New Dylans

Once upon a time there was a songster sans compare.
He wrote the best of lyrics and had really funky hair.
He became the standard by which all others would sink
and almost instantaneously the press devoted ink
to finding his successors; all those that might arrive
to replace him in the pantheon were he to take a dive.
Dylan was that artist, and those followers were, too
each thought of as the next best wave and so were thus called “New.”

They were all fine lyricists: both thoughtful and smart
and each of them could spin a tale of detail and with heart.
Some might employ a band but their name would be on top
and most were white and most were dudes, but there the likeness stops.
All these folks would play their songs, get pinned with the label
and claim some commonality with Bob, skirting libel.
This army of writers took to airwaves and to fans
and soon were dubbed the songwriting elite: the New Dylans.

To be a New Dylan means to be compared to him
and often that risks parallels that leaves one looking dim
for Bob the First, he took the prize and wrote the book on song
with everyone else strumming merrily along.
Still they took their turn at bat, giving it their best
to be thought first an acolyte, then different from the rest.
So for a week or for a year, each was thought The Man:
The only individual to be the New Dylan.

John Prine in the sixties was praised by Bob the First
and for a Next Dylan, you could look at some much worst.
The third Wainwright followed, and he sometimes joked about
his special club inclusion; in fact he once let out
a song called “Talking New Bob Dylan,” in which he’d admit
he started like a clone, before getting to his hit
about a highway accident – though not on Sixty One.
After “Dead Skunk,” he was Loudon, not New Dylan.

So many get tagged with that oh, so special name
but often afterwards, they’ll develop their own fame
like Steve Forbert, so thoughtful! Or Dan Bern, so wry.
Or Patti Smith, who though a girl, could write just like a guy.
Some would be more literate, like Elvis Costello
and there are many more than we could ever really know
because there’s a new Dylan almost everywhere you look.
A new Dylan in your cupboard. A new Dylan for our nook.

We want these kinds of writers; in our hearts they do excel
even though in this age their records never sell.
After all, when did a Zimmerman last top the charts?
More than a decade ago! His latest singles? Farts.
Still, the open mics are filled with hopefuls every year
who try to climb his watchtower, conquering every fear.
Yes, to be a New Dylan, is for many still a coup.
You might say “it is all they really wanna do.”

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