Bob Dylan and Post Malone: Springsteen’s Genealogy
Bob Dylan and Post Malone: Springsteen’s Genealogy
Springsteen had a number of musical influences that forged his style and approach to music. The greatest of these, by Springsteen’s own admission, is Bob Dylan. His folksy melodies accompanied by insightful lyrics caused Springsteen to emulate Dylan for the first few years of his career. However, he was eventually able to form a style of his own which influenced subsequent artists similarly. One of these artists is Post Malone, a very popular modern musician who rose to popularity rapping on SoundCloud and has since branched off into various genres of music. Born Austin Post, Post Malone’s biggest stated influence is also Bob Dylan, but the similarity between their styles is not immediately evident. While Post Malone is best known for making rap music, Bob Dylan’s folksy style has influenced some of his songs as well as his public persona. The genealogy between Bob Dylan and Post Malone is largely emulative of the natural progression of popular music in America. While there is a stated influence of Dylan on Post Malone and Springsteen, it is arguable that every artist of that caliber influenced music enough to the point where they influenced everyone in the medium. This is not the case for most artists, but iconic trend setters such as Dylan have an influence that reaches beyond their genre and time. Springsteen’s music, which was also comparably popular, serves as a bridge of sorts between the generational gap between Bob Dylan and Post Malone. These shared qualities are evident in the Bob Dylan song “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright,” and the Post Malone song, “Feeling Whitney.”
Bob Dylan coined a particular musical style and lyrical tone early in his career. One instance of this is his song “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright,” off of his album, “The ‘Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” which was released in 1963. The song serves as a somber reflection of a failed relationship by using catchy melodies and acoustic guitar as instrumentation. The song begins with him reflecting on the past by acknowledging the futile nature of that activity. “Well it ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe, Ifin' you don't know by now” (Dylan). The initial acknowledgment of the unnecessary nature of musing on the very event he’s about to sing about gives the song a reflexive quality that immediately engages the listener. It also sets the tone for the song by acknowledging that it doesn’t have a happy ending. Its early realization that it is not a love song but a song about heartbreak sets the song up in the first line. Additionally, the narrator of the song is addressing the woman the song is about in the line, “Ifin' you don’t you know by now”. This makes the song for the woman and not just about her. Later in the verse, Dylan sings, “When your rooster crows at the break a dawn, Look out your window and I'll be gone” (Dylan). This is Dylan’s first acknowledgement of his wrongdoing in the song. It reveals very simply that he was the party to leave the relationship but feels regret for this. The emotion of regret is primarily expressed in the tone of the song and his voice. It has a remorseful quality that adds to the sad feelings the lyric invokes. However, despite his remorse, he does not blame the woman for the relationship falling apart but instead turns the light on himself. This is a quality seen in Malone’s music as well as Dylan’s. The first verse ends with the eponymous line, “Don't think twice, it's all right” (Dylan). This line feels like Dylan providing consolation for his former lover by referencing his own experience. By acknowledging at the beginning of the song that sitting around wondering about what could have been is futile, he is able to reemphasize this with the ending line and title of the song. Thinking twice is something that Dylan has done and advises against.
He begins the next verse with the lines, “And it ain't no use in a-turnin' on your light, babe, The light I never knowed” (Dylan). This is the part of the song where Dylan’s bitter side begins to show. While he spends the first verse establishing that he does not blame his former lover for the demise of their relationship, there is an underlying quality of resentment in the second verse. Claiming that she never showed him her light implies that her reluctance to open up to him played a role in their break up. This resentment continues to show later in the verse with the line, “But I wish there was somethin' you would do or say, To try and make me change my mind and stay” (Dylan). Throughout the song, Dylan slowly turns his blame from himself and back onto his lover. This is another aspect of the phrase “Don’t think twice it’s alright” in play. He begins his reflection with the consensus that he was at fault in the relationship’s end but then begins to second guess that thought once he begins thinking twice. He continues this in the third verse with the lines, “No it ain't no use in callin' out my name, gal, Like you never done before” and the penultimate line of the verse, “I give her my heart but she wanted my soul” (Dylan). These lyrics are heart wrenching in delivery as Dylan so clearly wants to get over this relationship and seems unable to. He understands that the only way to move past this is to stop giving it attention by thinking twice about it but is unable to practice that philosophy. The last four lines of the song tie together this dichotomous perspective of self-loathing and external anger. “I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind, You could have done better but I don't mind, You just kinda wasted my precious time, But don't think twice, it's all right” (Dylan). He retracts his claims that the woman was unkind, harkening back to his initial self-blame, but sticks to his opinion that she could have done more to save the relationship in the next line. He then ends the song by diminishing the emotional impact of the event on him by claiming it was just about wasting his precious time. He then concludes with the title of the song which emblemizes its theme.
