The Beatles & Bob Dylan: How they changed the world

Music icons are integral in the development of pop culture and history itself, most of us relate a history timeline to the music we heard and the bands we listened to at certain points in our lives. Some music icons were so significant they represented special moments in history and time and their presence and contribution are still just as relevant today as it was all those years ago. 

The counterculture of the ’60s signified one of the most powerful upheavals in Western history, a time when contemporary ideas were birthing and traditional values were being challenged or rejected.

Two icons that played huge roles in this counterculture of the sixties were The Beatles and Dylan, these artists were responsible for helping to shape an era, being the sound of a decade and paving the way for the development of new sounds and music for many years to follow. There aren’t many people who haven’t heard of The Beatles and Bob Dylan so in this post we are going to look at the significance of these artists.

Who were The Beatles & Dylan?

Regarded as one of the world’s most influential bands ever; John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr made what we know as the ‘fab four’ or The Beatles. The band were integral to the development of the 60s counterculture and began a cultural revolution. Interestingly, The Beatles roots were in skiffle (music performed with a mixture of manufactured and homemade or improvised instruments), beat, and 1950s rock and roll. The Beatles sound incorporated elements of classical music and traditional pop. When describing the sound of The Beatles, their songs are very melodious and harmonious to the ear. They are catchy and timeless. 

In the sixties they became innovators of a new sound that conquered the world of popular music. This sound was that of beat music, which predominantly laid down the foundations for most of nowadays rock music as we know it. Their innovations changed how music was made.

A guiding spirit of the counterculture, making his mark on the other side of the globe was American singer-songwriter, Bob Dylan. From Minnesota, USA, Dyan is now regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time and has been a hugely influential figure in popular culture for more than 50 years, a much longer spanning career than The Beatles short but extremely impactful 10 years. Dylan blended classic literature and poetry in his music and his self-titled debut album was released in 1962, which mainly comprised traditional folk songs. Dylan made his breakthrough as a songwriter with the release of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan the following year.

Dylan’s music is not limiting or conclusive, like The Beatles it is timeless and is still just as innovative today as it was in the 60’s.

Before Dylan arrived on the music scene, it’s safe to say that the world of music lyrics had become somewhat trapped by predictable themes. Dylan’s music style could even be described as a revitalization of poetry to the 20th century. 

Dylan’s lyrics are what set’s his music apart from others, coupled with his voice which has been described as croaky, harsh, nasal, flaying, acrid, and grating, they make you take the language into account in its fullness. Dylan also had a knack for using simple-seeming chord progressions that remain directly approachable despite their surprising turns and that he embellishes with the ambiguity of his singing.

The significance of the 60s and the music of The Beatles & Bob Dylan

The ’60s was one of the most imperative decades in history for change and cultural revolution. It was marked by the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and antiwar protests, political assassinations, and the emerging “generation gap”, all the while music of the era provided the soundtrack. The ’60s was a hugely significant era in the growth of music. It saw huge rises in popularity of jazz, pop, and folk music alike which gathered devoted listeners in their masses who were ready for change. 

Rock ‘n’ roll had spread from the US and marked the arrival of youth rebellion in the ‘teenager’, this was a hugely significant event because music from then on, would always come with a hint of rebellion.

The Beatles and Dylan were around at a time where the world was changing and the ’60s were truly swinging. It’s without a doubt that timing was everything and without the significance of the era itself music may not have been as important. The diverse ranges of music genres in the ’60s were representative of the revolution that was happening in that crucial time period. The music from The Beatles and Dylan was born in a time of rebellion and counter-culture. People were questioning roles, ideals, politics, love, and everything else such as authority, corporations, the government, and other aspects of everyday life. It was a time in which innovative things were happening and music captured all of this.

Music and its lyrics became innately tied up into causes, opposing certain ideas, influenced by the sexual revolution, feminism, Black Power, and environmentalism to name but a few.

