Bob Dylan Lives
Bob Dylan lives! And how do I know that? Because believe it or not the 73-year-old was recently interviewed by AARP, The Magazine (yes, this 70 plus-year-old reads this magazine.) At first when Dylan contacted Robert Love to interview him, Love thought Dylan must be confusing him with his former stint at Rolling Stone. Surely Dylan didn’t want to appear in an “old folks” magazine, did he? But Dylan wanted to speak to the readers of the AARP magazine, such as myself. After all, we are the ones who got him here, right?
Now I know some of you don’t give two figs whether Dylan is still making music or not. He’s an acquired taste like caviar, those odd looking olives, or sardines. If I’m an oddball like him because I appreciate his music, so be it. Please note, however, he’s outlasted many of his fellow contemporaries in the 60s. After four decades and counting, he’s still writing, touring, and making music. This February he came out with his latest album, “Shadows in the Night” which includes standards from the past. We’ll discuss that album in a few minutes.
Let’s summarize his career first. If you can find a copy of the AARP magazine for February/March 2015, you can read the full interview by Love. I’ll just paraphrase some of the highlights of his interview as well as Dylan’s biography as presented by Bill Flanagan in the same issue of the magazine. I may add a comment or two or my own along the way.
We first met Dylan in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival where we heard him sing “Like a Rolling Stone” for the first time. Rock music then had a new vocabulary because of him. You either loved him or hated him, but you couldn’t deny he was a huge influence on Rock and Roll music and in fact on society as a whole at that time. As I mentioned in my Master’s Thesis for Fairfield University years ago, he was the voice of a generation. Only Simon and Garfunkel can exist in his realm of influence in the 60s.
After a motorcycle accident in 1966, Dylan laid low for a while. He stopped touring and focused on his new family. During this period he continued to write songs like “The Mighty Quinn” which became a hit for Manfred Mann. The Byrds also covered “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”
Later on in the decade he began recording again. He did my favorite Dylan song at this time, “Lay, Lady, Lay.”
In the 70s decade he returned to the stage and on tour, releasing his next album, “Blood on the Tracks.” The album dealt with adulthood and its problems of infidelity. As he said at the time in “Tangled up in Blue,” “All the people we used to know, they’re an illusion to me now. Some are mathematicians, some are carpenters’ wives…But me, I’m still on the road, headin’ for another joint…”
He also toured at this time with the Rolling Thunder Revue which included artists like Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, and Roger McGuinn. But in the late 70s he got caught up in evangelical Christianity and disappeared again for a while.
After his religious zeal waned, he began touring again in the 80s with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and the Grateful Dead. Talk about your rock and roll. He also met up with Keith Richards and Ron Wood for Live Aid.
In the 90s he played hundreds of live shows with many small bands. He didn’t release any new songs until 1997 with the album “Time Out of Mind,” which won three Grammies.
And so here we are in the 21st century where Dylan continues to produce. He won an award for “Things Have Changed;” he released several albums; wrote a memoir Chronicles: Volume One, which was critically acclaimed; and on top of all that he also has produced paintings and drawings which have sold at prestigious galleries. He even has a studio in California, where he lives, to sculpt metal gates which wealthy homeowners vie for.
The Songs we Remember
Here are some of the songs by Dylan that many of us remember and love. Remember these:
Lay Lady Lay
Like a Rolling Stone
Blowing in the Wind
Knocking on Heaven’s Door
The Times They are A-Changin’
Mr. Tambourine Man
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
Subterranean Homesick Blues
Shadows in the Night
The new album just released this February contains covers of old standards. Many artists these days are doing old standard albums. The songs Dylan included are: “I’m a Fool to Want You.” “The Night We Called it a Day,” “Stay with Me,” “Autumn Leaves,” “Why Try to Change Me Now?” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Full Moon and Empty Arms,” “Where Are You?” “What’ll I Do?” “That Lucky Old Sun.”
I’m not sure Dylan should have gone this route. I much prefer his music. You can find samples of the album on YouTube. “The Night We Called it a Day” has a video to view, which is quite violent. And I can’t imagine “Autumn Leaves” without a piano background. I’m sorry, Mr. Dylan, but I think you should have left this genre in the very capable hands of Mr. Tony Bennett and Lady GaGa, who have done a wonderful job with their standards album.
There is a place to comment about the videos on YouTube. Many of the spaces for Dylan said simply “comment was deleted.” I suspect that there probably was some strong language in the comments they deleted. Dylan fans are sometimes fanatical in their support.
Here is one comment that survived with “Full Moon and Empty Arms”. This fan may well be one of those fanatical ones. Some of it is R-rated but here is some of what the listener had to say, “Dylan is another universe. He does not give a good g-d if people prefer Sinatra’s style…They didn’t like him when he plugged in at Newport and now they don’t want him to do anything but play the “golden oldies” of their misspent youth. Every day is another revolution, man.”
Well I guess I might very well fall into that category. But oh what a “golden oldie” load of tunes we have from our Dylan. May they live in our hearts forever.
Just so you don’t think that Bob Dylan was another drug-using draft-dodging hippie from the 60s check out these honors which have been bestowed upon him over the years:
France’s Legion of Honor
Kennedy Center Honor
Honorary degrees from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and from Princeton.
He is in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And in May of 2012, President Obama gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
There is much more to see in the AARP article. Please pick it up if you can. Meanwhile, check out this hilarious interactive video of “Like a Rolling Stone” I found on YouTube. It speaks to how Dylan has influenced pop culture over the years. Enjoy and thanks for listening.