The concepts Dylan is addressing in “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” are very prevalent in Post Malone’s “Feeling Whitney.” The song ended his 2016 Album “Stoney” and is one of the few folk/country songs he’s released. The song is a slow tempo musing of a past relationship accompanied by finger plucked acoustic guitar that is heavily reminiscent of Dylan’s style. In fact, it is essentially an homage to Dylan which Post does frequently. He has a Bob Dylan tattoo and released a cover of “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” online before his music career even began. While this initially garnered no attention, it has since accumulated millions of views. Given Post’s public personal admiration of Dylan, his style has the same origin as Springsteen. Given this fact, “Feeling Whitney” is both musically and thematically a Bob Dylan homage. The song opens with Post humming the tune of the song, lighting a cigarette, and playing acoustic guitar. The guitar is almost exactly in the same strumming pattern as his cover of Dylan. The first lines of the song are, “And I've been looking for someone to put up with my bullshit, I can't even leave my bedroom so I keep pouring” (Post). This establishes the setting of the song as Post writing in his bedroom in a state of loneliness. While the context is not yet given this, alongside the melancholy melody, immediately implies a breakup. This is confirmed in the next line, “And I ain't seen a light of day since, well, that's not important, It's been long” (Post). His reluctance to talk about the breakup the song is about invokes Dylan’s philosophy of not thinking twice. It embodies the same theme of not giving attention to the parts of the past that can still cause you pain. He then states, “Cars and clothes, thought I was winning, You knew I was losing” (Post). This line is more indicative of a Springsteen theme of success not filling the hole left by the loss of love. While Post is literally the most popular musician working today, he still experiences the pain of heartache, possibly to a greater degree. Aspiration gives people a sense of comfort in the face of loss and, based on testaments from the biggest musicians in the world themselves, the lack of any more success to be attained removes that element of comfort. Post further addresses this concept in the refrain by stating, “Just act as hard as you can, You don't need a friend, Boy, you're the man” (Post). This line seems to switch the narrative perspective from Post Malone into somebody giving him advice. In the context of the rest of the song, Post Malone does recognize that no level of success removes the need for companionship and love. However, this line being told to him by one of his friends or somebody working for him embodies the feeling of isolation he experiences. He seems to try and take comfort in this but is ultimately left still feeling empty. He continues in the next verse with the line, “Drought comes around, feels like I have no one to depend on, Sober, ugh” (Post). Post is acknowledging his use of drugs and alcohol to fill the parts of his life he feels are lacking. He seems to alternate sobriety levels throughout the song and is the saddest in his soberness. If you put this into the context of Post Malone’s public persona and his other songs this comes as no surprise. He’s a well-known drug user and frequently praises it in his other songs. Given that fact, him addressing that he uses these substances as a means of escaping his emotions is out of lyrical character. This gives the song an emotional weight to close out the album and puts a lot of his other songs into context. His most popular song “rockstar” begins with the lines, “Ayy, I've been fuckin' hoes and poppin' pillies, Man, I feel just like a rockstar (star), Ayy, ayy, all my brothers got that gas, And they always be smokin' like a Rasta” (Post). This is the typical characterization of his public persona as expressed through his music making “Feeling Whitney” a noticeably different song in his catalog both musically and thematically.
Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Post Malone exist in the same genealogy of massively popular musicians. Arguably, each of them sold enough records to have a permanent effect of the music industry as a whole, but Springsteen and Post’s acknowledgment of Dylan’s influence on their lives and music takes it to another level. Bob Dylan paved the way for popular music of any genre and many of the world’s biggest superstars give him that credit.
Dylan, Bob. “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.” The ‘Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Colombia, 1963. Spotify.
Malone, Post. “Feeling Whitney.” Stoney, Republic, 2016. Spotify.
Malone, Post. “rockstar.” Beerbongs & Bentleys, Republic, 2018. Spotify.