I sat down to write another post in my blog, but read the comment left to my post on Bobology. My first thought was to answer, "Because the answer is blowing in the wind," but thought better of it... While listening to my favorite radion program on the 'puter, Music From the Hearts of Space, which is free on Sunday (www.hos.com), I sat back and began to reflect on the question. After some cogitation, I decided to answer it as best I can, so here goes...
I thought of my mother and had to ask myself, "Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?" Dylan because from an early age I questioned anything and everything. I can recall being in the car with my father and his mother, asking, "Why?" It seemed to upset my father, who responded, "Don't argue with me!" His mother said, "He just wants to know, son. How else is he going to learn?" My father was one of those 'accepting' kinda guys. You know the type; a Southern Baptist who accepted things 'on faith'. According to him, when your country calls, you do not question, you go! The thing was, the older boy who lived across the street went, and never came back...The older boy who became the battalion commander over not just my school's ROTC, but two others as well, dreamed of joining the Army to become another General Patton, so he joined the Army. He was not drafted, he volunteered. He came back on leave, telling us to do whatever we had to do to stay out of the service because, "It's the most fucked-up situation I've ever seen!" He went back and was shot between the eyes walking point on some meaningless mission. His name is on the Viet Nam wall.
To understand 'Why Bob?' one would have to know something about the times back then. The so-called 'war' in Viet Nam, which was really just a 'police action' since Congress never declared war, was heating up and Dylan, along with others, were asking what the hell we were doing there. Bob's lyrics told me it was ok to question. These were formative years for my generation and Bob was somewhat older. There was an interesting essay in the NY Times op-ed section recently, May 23, 2011 titled, Forever Young? In Some Ways, Yes, by David Hajdu. I suggest you read this piece for a better understanding: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/24/opinion/24hajdu.html?_r=1
Bob because here was this guy singing songs like 'Masters of War' and 'With God On Our Side'.
I came of age in the deep south. I can still recall seeing a black woman walking down our street and everyone, and I mean neighbors as well, coming to their windows to watch. Everyone hated 'niggers', but no one could explain why; it was just accepted. I listened to songs like 'Only a Pawn in Their Game' and 'The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll' and began to think for myself. Why should I hate a person because of the color of their skin? It made no sense to Dylan and it made no sense to me. Bob Dylan's words affected me and many others of my generation as well because he led the questioning.
Bob because I can still hear the eruption of the crowd at the Omni when he sang the line from the song, "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" about the POTUS. Keep in mind this was during what is now called, 'The Watergate era'. Bob delivered these words with what seemed venom that night: "But even the president of the United States
sometimes must have to stand naked."
I recall being with my friend, the Legendary Georgia Ironman, at a bar named Spondivits after a sports memorabilia show when a song from the first Travelling Wilburys album, one of the all time great recordings, "Tweeter and the Monkey Man" came on the music system. We began to sing along with everybody else in the joint. When it ended, Tim looked over at me, saying, "Bacon, I've never been in a bar before where EVERYBODY started singing a song!" Neither had I...
Another time I was riding along with the Ironman when a DJ had some nasty things to say about Bob because he played a song that was different from the version he had come to expect. This idiot seemed to think Bob should sing the same song the very same way every time he sang it. I was infuriated and began a diatribe against the ignorant DJ about how monotonous it must be for an artist to have to sing the same song the exact same way throughout his entire life and how this chowder-head typified how difficult it had become for true artists to satisfy fans who only wanted to hear what they had heard previously. It culminated with my saying the jerk should play nothing but "Sail Away' by Dobie Gray! When I stopped, Tim said, "Don't hold back, Bacon. Tell me how you really feel!" I've always appreciated the fact that Tim would put up with my impassioned rants.
Then there's this wonderful woman with whom I spent hours listening to 'Blood On The Tracks', a great album by any measure. And the time I must've had one too many because I got up on open mike night, feeling mauldin, and recited the words to 'I Threw It All Away', and received a standing ovation...
The Rainbow Warrior, aka, The Dude, took a look at my cassette collection during a weekend swiss and said, "That's a real impressive Dylan collection you have." I had to point out the fact that I did have a couple of tapes by the greatest rock & roll band of all time, The Band. I learned what a big fan he was of The Band and later gave him the book, This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band by Levon Helm and Stephen Davis
I like Bob because I've heard that "Beauty is in the imperfections." Unlike other artists who overdub over and over, laying down track after endless track, searching for 'perfection', Bob is known for going into a studio and laying down one track, and one track only. It may be a little rough, but it contains beauty. Dylan may not have the best voice, but there is a beauty to it, if one listens to what he sings, and the way he sings it.
Because Bob Dylan's music has been with me together through life.