Being the offspring of a famous musician and trying to follow in those footsteps isn’t necessarily a picnic. There have been a few examples of legitimate talent — think Woody and Arlo Guthrie or Loudon and Rufus Wainwright — but there are even more examples of failed and often disturbing attempts to cash in on a parent’s fame.
The train wreck of a show (even by MTV’s standards) Rock the Cradle focused solely on the “do what daddy does” phenomenon in the music world, and it produced some truly cringe-worthy performances. The winner, Crosby Loggins, who was one of the few truly talented contestants, left the overall experience, and his minor brush with fame, with such a bad taste in his mouth that he stopped recording and performing altogether.
Though it’s hard for a musician to have a successful parent and still find a way to forge a unique identity, it’s a completely different story when the musician parent transcends mere fame and fortune and is a beloved cultural icon, and arguably the greatest songwriter that ever lived. That’s the case of Jakob Dylan and his father, who happens to be, well, you know.
Being Bob Dylan’s son is a blessing and curse that Jakob Dylan has had to live with his whole life, knowing that no matter how great the song he wrote or record he made, it would be impossible to top his father’s achievements. Furthermore, there’s the fact that the Big D is still very much alive and active. You’re not dealing with the shadow of a ghost. The king of your contemporaries is at every family picnic; and no matter how much mom loves you, let’s face it — if there’s only one guitar floating around, we all know who it’s going to.
Despite those insurmountable odds, Jakob Dylan and his band The Wallflowers have managed to forge a path of their own and, after a lengthy hiatus, are back supporting an excellent new record, Glad All Over.
The Wallflowers and Dylan’s career kicked off with a highly anticipated and somewhat underwhelming self-titled debut in 1992. The record had little initial success, and it instantly cast the shadow of the younger Dylan as being a less interesting version of his old man.
It was perhaps that chip on his shoulder that led Dylan to pen the sophomore record Bringing Down the Horse, which was a commercial and critical smash in 1996. A top to bottom tour de force, featuring the radio anthems “One Headlight,” “The Difference” and “6th Avenue Heartache,” Dylan and company made one of the strongest rock and roll records of the 1990s. The record helped bring singer-songwriter-based rock back to the radio at a time when crunchy alternative guitars dominated the airwaves. In addition, it produced two Grammys and went on to to sell an astronomical 4 million copies, making the band a household name, and against all odds, turning The Wallflowers into The Wallflowers and not “Bob Dylan’s son’s band.”
The Wallflowers spent the next decade playing the fame game, recording and touring, releasing three solid but somewhat uneven records, before going on hiatus in 2007.
Dylan went on to release a solo record and fellow original member (the band has had numerous lineup changes) keyboardist Rami Jaffee, became Los Angeles’ go-to session player, ultimately landing an arena rock gig as the Foo Fighters’ touring keyboardist.
Now with the new record, the first in seven years, The Wallflowers are back on the road, still landing the sweet gigs, which included a run with Eric Clapton this spring as well as a summer tour with longtime friends and sonic soul mates the Counting Crows.
While The Wallflowers are back full steam, this time around, they are being compared to only themselves and their past creative output, which, after a lifetime of having to unwillingly field comparisons and pressure to measure up to their singer’s iconic father, lets the band go about the business of being what they are, a great American rock band.
The Wallflowers will perform at the Ventura Theater on Friday, July 19. For more information and tickets, visit www.venturatheater.net.