Greatest folksinger: Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell? | The Tylt

Greatest folksinger: Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell?

Bob Dylan is regarded as one of the most influential American musicians of all time. He even won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2015. But a vocal minority of fans argue Joni Mitchell is the superior singer-songwriter. From her angelic voice and genuinely poetic lyrics to her collaborations with lauded jazz musicians like Charles Mingus and Herbie Hancock, Mitchell stans say her talent dwarfs Dylan's. What do you think?

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Dylan is a towering figure, and his work changed the course of music history. In an age where singers and songwriters inhabited completely different worlds, he broke ground with the idea that the personal perspective of the singer matters most. Dylan showed that songwriting and music weren't just for studied elites. Anyone with something to say could pick up a guitar and sing about it. Even Mitchell exclaimed over how his work set her free to do her own:

It wasn't until [Joni] heard Bob Dylan's "Positively Fourth Street" that she finally began to understand how to tap the power of this private poetry in a song. She recalled, "When I heard that 'You've got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend' I thought, now that's poetry; now we're talking. That direct, confronting speech, commingled with imagery, was what was lacking for me."
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Dylan's influence ranged from Lou Reed and Johnny Cash, to Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles. The legendary Sam Cooke was blown away by Dylan, and immediately recognized that his work would change music history.

When Sam Cooke played Dylan for the young Bobby Womack, Womack said he didn't understand it. Cooke explained that from now on, it's not going to be about how pretty the voice is. It's going to be about believing that the voice is telling the truth.
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But Mitchell's fans say she's always gotten short shrift from critics, especially when compared with her male peers. She came up in the '60s and '70s, when the music industry was largely staffed by and controlled by men. Many argue that her voice, lyrics, and songwriting are all vastly superior to Dylan's. She is a true original, whereas Dylan borrowed much of his shtick from Woody Guthrie and has been accused of plagiarism.

The Guardian's Sean O'Hagan wrote:

In the music industry, Mitchell has never really been afforded the kind of respect heaped on her male counterparts. Rolling Stone magazine once listed her at No 62 in its 100 greatest artists of all time, just below Metallica.
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Prince was one of Mitchell's close friends and allies. He lionized her his entire life, and considered her one of his greatest inspirations, writing her name all over the liner notes of "Controversy."

Led Zeppelin adored her (Mitchell is the "girl with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair" of "Going To California"). Dylan certainly influenced Mitchell, but her fans argue that her output is far better. And when Prince calls you a major influence, your throne in the halls of music history is guaranteed.

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1843 Magazine's David Bennun wrote that Mitchell has been confined to the "female musician" category, and that her oeuvre is massively undervalued.

Elvis Presley or The Beatles or Bob Dylan, we are customarily told, revolutionized popular music. Not one part of it. Not for men alone. Popular music, in its entirety.
When Mitchell’s influence is mentioned, it is almost exclusively in terms of how she inspired...female singer-songwriters, as if a female artist may be the creative begetter only of other women. 
#TeamBobDylan

Though many have critiqued Dylan's voice as his weakest link, others say it's one of the most powerful voices in music history, and opened doors for countless performers who came after him. That's greatness. According to Rolling Stone:

Bob Dylan did what very, very few singers ever do. He changed popular singing. And we have been living in a world shaped by Dylan's singing ever since. 
To understand Bob Dylan's impact as a singer, you have to imagine a world without Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder, Kurt Cobain, Lucinda Williams or any other vocalist with a cracked voice, dirt-bowl yelp or bluesy street howl.
FINAL RESULTS
Entertainment
Greatest folksinger: Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell?
A festive crown for the winner
#TeamBobDylan
#TeamJoniMitchell