.” But then, that quote probably doesn’t mean much to those here who have no idea who Bobby Womack and Sam Cooke were.

    All this is not to diminish Michael Jackson’s role in the history of
    pop culture. That is cemented. But to somehow suggest his talent is superior to America’s greatest songwriter is, in my opinion, both
    offensive and ignorant.

  12. I couldn’t have said it better myself Jon Sievert, you hit the nail on the head. Michael Jackson shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as the Bob Dylan. Dylan’s influence and cultural importance came at a time when the world was falling apart and desperately needed leaders to change the direction of where we should not go. Jackson on the other hand held no authoritive powers over the masses other than dancing. Long live the “Baby Boomers” and their mainstream ideals.

  13. Bob Dylan is the most influential artist ever, he never gives up even at age age 68, Mj is not a writer, but MJ is a singer and a dancer, but even if he was still alive, he could never write or duplicate the work or artistry of Dylan. MJ’s last tour revival proposal was about his fans, Bob Dylan does care about his fans and yet he sells out concets, try t top that MJ, he can’t even in death, maybe in money wise he can but MJ or his memory will never beat Dylan. Dylan has a kind of following that MJ never had..

  14. Comparing Dylan to Jackson : first sign of how empty this read is!
    Dylan a hippie?! LOL, go read why didn’t dylan perform in Woodstock mate, then write!

    PPl compare dylan with likes of Shakespeare but MJ is compared to Elvis, it tells all.

    And hey I liked MJ really, RIP guy.

  15. I think a comparison of Bob Dylan to Michael Jackson is fair if the writer is well-versed in the work of each artist. He appears to have a moderate knowlege of Michael Jackson. (He must have read a book or two) and maybe had a couple of friends who told him about Dylan’s contribution. The two have very different careers. MJ definitely is more comparable to Elvis. As an artist I think Bob Dylan is comparable to Picasso.

    Even though the medium is different, they both have long careers that careened from inovation to innovation and spent minimal time concerned with public opinion. Their creativity is almost compulsive. They both seem take inspiration from their libido.

  16. MJ is by far a better musician and songwriter than Bob Dylan. Who wrote and composed “We are the world”. Thats right: Michael Jackson. Comparing him to Elvis, geesh.. Some of you are totally ignorant of MJs musical genius.
    “Beethoven and Beatles, Mozart and Michael Jackson, Paganini and Prince – I like them all.”
    Vanessa Mae – internationally known British pop and classical musician

  17. Mozart and Mj ??? MJ is by far a better musician and songwriter than Dylan ???? Most musicians think Dylan is the greatest songwriter of all time , certainly he’s the most covered songwriter of all time and by a long margin , including the beatles .We are the world ???? …those comments are so silly I feel silly myself even replying ,but there you go

  18. I love both, yet I think that Dylan is by far the better song writer.. yet If I had to listen to someone sing the songs that Dylan wrote I would want Jackson. His voice has an unearthly and sad beauty to it that is far better than Dylan. Overall, both are good and I like them both. While the songs that Dylan wrote were beautiful and discussed love and truth, so did Jacksons songs in some way. I mean Jackson showed beauty in the way he lived (Wanting to regain his childhood and live a life devoted to his children and to the aid to children and families of the world) and Dylan showed beauty in his song writings. Jackson though was a child prodigy so maybe he is similar to mozart in that regard.

  19. HAHA allow me to laugh. You proclaim that MJ was a better songwriter than Bobby based on we are the world. Seriously try comparing the lyrics of that song to Its allright ma, Im only bleeding or sad-eyed lady of the lowlands to name a few. I love them both but that article is missing the point and besides, who can compare two so musically different artists anyway?

  20. sorry, I think the only ‘stoned’ person here, is the author of this miserable excuse for an article. As other posters have noted, this article is completely flawed and biased. But really, We Are The World? How about Shelter From The Storm? Or Knockin On Heavens Door? All Along The Watchtower? Times They Are A Changin? Chimes Of Freedom? Like A Bloody Rolling Stone? Now thats good lyrics, I’ll take a song like Tangled Up In Blue, that has a complex, innovative narrative structure, some beautiful phrasing and tells a story, over rubbish like “The Girl Is Mine”, or “Bad” (‘Your butt is mine? Great songwriter that Michael)

    • Dont Stop Till You Get Enough, Billie Jean, Leave Me Alone, Who Is It, Stranger In Moscow, Morphine and Whatever Happens are far better sonically, far better vocally and far better lyrically. I prefer a complex, innovative story about neglect and loneliness like Little Susie, over simple bieberish crap like “i want you” and “ill be your baby tonight.” (Lay, Lady, Lay? great songwriter that Bob.) lol

  21. Bob dylan will always have more songs, albums, and SONGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! that are better. His lyrics went deeper than almost any other artist went. he depended on musicianship. Thats why he is greater and always will be. experts are called experts for a reason. they know what theyre talking about and they call bob the greatest rock musician ever

  22. 1 to 10, DYLAN – MJ
    Innovation 8 10
    Dancing 0 12
    Performing 7 11
    Singing 3 11
    Playing Instr. 12 0
    Personality 11 8
    Vision 9 10
    Popularity 11 12
    Complete 8 10
    Re-invent 7 10
    Multimedia 4 12
    Voice 0 11
    Songwritting 12 8

    TOTAL 92 125


    • Bob Dylan never always had that singing voice people talked bad about. Blowing in the wind hurricane things have changed. Dylan changed popular singing. I could never understand what Michael Jackson was saying in any song he did. I’d give Dylan a 8 or 9 Michael Jackson hardly contributed to song writing and dancing doesn’t effect the sound at all. Musically Bob Dylan hands down