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Dylan’s dedicated followers didn’t include Ray Davies, says new book on Sixties

An academic argues that Dylan had a big influence on The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who – but not The Kinks.

Bob Dylan (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Bob Dylan (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Bob Dylan had a big influence on every major British popular songwriter of the 1960s – apart from The Kinks’ Ray Davies, a new book suggests.

Academic Tudor Jones says Dylan’s songwriting influenced the work of British stars including John Lennon and George Harrison of The Beatles, Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones and Pete Townshend of The Who.

But Jones argues in his book, Bob Dylan And The British Sixties, that Davies was probably the “least influenced”.

“Dylan’s influence on songwriting in modern British popular culture during the 1960s was … profound and far-reaching,” says Jones, a political historian and honorary research fellow in the history of political thought at Coventry University.

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The Kinks’ Ray Davies (Ian West/PA)

“The effect of his influence was felt on three main levels: first, in widening the range of subjects and themes that could be addressed in the lyrics of popular music; second, in conveying the notion that lyrics could have something reflective and significant to say about contemporary society, human relationships or even the existential realities of the human condition; and third, in fostering a more personal and emotionally direct mode of address.”

Jones suggests that The Beatles’ songs were about “boy-girl romance” before Dylan exerted his influence and adds: “In Britain the influence of Dylan’s songwriting was particularly evident during the 1960s in the case of The Beatles, and John Lennon and George Harrison especially.”

He says The Kinks also shifted from their early “hard-rock, power-chord singles” towards songs, including A Dedicated Follower of Fashion and Sunny Afternoon, which contained “further reflections on aspects of contemporary British society” in the mid-60s.

But he adds: “Paradoxically those were songs written by the one major British popular songwriter of the 1960s … who was probably least influenced by Bob Dylan.”

Jones highlights Davies’ 1965 song A Well Respected Man and says that marked a shift in The Kinks’ style. But he suggests that the song owes more of a debt to Noel Coward, Somerset Maugham or Peter Cook than Dylan.

– Bob Dylan And The British Sixties is published by Routledge.

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