MDD, it's refreshing to get a serious, thoughtful reply to my point of view in this matter, so thanks for that. I'll try to explain it as best I can.
In the mean time, I was thinking about your rejection of 'original' and your preference for the term 'individual'. 'Individual' implies, I think, a separate entity -- something that is the absolute fundamental thing (that can't be broken down any further), the base element. It seems to me that if we take the idea that artists can only take up the tradition, the ideas, elements of their culture and see unseen possibilities in them, then the historical traditions are more fundamental than the individual.
Preferring 'individual' over 'original', I was implying that no two people have the exactly same set of influences, not even identical twins. The influence of your upbringing and schooling will never be exactly the same for any two people, as each family member, teacher, friend, etc, will react to the person as a unique being and character - I don't think you can not
do this. In a place were everyone gets exposed to the same culture, traditions, media, etc, one will pick and chose according to one's interests, and some things will leave stronger impressions than others. So you come out with an individual take on life, society, etc - as I said above somewhere, take things and filter them back through your own brain. Bob's very good at presenting that which he has digested in this way, in that he reassembles bits and pieces of cultural information into new entities, and he has the platform to do so. We could argue why that is (not many people believed in him after Hammond first signed him) and what went into the building of his legend (he was widely booed in the mid-'60s, and his prolongued silence after the 'accident' seems to have contributed as much to his legendary status as all his words combined). As for the output of his creative artistic mind, in all forms that he works in, there are those that he takes a unique twist to, but also those that he takes pretty much intact out of the work of others and transplants it into his own. By his uniqueness, he choses and reassembles elements, and puts them into a new context.
A very good example for this is what Larry Charles has said about writing the script for Masked & Anonymous
with Bob. Apparently, Bob came in with a shoebox full of notes which he dumped on the table - phrases, couplets, lines - which they then started to arrange as dialogue. I read somewhere that those notes where the leftovers of writing "Love And Teft" the previous year, an album which Columbia asked him to come up with so as to not let the career revival after TOOM slide, four years later. In any way, it's well known that "LAT" is a patchwork of recycled lines and melodies, and though M&A is far less known to the general public, work has been done sourcing the dialogue - read scottw's blog. So I take it that Bob reads widely (at least on tour there must be lots of time to spend for someone who doesn't get to go out much), watches movies, listens to music - I think Jeff Rosen runs an archive for him of early filmed blues and roots music that he can access on the road - and jots down notes and then puts them to use in his work.
I think what you meant by the sentence I quoted above was that there aren't other artists (in the sense I describe above) around to be "scrutinized" regarding their sources. That is, there aren't other artists -- though I think you mean in music (?).
Do I have that right? Like I said, I think (as Giada pointed out) that you have to include Louis Armstrong. But there are others that have the kind of broad impact Dylan has had.
No, I'd never say there are no other artists!
Of course there are. What I was saying is that from a Dylan freak point of view, it's easy to know of the obsessive scrutinizing of his work. I don't know if the same has been done about, say, the Beatles. There certainly must be books about their lyrics, but as much as with Bob? I never doubted anyone's impact either, all I said was that if we use Bob for an example, it's clear that you can have a huge impact even if large chunks of your creations didn't spring from your own mind.