Wow. I'm surprised to find so many of you are so into lyrics. I could not be more opposite. I believe lyrics can only detract from a song if they are written badly, but almost never really add to it. I can appreciate good lyrics and when I take the time to look them up and read them without singing them with the music, I rather enjoy deciphering a meaning, if any. However, I can sing along to a song perfectly and have absolutely no idea what its about, or what the guy is saying.
The lyrical meaning is unimportant to me. One of my favorite genres is native to Spain. I don't speak a lick of spanish, but I love the modes, melodies, and arrangements used in this genre; they are amazing. Lyrics are there, but it doesn't matter to me if they were singing about love, death, or Lindsay Lohan, I'd love the songs just the same.
For me, lyrics are just a string of syllables. Meaningful or meaningless, it is no object. I listen to melodies, harmonies, and how the words/syllables fit/sound together. But most importantly how the music feels
Iconic singer song writers, like Bob Dylan, didn't get famous on their lyrics alone. Its the whole song writing package that they are famous for. Chordal structure, melody, arrangement... this is the real meat behind a song, then the lyrics fall on top for the people that care.
I love Bob Dylan. I love James Taylor, Carole King, Bob Marley, John Lennon, all these singer song writers. But I also like John Coltrane, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Frank Zappa, Rush, The Who, Dream Theater, etc etc. I not here to say instrumental music is better, just that its all the same to me. Its all music. The instruments and vocals are just a means to an ends: emotional expression.
Lyrics are the reason for the music not the other way around.
So, I'd have to disagree. Emotion/passion is the reason for the music, nothing else. It doesn't matter to me that John Coltrane was a tenor player. He could have been a crooner for all I care, but the emotion and feeling he expressed through his music would have still been there. Thats why hes an epic musician. By the same token, Bob Dylan could have been a famous artist or a jazz musician.. it doesn't matter because his storytelling ability and passion for emotional expression would still have been there inside him, and because of that he still would become the same iconic figure he is today.