Bob Dylan Disses His Critics And Gets Covered By Jack White, Beck, And Bruce Springsteen At MusiCares Tribute

Last night, Bob Dylan was honored with the Person Of The Year award at the 2015 MusiCares Gala. Jack White, Beck, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, Alanis Morissette, and more performed Dylan’s songs throughout the event, but Dylan did not end up performing himself. Instead, after he was presented with the award by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, he spoke for over a half hour and reflected on his career and his roots in folk music. As Reuters recaps, he recited lyrics from traditional folk songs and compared them to some of his biggest hits to demonstrate how that music influenced him. “All these songs are connected, don’t be fooled, I was just opening up a different door in a different kind of way,” he said. Dylan also talked about some other musicians, both good and bad.

During his speech, he thanked Peter, Paul, And Mary, the Byrds, the Turtles, Sonny And Cher, Pervis Staples And The Staples Singers, Nina Simone, and Joan Baez. And, as Rolling Stone reports, he paid special attention to Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Cash:

We can’t forget Jimi Hendrix. I actually saw Jimi perform when he was with a band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. Something like that. And Jimi didn’t even sing. He was just the guitar player. He took some small songs of mine that nobody paid any attention to and brought them up into the outer limits of the stratosphere, turned them all into classics. I have to thank Jimi, too. I wish he was here.

[…]

Johnny Cash recorded some of my songs early on, too. I met him about ’63, when he was all skin and bones. He traveled long, he traveled hard, but he was a hero of mine. I heard many of his songs growing up. I knew them better than I knew my own. ‘Big River,’ ‘I Walk the Line.’ ‘How High’s the Water, Mama’? I wrote ‘It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’ with that song reverberating inside my head. Johnny was an intense character, and he saw that people were putting me down [for] playing electric music. And he posted letters to magazines, scolding people, telling them to ‘shut up and let him sing.’ In Johnny Cash’s world of hardcore Southern drama, that kind of thing didn’t exist. Nobody told anybody what to sing or what not to sing.

He also used the occasion to air some grievances. On duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, best known for “Hound Dog” and other tunes: “I didn’t really care what Leiber & Stoller thought of my songs. That was all right they didn’t like them. ‘Cause I didn’t like their songs, either. Yakety yak, don’t talk back. Charlie Brown is a clown. Baby, I’m a hog for you. Novelty songs. They weren’t saying anything serious.”

And here’s what he had to say about “Harper Valley PTA” songwriter Tom T. Hall:

Now some might say Tom was a great songwriter, and I’m not going to doubt that. At the time, during his interview, I was actually listening to a song of his on the radio. It was called ‘I Love’. Listening to it in a recording studio. And it was talking about all the things he loves. An everyman song. Trying to connect with people. Trying to make you think he’s just like you and you’re just like him. We all love the same things. We’re all in this together.

Tom loves little baby ducks. Slow-moving trains and rain. He loves big pickup trucks and little country streams. Sleep without dreams. Bourbon in a glass. Coffee in a cup. Tomatoes on a vine. Now listen, I’m not every going to disparage another songwriter. I’m not gonna do that. I’m not saying that’s a bad song, I’m just saying it might be a little over-cooked.

On Merle Haggard:

“[He] didn’t even think much of my songs. I know he didn’t. He didn’t say that to me, but I know way back when he didn’t. Buck Owens did, and he recorded some of my early songs. ‘Together Again,’ that’s Buck Owens. And that trumps anything else out of Bakersfield. Buck Owens or Merle Haggard, if you had to have somebody’s blessing, you can figure it out.”

Dylan also questioned why critics give him a hard time about his singing style.

Critics say I can’t sing, I sound like a frog. Why don’t critics say that about Tom Waits? Critics say my voice is shot. Why don’t they say that about Leonard Cohen? What have I done to get this special attention?

“Voices are not to measured by how pretty they are,” he offered. “They’re to be measured by whether they’re telling the truth.”

Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett, Arctic Monkeys, Jenny Lewis, and Mickey Hart were among the music stars in attendance.

Check out photos from the event above, and some short videos and a setlist down below.

Setlist:
Beck – “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”
Aaron Neville – “Shooting Star”
Alanis Morissette – “Subterranean Homesick Blues”
Los Lobos – “On A Night Like This”
Willie Nelson – “Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)”
John Mellencamp – “Highway 61 Revisited”
Jack White – “One More Cup Of Coffee”
Tom Jones – “What Good Am I?”
Norah Jones – “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”
Dereck Trucks & Susan Tedeschi – “Million Miles”
John Doe – “Pressing On”
Crosby, Stills, & Nash – “Girl From The North Country”
Bonnie Raitt – “Standing In The Doorway”
Sheryl Crow – “Boots Of Spanish Leather”
Bruce Springsteen – “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”
Neil Young – “Blowin’ In The Wind”