Bob Dylan-approved musical products are something of a rare sighting. In more than fifty years of career, the Duluth bard has had a signature harmonica with Hohner, and only one signature guitar, this gorgeous Gibson SJ-200. This is a surprising choice, given that Dylan has played many guitars through his career and nowadays is more biased towards electric guitars (especially Strats), and when he plays acoustic it usually is on a newer J-45. Dylan remains an enigma even when he designs a signature guitar, and that’s the way we want him to be.
He did have a J-200 on the cover of the 1969 album Nashville Skyline. The big Gibson jumbo was probably a good way to make guitar history with a strong statement of a signature model.
Moreover, it’s a really tough guitar to fault. The Bob Dylan SJ-200 is a true work of art that brings together sophistication and the vintage spirit. The top is flamed Adirondack with a beautiful old-time sunburst and a AAA flame maple enhanced by a very light finish. The double pickguard evokes the Everly Brothers model, a duo that has deeply influenced Dylan, and the fretboard inlays, both classy and understated, can only be found on this SJ-200. Lastly, the mystical logo with a crowned eye graces the headstock. This logo has served as a backdrop for the singer’s performances for a few years.
Of course, this SJ-200 is also a perfectly functional tool: it has a great sharp, warm and balanced sound, and the electroacoustic performance comes courtesy of an L.R. Baggs Anthem system. This awesome pickup and preamp combination gives a very natural plugged sound, very close to the natural acoustic sound and far from the usual aggressive sound of piezo pickups. Beautiful and very potent, Bob Dylan has done it again.
Main guitar : Fender Stratocaster
Compulsory listening : Like A Rolling Stone
Bob Dylan is more than a legend. He’s a visionary, a revolutionary prophet that took rock music and brought it somewhere else. Before Dylan, popular music lyrics had to be simplistic and easy to understand for teenagers.
After Dylan, musicians were allowed to be deep and cryptic in their songwriting, to the point that a whole generation of poets found their salvation with the hybrid of rock and lyrical depth invented by Dylan. Dylan’s contribution is so important that he even was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature.
All through his lengthy career, Robert Zimmerman never stopped renewing his art, going from one persona to the next depending on his inspiration. He started off as a Greenwich Village folk troubadour with a 1962 debut album deeply inspired by Woody Guthrie. Then came The Freewheelin’ in 1963, his classic folk album featuring such powerful and timeless songs as Blowin’ In The Wind, Masters Of War and A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall.
But Dylan was not content being the protest singer everybody wanted him to be. He didn’t want to be a flag-bearer, and so he became a surrealist poet backed by an electric rock band featuring Mike Bloomfield on the Telecaster. The classic album Highway 61 Revisited came out in 1965, followed by Blonde On Blonde in 1966, his country album recorded in Nashville with local musicians.
Dylan has had dozens of musial lives, backed by exceptional guitar players (Mick Ronson, Robbie Robertson…). Bob himself is far from being a bad musician, with a very capable right hand and a rhythmic approach that was aptly displayed on pre-war Martins, Gibson J-45s, J-200s, L-0s, Telecasters, Stratocasters, Yamahas, Duesenbergs and even James Trussarts. A full-blown chameleon.