It was difficult to believe Bob Dylan turned seventy this week. It seems like just yesterday I was in High School and stopping by Richard's house on the way home to listen to the music of the man who has been called, The poet laureate of our generation by a plethora of writers. Examples abound: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/14/956247/-Indigo-Kalliope:-Poems-from-The-LeftBob-Dylan:-The-Poet-Laureate-of-Rock-and-Roll-
are only the latest.
When Bob first appeared on my radar, our gereration was heavily into the Motown sound. Richard invited some of our school mates over to listen. Whitlock made faces as if wincing in pain, while Bones said, "He sounds like a wounded dog!" As an indication of their musical accumen, these two later said Jimi Hendrix sounded like "noise."
For some reason Bob's voice resonated with me. Maybe the words have a great deal to do with it, but I have always found his voice pleasing. There have been others who have not. For example, President Bill Clinton, while presenting Dylan with a Kennedy Center Honor in the East Room of the White House said, "He probably had more impact on people of my generation than any other creative artist. His voice and lyrics haven't always been easy on the ear, but throughout his career Bob Dylan has never aimed to please. He's disturbed the peace and discomforted the powerful." It REALLY galled me that Clinton would say the part about Bob's voice not being easy on the ear. At the time I first heard it I thought it showed that although you could take Bill outta the hills, you could not take the hillbilly outta Willie! I never cared much for Billy boy after that...I mean, what kinda insensitive jerk would say such a thing while awarding The poet laureate of our generation a medal? To me it showed the man had a character flaw as big as the Grand Canyon! Listen to Bob's voice on the Nashville Skyline album and you will hear how outta line was Will Billy!
I cannot remember how many times I've seen Bob Dylan in concert. The last time was a few years back in a minor league stadium in the city of Greenville, located in the Great state of South Carolina. I was once paid by the Mad Dog of Southern chess to drive him to Bristol, in the Great state of Tennessee to see a concert. The Dog had met all these other Bob fans online. Unfortunately, I had a bad cold and was under the weather all of the trip. It is still one of the best memories I have, seeing another side of the Mad Dog, and getting a chance to see The poet laureate of my generation for free! We rolled up to the concert to what turned out to be a high school with two turrets on each side that looked just like Rooks!
The best, or, I should say, my most favorite of all, were the two nights I saw Bob Dylan and The Band at the Omni in Atlanta. The second night I sat up front on the same row as the Carters. The Carters being Governor, and later President of the US, Jimmy, and his son Jack, who played tournament chess. Many do not know of Bob's love of the Royal game.
When I first noticed a new Bob DVD, Bob Dylan Revealed, I ordered it immediately because Bob is on the cover looking down at a chessboard! Upon watching, I found that between chapters there is a picture of a chessboard, with chess pieces coming at you, which is really nice. I dig the chess motif.
I also ordered, Dylan, Bob - The Never Ending Narrative 1990 - 2006, but have not had time to watch it, but will this holiday weekend. If I were forever young, I would have considered traveling to Newport, Kentucky for a Dylan Fest at the Southgate House. I read in the local paper, the Courier-Journal that it will "star a ton of bands from the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas getting deep into Dylan's catalog." But it would mean an outta town trip, a night in a hotel room, and staying up way past my bedtime. Sometimes it hurts being older than that now...I will hafta console myself with a glass of Merlot while reading a new book on Bob I just received this week, "Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown" by David Yaffe. Like many other fans of Bob, I have spent many hours reading about him as a way of trying to understand The poet laureate of our generation. I have long since given up trying to recall exactly how many books I've read working on my BhD in Bobology! To mention a few one should read to begin working on a BhD: "Bob Dylan and Philosophy" by Peter Vernezze and Carl Porter; "The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan" (Cambridge Companions to American Studies) by Kevin J. H. Dettmar; "Song and Dance Man II: The Art of Bob Dylan" by Michael Gray. If anyone questions why Bob Dylan should be called a poet, I suggest he read these books: "Like a Complete Unknown: The Poetry of Bob Dylan's Songs, 1961-1969" by John Hinchey; and "Dylan's Visions of Sin" by Christopher B. Ricks. Concerning this book, this is: From Publishers Weekly
"Ricks, a professor of humanities at Boston University, allows his own musings about Bob Dylan to go "blowin' in the wind" in this love letter to the enigmatic bard. Focusing on the centrality of the seven deadly sins (pride, anger, lust, envy, sloth, greed, covetousness), the four virtues (justice, temperance, fortitude, prudence) and the three graces (faith, hope, love) in Dylan's writings, Ricks confirms Dylan's poetic genius and elevates the poet of the north country to canonical status alongside Tennyson, Shakespeare and Milton."
My cousin Linda was a High School English teacher and one of her passions was Elvis Presley. Everyone knows what Elvis was to Rock & Roll, but to understand what Elvis meant to Southern folk one must be from the South. Cousin Linda, ten years my elder, came of age in the 1950's, and she simply could not understand what I saw in Bob Dylan until I told her what The Boss, Bruce Springsteen described the moment he first heard Dylan's song, "Like A Rolling Stone", the greatest Rock & Roll song ever recorded according to not only me, but many others, such as ROLLING STONE and UNCUT magazines, during his speech inducting Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, "The way that Elvis freed your body, Dylan freed your mind."
Many years ago while I was out of town, a friend of mine took all my albums with him when he moved back to Chicago with his new wife. We stayed in contact and, when told he was coming back for a visit with his wife's family, I told him he had better not return without a very special album. I want you to picture me and my girlfriend, Gail, the love of my life, leaving a party for one of her childhood friends to go to the Atlanta airport and meet George and his wife, Judy. As they disembarked from the plane, the first thing I said was, "You got my album?" Fortunately, grinning ear to ear, he produced the double album, BEFORE THE FLOOD! Then he said, "Good to see you, too, Bacon..."