Wednesday, May 24, 2006

It's Not Dark Yet, But It's Getting There

65. That's a lot of years. Three and a quarter-score. Bob Dylan, who some would claim as this era's Shakespeare, the one writer people two, three hundred years hence will be continuously and fetishistically revisiting, completes his sixty-fifth year of life today. The general sense I get from the media is that this makes the Boomers feel old, but the truth is that it makes this Gen-X-er feel pretty old his own self, even if he's got slightly less than half as many miles under his belt as 'ol Mr. D.

Taking a cue from Mr. Green, I thought I'd list out my history with the music of Bob Dylan:

Sad to say, but I think my first real exposure to Bob Dylan was when this weird guy who sang strangely was part of the "We Are the World" crowd but wouldn't record with the other singers. I thought this was strange, and remember there being a lot of buzz about the mere fact that this Dylan guy would deign to sing with the others.

Later, I'd fall deeply in love with U2's Rattle and Hum, and notice the Dylan references. The cover of "All Along the Watchtower." The co-writing credit on "Love Rescue Me." The rumors of a cast-off Dylan-sung verse. The Hammond intro on "Blackmoon 267." "I wonder if I should check this Dylan out," I'd think.

My first Dylan album was a CD of "Highway 61 Revisited." I'm pretty sure I got it as a gift, maybe eight or so years ago? Listened to it once or twice, was decidedly unimpressed, and filed it on the shelf.

Several years later, Time Out of Mind was getting all sorts of press and notice, I was reading about this great album everywhere. Ever the obedient sheep, I took the plunge and bought it. A few listens in, and this was something I liked, this was stuff I could hang my hat on. Slow, reflective, easy melodies and that strange, frog-like, thin, but somehow effective voice on top of it all.

A few years later, when Love and Theft was getting more or less the same kind of ecstatic attention that Time Out of Mind had, I jumped on it. This was was harder to enter, but eventually it got me - the swing, the old-time Tim Pan Alley sounding stuff, the remarkably reflective "Sugar Baby." I was pretty much hooked.

Soon enough, I realized that there was a whole three or so decades of stuff to catch up on. I fished that Highway 61 CD off of my shelf and gave it another listen, started to hear some stuff I liked there.

Then I got the Rolling Thunder tour bootleg CD and immediately fell in love. Such energy, such a rollicking good time that band was having, such great interplay between Dylan and Baez's voices.
Blood on the Tracks was next, and I was a goner. Gorgeous, gorgeous songs sung with such attention and depth of feeling. It was all over (baby blue).

My sister started seeing a guy who was into Dylan - someone I could talk to!

Last year, I saw Dylan live for the first time. He spent most of the (short) concert hunched over a keyboard, growling out lyrics with vastly simplified melodies that often consisted of nothing more than a run of notes and then a jump up a fifth. He was awesome.

Now I have a good 16 or so of Dylan's albums, and keep adding more onto the pile. I read the Chronicles book, and am eager to dive into more of the extensive library of Dylan material that's out there. Now, those Shakespeare comparisons? I'm buying them.

Happy birthday, Mr. Dylan. Happy birthday to you.

Until Whenever

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

Oh, gosh, how did I forget "We Are the World"? Someone, I forget who, was helping him fit in vocally, as I recall from some "Making of" piece. It was surreal.