The Beatles had a huge influence on music as we know it, through their experimentation with different types of genres and instruments, while being influential to other groups to do the same.

Dylan was often referred to as ‘the voice of the ‘60s generation’. He played a slightly different role to The Beatles in the cultural revolution of the 60s. Bob Dylan was predominantly a folk singer, heavily involved with the Civil Rights Movement. Dylan even performed with other prominent singers.

He made his impact in the music world by being one of the first musicians to take on an active role on moral issues, and he had a huge stage to present them making him an important spokesman of the decade. Dylan was essential to the revolution by uniting people through his music. Most importantly, Dylan’s songs helped to create a form of community between the activist groups in the ’60s.

The Beatles and Dylan’s incredible statistics 

If you love big numbers then boy do these artists deliver. According to a report on CBS news, The Beatles have sold a staggering 1.6 BILLION singles in the United States, and 177 million albums. Their worldwide album sales top 600 million and the number of Beatles singles to reach Number 1 on the “Billboard Hot 100” is 21, more than any other band in history. The Beatles albums also spent an incredible 174 weeks in total at number 1 in the UK charts. To put things a little more into perspective in 2019 they had 1.7 billion Spotify streams by September showing how their appeal is still very relevant to modern day audiences. 

In their surprisingly short, 10-year life from 1960 to 1970 The Beatles had established themselves as the most successful group in history with sales and statistics no other group can come close too. 

Dylan was often hailed as the Shakespeare of his generation and his album sales reflected society’s need for a skilled and passionate linguist. Dylan has sold more than 125 million records around the world in his large catalogue of creations including 39 studio albums, 95 singles, 26 notable extended plays, 12 live albums, 15 volumes comprising The Bootleg Series, 20 compilation albums, and 16 box sets. Bob Dylan has recently sold his entire catalogue of 600 songs to Universal Music in the biggest music publishing deal in decades estimated to be worth around £225 million.

Did Bob Dylan influence The Beatles? 

It’s so hard to say who had the bigger influence over the masses when talking about The Beatles and Bob Dylan, it may even be unfair to compare the two artists to one another. Bob Dylan, being an important icon did help to shape The Beatles’ musical character even more.

Bob Dylan proved to be a substantial influence on The Beatles in a number of ways. Paul McCartney has been vocal in his thoughts about Dylan saying he was ‘completely steeped in him’. Dylan freed the fab four from the traditional conventions of popular music. This influence resulted in more experimentation with an increased use of acoustic opposed to electric instruments in their recordings. It was also evident there was a dramatic rise in their compositional craftsmanship. What’s more, pre-Dylan The Beatles predominantly wrote songs on the typical pop subject of “boy-girl romance” but changed after hearing Dylan.

Dylan, being a poet, activist and linguist had a big influence on how The Beatles approached songwriting. Before the fab four met Dyan, their lyrics were never at the forefront of their songs with the catchy melody being the most important factor. The musicians were even happy to include “nonsense” lyrics providing they sounded alright with the beat. On the contrary, John Lennon was very inspired by Dylan’s style and artistic flair and used this to begin to write in more of a storytelling style than he previously had done.

Were the relationships between the two music giants mutual?

When researching whether Dylan was as into The Beatles as much as they were into him isn’t completely clear, might it have been a case of unrequited love? 

In reality, you never really know people’s true opinions but The Beatles and Bob Dylan did share a rather one-way relationship, one which saw The fab four admire Dylan’s unique talent for lyrics and craftsmanship.

Bob Dylan did acknowledge The Beatles as being somewhat a force of nature, he has admitted that he kept such thoughts a secret. Dylan has been quoted as saying  “I just kept it to myself that I really dug them”. It’s important to bear in mind how different these artists were and the different influences they had on society. When John Lennon left The Beatles he became a peace activist, following in the footsteps of Dylan. John Lennon was influenced to a certain extent by Dylan’s music as his solo career and his music and lyrics became deeply personal. Lennon’s message was that love is the supreme value and that anyone who wanted to improve the world, could start by improving themselves.

