Robert Shelton

Author of No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan

Remembering Robert Shelton

“Shelton… he loved music… Jesus, he made the Times publish those people. For that alone he was a god. He’s absolutely the father of rock journalism…There was Shelton in the Times and that was it. Newsweek and Time magazine wrote a bit. There were no music magazines that took my kind of music seriously until Crawdaddy, and Crawdaddy wasn’t taken seriously – it took itself very seriously. They were trying to write about pop and rock ‘n’ roll like it was classical music. And that’s the huge difference: Shelton accepted it for what it was. It’s not people who couldn’t make it in classical music, it’s not writers who couldn’t make it on Broadway. He accepted it as a legitimate form. He didn’t have that snotty attitude, and neither did Bernstein.  No wonder they liked each other!

“Bob covered the socio-economic-political ramifications also…The only person that’s close to him in terms of integrity is Ralph Gleason on the West Coast… I cannot imagine Jann Wenner having that range… Bob gave it credibility. Also you know he was first, and first usually doesn’t get any recognition” – Janis Ian remembering Robert Shelton, interviewed by Liz Thomson in October 2012

“Bob Shelton was so important, such a wonderful writer, such a wonderful man. He embraced this movement in such a real way, such an impressive way, because he got it and he wrote about it brilliantly… The social conditions were being revealed in the most dramatic way. The music was intersecting with the social relevance and changing things… whether it was the music in Washington Square Park or the songs that were sung about the Freedom Riders or the songs against the war… What was also happening was that there were record labels like Elektra, and there were people, like Robert Shelton, who wrote about it so it became public and so the marketing of this wonderful, amazing phenomenon actually happened. It would never have happened if there weren’t people who understood how to get the music out. It just would never have happened.

“[Robert Shelton] was such a support and that was very very important to Dylan – to everyone who was making music. If you make music in a closet and no one hears about it you are the Van Gogh of your age” – Judy Collins interviewed by Spencer Leigh on BBC Radio Merseyside, June 2011

Photo: Robert Shelton and Bob Dylan backstage at Newport Folk Festival,
1964 © Ed Grazda