Your front-page article on the range of language used by various songwriters was interesting but showed little understanding of Bob Dylan’s greatness as a lyricist (Report, 24 July). One of Dylan’s major accomplishments is being able to pare down language to a minimum while at the same time achieving a richness of meaning comparable to that achieved by the metaphysical poets. The beauty of songs such as the superficially simple If Dogs Run Free in part derives from the contrast between an immense thematic complexity and the unencumbered precision of the language used to present it. It’s not always the breadth of the words that matters, but what’s done with them.
• It’s one thing to compare the lyrical vocabularies of artists who, like Bob Dylan and Kanye West, write most or all of their own output. It makes less sense to include artists who write very little of their own material: for instance, the vast majority of Celine Dion’s songs – whether in French or English – have been provided by other writers.Continue reading...