When Bob Dylan introduced The Beatles marijuana

When we think of the swinging sixties, we immediately think of the picture postcard of hippies, cannabis, and music. It was during this decade that pushed the social acceptance of marijuana use, and the music business was a huge advocate of this movement. The exploration of psychedelic drugs was combined with its therapeutic potential, eventually leading up to 1967’s Summer of Love.

People who smoked during the ’60s, set out to transform the world by taking part in various forms of political activism and rejecting social, economic, and mainstream society. It’s safe to say that marijuana had its place firmly solidified in the decade and the music that came with it.

You simply can’t talk about the ’60s and music without mentioning marijuana usage. Cannabis was among one of these drugs that became a symbol of the counterculture and “hippies”, who contributed to this widespread socially accepted drug use, it’s safe to say musicians also did their part in promoting its usage. Apparently, Bob Dylan had assumed that The Beatles were already familiar with marijuana, he couldn’t have been more wrong. Maybe not so common knowledge but Dylan played quite a pivotal role in, let’s say the mind expansion of The Beatles.

It has been documented that on 28th Aug 1964, after playing a show at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York, The Beatles met Bob Dylan for the first time at The Delmonico Hotel. Dylan and mutual journalist friend Al Aronowitz introduce the Fab Four to marijuana. It is said the Beatles spent the next few hours in hilarity, with Dylan watching in amusement. A pop culture moment that has gone down in history as a seismic event.

Dylan hasn’t been shy about admitting that much of his music was inspired by the muse that is cannabis. In the ’60s cannabis was abundant, it was everywhere and it wasn’t difficult to get hold of while being very widely accepted.

How much are these artists worth? 

It is always interesting to look at the numbers when it comes to such huge megastars of the entertainment world. There aren’t many artists that have had the longevity and serious selling power that The Beatles and Bob Dylan have had for so many years. Bob Dylan, whose real name is Robert Allen Zimmerman has an estimated worth of approximately $350 million with his music earning approximately $15 million in royalties each year. Let’s not forget that back in December 2020 it was reported that Bob sold 100% of his song catalog to Universal Music Publishing Group for the actual sale price of $400 million.

Dylan certainly isn’t work shy and hasn’t retired with his feet up, his works have spanned five decades and since the late 1980s, he has toured consistently on what has been called the Never Ending Tour.

When it comes to talking big numbers The Beatles literally blow your mind. Just looking at Paul McCartney’s Net Worth alone, it is a staggering $1.2 Billion

At the time of John Lennon’s death in 1980, his net worth was around $200 million. Guitarist George Harrison, after the breakup of the group, continued his career solo but died in 2001 with an estimated net worth of $400 million. Living legend of The Beatles, Ringo Starr has an estimated net worth of $350 million. Collecting royalties for the recordings by The Beatles is slightly different to the setup Bob Dylan enjoys. Royalties are collected by the owners of the master recordings, which is mainly EMI, now Universal Music. Royalties for the songs written for The Beatles will go to the songwriters John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who wrote most of the songs.

The music of the 1960s was not like that of any other decade, it was far more significant and impactful. Artists like The Beatles and Bob Dylan not only helped to revolutionise many genres they even contributed in producing some new ones. The music also captured the heated spirit of the era’s political movements such as opposing the Vietnam War and fighting for civil rights. The Beatles and Bob Dylan played a huge part in healing a nation when it needed it most. They contributed to significant social changes, and they changed the music scene in different ways forever.

These artists’ music became a sign of hope and reassurance and still to this day their influence transcends the field of music and manifests as an essential strand in the fabric of our everyday lives. No other artist has still topped the record sales that The Beatles have had. It’s interesting to think, where would we be now and what would the music scene be, if these iconic artists hadn’t taken to the stage?

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