An Analysis of Contemporary Music in He who is Not Busy Being Born is Busy Dying by Bob Dylan

An Analysis of Contemporary Music in He who is Not Busy Being Born is Busy Dying by Bob Dylan

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When Bob Dylan wrote “he who is not busy being born is busy dying,” he could easily have been talking about Willie Nelson. Although Nelson is one of contemporary musics few genuine icons, the 63-year-old singer, songwriter, guitarist and actor remains a restlessly creative soul. And like the proverbial phoenix, he has continually renewed his artistic vision throughout a career that spans more than 35 years, 100 albums, and literally countless miles on the road. Nowhere is that more evident than on Spirit, Nelsons stunning first album for Island Records. Recorded with an intimate acoustic combo of friends and family at his home base of Pedernales Studios outside of Austin, TX, Spirit features an entirely new crop of Nelson originals in a setting that proves the maxim “less is more.” Like his monumental Red Headed Stranger album, its a song cycle where the deceptively simple setting brings an even greater depth and hypnotic potency to the affair, which features Texas legend Johnny Gimble on fiddle, sister Bobbie Nelson on piano, veteran Family member Jody Payne on rhythm guitar, and Nelsons trademark voice, songs, and gut-string guitar picking front and center.

A soul-searching rumination on love and spirituality, the album draws from Nelsons deep well of American influences like country, gospel and traditional pop to create something altogether original, just as he has done numerous times before in his mercurial musical journey. Spirit arrives at a pivotal point in Nelsons career. Altogether the headline news in recent years may have been his problems with the IRS, a pot bust, and his departure from his longtime label, Columbia Records, in actuality the 1990s have already proven to be an era of both great creativity and well-deserved salutes for Nelson.

In recent years, he has recorded a string of critically-acclaimed albums like Across The Borderline (his last record for Columbia, produced by Don Was), Moonlight Becomes You (a gorgeous collection of standards a la…

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