Entertainment & Arts

Bob Dylan takes on critics in acceptance speech

Bob Dylan Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bob Dylan broke with tradition and gave a speech that lasted 30 minutes

Bob Dylan has turned the tables on his critics during a 30-minute speech, at a charity gala honouring his career.

The 73-year-old, who rarely talks about his work, asked why critics complain he "can't sing" and sounds "like a frog" but do not "say that about Tom Waits?"

"Critics say my voice is shot, that I have no voice. Why don't they say those things about Leonard Cohen? Why do I get special treatment?" he continued.

The event was to mark charity Musicares naming Dylan their person of the year.

Artists including Tom Jones, Jack White, Beck, Sheryl Crow and Crosby, Stills and Nash performed covers of Dylan's work at the pre-Grammys event in Los Angeles on Friday night.

Springsteen joined Rage Against the Machine star Tom Morello for a version of Knockin' on Heaven's Door, while Neil Young played Dylan classic Blowin' in the Wind.

Dylan did not perform, but instead appeared on stage with a pile of loose papers, which he referred to saying: "I'm going to read some of this."

After a standing ovation, Dylan said: "Critics say I can't carry a tune and I talk my way through a song. Really? I've never heard that said about Lou Reed. Why does he get to go scot-free?" he asked.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jack White performed One More Cup Of Coffee at the event
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Dylan often read from his notes during the speech

A transcript of the 30-minute speech has been published on the LA Times website, although reporter Randall Roberts said he was unable to get every word.

"Because of moments of applause, and some echoey acoustics, a few of Dylan's words were inaudible on the recording I've consulted."

"Though it upsets him to hear it, Dylan does sometimes mumble and slur his words," explained Roberts.

Dylan began: "I'm glad for my songs to be honoured like this. But you know, they didn't get here by themselves. It's been a long road and it's taken a lot of doing.

"These songs of mine, they're like mystery stories, the kind that Shakespeare saw when he was growing up."

Dylan thanked many of the artists who have covered his songs over the years, including Nina Simone, Jimi Hendrix and Joan Baez.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bruce Springsteen, musician Don Was and Tom Morello performed at the event
Image copyright AP
Image caption Dylan appeared with President Jimmy Carter and The Recording Academy and Muiscares president Neal Portnow

He also thanked Peter, Paul and Mary who recorded Blowin' in the Wind - which was initially "buried" on his second album.

"Since then hundreds of people have recorded it and I don't think that would have happened if it wasn't for them. They definitely started something for me," he said.

Dylan paid tribute to Johnny Cash who stuck up for Dylan when he went electric in 1965 and "posted letters to magazines scolding people, telling them to shut up and let him sing."

Former President Jimmy Carter introduced the singer-songwriter on stage saying: "There is no doubt that his words on peace and human rights are much more incisive, much more powerful and much more permanent than those of any president of the United States."

Dylan scored his eighth UK number one album on Sunday with Shadows In The Night, his 36th studio album, featuring covers of 10 standards made famous by Frank Sinatra.

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