Bob Dylan turned 70 yesterday. I was going to blog about this fact yesterday, as it would have made sense to do so, but when it came to doing so I soon realised, what can you say about Bob Dylan? There isn’t a sincerely-intentioned eulogy that hasn’t already been written and read aloud with far more elegance than I could ever dream of mustering in his honour. Pete Hamill, for example, writing in 1974 for the Blood on the Tracks liner notes, declared Dylan “the one who has most clearly taken the roiled sea and put it in a glass.” How very beautiful.
Dylan, undoubtedly, is the greatest poet of several generations. He exudes intelligence and wit and, in my humble opinion, gives more in his weakest moments than myriad others are able to proudly present in their finest. He wrote some of the most important and meaningful songs ever recorded – ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, ‘Gates of Eden’, to name but three – and influenced most of the musicians whose craft we continue to value so highly and therefore tend to speak of most often in this relatively quiet corner of cyberspace. He must have written and recorded at least 500 songs, many of them since reinterpreted over and over again by hundreds of varied performers; indeed, many of the best-known songs released to great critical acclaim by the world’s best-known acts are actually his. Among his serious observations on society and jovial tales laced with characters that literary history’s most accomplished story-tellers would have been pleased as punch to have created, he has given us such mesmeric songs about love (such as ‘To Ramona’ and ‘Nettie Moore’, written 40-odd years apart), as well as the most powerful and passionate songs of hate (‘Hurricane’, ‘Masters of War’).
And just how perfect is the phrase “jingle-jangle morning”?
Anyway… I didn’t write this post yesterday because, simply, I chose to listen instead and allow time for you to perhaps see, hear or read something of particular interest which you may now care to share with the rest of us; to maybe discover a song of his for the very first time; or to reacquaint yourself with one that you may not have heard in ages (as I did, with ‘Mississippi’ from Love and Theft).
If, like me, you can lose several hours at a single stretch doing nothing other than listening to his songs, concentrating on his words and marvelling at his poetic brilliance, please don’t hold back. Your favourite songs, albums, lyrics, concerts – whatever. I believe that I could list 70 of his songs which mean most to me (and in doing so it would later pain me to realise the ones I’d temporarily forgotten about), so I am sure that plenty of you could do the same. If not, and for the sake of blog brevity, seven will do quite nicely; remembering, of course, the many cover versions already touched upon, and using Rolling Stone as a helpful guide.
Or don’t. Just listen and maybe try again tomorrow.
I leave seven of his lines for you to identify and, I hope, be inspired by.
Bob Dylan, for inspiring David and so many of us, we thank and salute you.
1. “Time is an ocean but it ends at the shore”
2. “In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand at the mongrel dogs who teach”
3. “I don’t want to straight-face you, race or chase you”
4. “Everything I’ve ever known to be right has been proven wrong”
5. “He felt the heat of the night hit him like a freight train”
6. “I’m strumming on my gay guitar, smoking a cheap cigar”
7. “For you don’t count the dead when God’s on your side”