The musician Mick Jagger called the “guru of lyrics”

Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger is well and truly at the top of the music food chain. Few artists have achieved the dizzying heights of success and notoriety that The Rolling Stones have. They remain perhaps the world’s most famous band. However, Jagger considers another artist to be the best in terms of lyricism.

The music scene was thriving in the mid-1960s, as The Rolling Stones rose to prominence. The 1960s and 1970s are still regarded as a true golden age of music, with many of history’s most iconic and respected artists working. The Beatles were becoming more experimental. The folk scene was thriving thanks to Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Joan Baez. The counterculture scenes were bringing the world more and more greatness, with The Doors and Led Zeppelin leading the way in rock. There appeared to be an abundance of talent shaping the music industry as we know it today.

The Stones were a major part of the exciting new music wave. They also gained popularity on both sides of the pond. It was a time when rock and roll truly dominated, dethroning pop as the new sound of youth. Everyone seemed to be looking for something more unique and meaningful than the cookie-cutter pop that had come before.

It’s hard to imagine how bad pop music was at the time,” Jagger told Rolling Stone. “And even if you lifted your game by a marginal amount, it was a lot different from most everything else that had gone before in the 10 years previously.

This desire for depth is what Mick Jagger attributes to the success of the man he regards as the best of the best. “The lyricist who was good at the time was Bob Dylan,” he told the publication. “Everyone looked up to him as being a kind of guru of lyrics.”

Dylan didn’t seem to fit into a single mold. He began as the next big thing in country and folk music. He quickly expanded beyond that when he picked up an electric guitar. But, while his instrumentals became more rock-oriented, his lyricism never diminished his rich storytelling style. Dylan found a golden middle ground between being too wordy to be considered easy listening or mainstream and catchy enough to make him a star.

Hearing these songs released in real-time while Dylan released record after record was completely new to Jagger. “A lot of it was perhaps not as good as we thought. But at the time it was fantastic,” he said, discussing how Dylan altered the course of music. “‘Gates of Eden’ and all these Mexican-type songs, even the nonsense ones. ‘Everybody Must Get Stoned’ and ‘Like a Rolling Stone‘, ‘Positively 4th Street.‘”

Keith Richards  echoed that praise, saying, “I’d work with Bob anywhere.” I would work with Bob in either hell or heaven. “I love him.”

The admiration was mutual. While promoting his new album Rough & Rowdy Ways in 2020, interviewers asked Dylan which songs by other artists he wished he had written. In response, he mentioned three Rolling Stones songs: ‘Angie, Ventilator Blues, and Wild Horses’.

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