Yesterday marked an anniversary that I could not let pass without comment. On March 19, 1962, 50 years ago yesterday, Bob Dylan released his first album, or LP (to signify a long-playing record rather than a single) as they were called at the time.
This piece from Rolling Stone does a nice job of summing up the album and how it got made. I’m a long-time fan of the man and his music and while I can’t say I love everything he’s ever done, it’s all really interesting and in many cases his music went beyond popular culture to become transformative (start with “Blowin’ In The Wind“) for an entire generation and country. I’ve heard so many people dismiss his music and yet when I give them the Dylan Test, they can’t deny his impact. What, you ask, is the Dylan Test? Something I think we should apply to way more stuff than Bob’s music – any business could benefit. Let me explain.
The Dylan test is simple: I know my grandchildren will hear the music of Bob Dylan. They may not like it, they might not ever buy it, but they’ll hear it and they’ll know who the guy was that recorded it. Not because I’m going to ram it down their throats: I’d make the same statement about my great-grandchildren. It’s because Dylan’s music is that important, just like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Springsteen and The Beatles. And that’s the test. Can you make that same statement about whatever music you believe to be “great?” That ought to be our business objective. To pass the Dylan Test.
I wrote in this piece a while back that we ought to be creating things that are built to last. While the tools are temporary – Dylan’s first disc was pressed in vinyl – the content and the core of the business endures, or we should hope it will. So ask yourself the Dylan Test question as you’re contemplating investing your time, effort, and money on a project. While very few things pass, it’s not a bad standard to keep in mind.