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Noted in Passing: Bob Dylan turns 80


May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift

Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, “Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.” Bob Dylan – Nobel Lecture

Strange? Not when you think about it. Strange that the greatest poet of America in our time was a scrawny little midwestern guy with an acoustic guitar and a deep grounding in folk songs? Not strange at all when you think on it. Not strange at all.  At  MOTUS A.D.: Happy Birthday Robert Zimmerman! they run his life down for you in case you missed it.

“Every songwriter after him carries his baggage. This lowly Irish bard would proudly carry his baggage. Any day.” – Bono

What does it mean when “your generation’s” preeminent poet/tunesmith turns 80?

It can only mean one thing really, the one thing that Boomers never thought would be true: we have grown old along with our remaining icons. By all rights, we should be the wise ones but as has always been the case you don’t just wake up at 70 and find yourself to be wise, it requires a life’s work as well as some innate intelligence to begin with. Bob Dylan, nee Richard Zimmerman, is such a man, famous by age 21 he used the experience of the intervening years to hone his intelligence into wisdom…

Dylan is timeless, if you understand him, which many don’t. For example take this lyric from 1962’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall: a lot of people today of all generations think its “timelessness” can be translated to refer to the earth’s impending doom due to global warming:

I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

A bit of research and they would discover that what he’s really referring to is disinformation, presumably even that about global warming:

In a 1963 radio interview Dylan said, “In the last verse, when I say, ‘the pellets of poison are flooding the waters’, that means all the lies that people get told on their radios and in their newspapers.”

RTWT @ MOTUS A.D.: Happy Birthday Robert Zimmerman!
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Richard May 24, 2021, 9:25 AM

    Oy!! That left a mark! Just flashed back to the Summer of 1969, North Avenue beach in Chicago, and Dylan’s voice singing Lay Lady, Lay, coming out of a Zenith transistor radio. Tempus fugit!

  • pbird May 24, 2021, 9:32 AM

    That was a good one Richard. Just thinking of it and I remember times and places. Life’s beginning.

  • Casey Klahn May 24, 2021, 10:45 AM

    Benchmarks like that are a tough one, I feel. Next month I have a 45 year benchmark and I am trying to get my arms around it. Maybe I’ll listen to some Dylan tunes.

    Bob peaked early. That is a hard burden to carry, I imagine. I mean, I’ll grant him his popular late song about Kennedy. Will it be remembered like Like a Rolling Stone is? Maybe he did the right thing by making it so long.

    Man, they sure gave him endless shit for his Gospel albums, didn’t they? I have those burned in my brain by the endless repetition of having played them. Of all the stories I like the best, the one where that commiTard Pete Seeger tried to ax through his power cable when he took it electric takes the cake. You see, Bib Dylan is about the new thing. the change. the morph. At a few points in his career, he was perfectly inside of the Spirit of the Age. That is a very neat trick, right there.

    I wanna be Bob Dylan.

  • Richard May 24, 2021, 10:58 AM

    @Casey: “Next month I have a 45 year benchmark and I am trying to get my arms around it. “>>>

    And when finally the bottom fell out
    I became withdrawn
    The only thing I knew how to do
    Was to keep on keeping on*
    *Tangled up in blue
    https://tinyurl.com/ym67hxv7

  • James ONeil May 24, 2021, 12:27 PM

    I still remember way back in the day in NYC, a basement, some little mid west guy playin’ acoustic, a mouth harp hanging on his neck, singing.

    Never did catch his name.

  • Kevin in PA May 24, 2021, 1:34 PM

    Happy B-Day, Bob!
    80 is a big mile marker.

  • mharko May 24, 2021, 1:57 PM

    I don’t prefer the unintended inference in the post title: “Noted in Passing…” I rue that day in advance, and may it be many years hence. Nevertheless, that day alone will be the day he peaks in this world, and in the next, he will be forever young.

  • TrangBang68 May 24, 2021, 5:01 PM

    I saw Bob at Kleinhan’s Music Hall in Buffalo in 1966 . my companions died of dope in the next decade or two. I have to politely disagree with Casey about Bob peaking early. Some of his later songs were gems. “Political World” from one of the Daniel Lanois albums was today writ large. “Trying to Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door” is an anthem for those who’ve been on “that long strange trip”
    My favorite is “Workingman’s Blues #2” off “Modern Times”. It has a poignant vibe about the death of white working class America we’re seeing. Bob was an American original.

  • Rob De Witt May 24, 2021, 5:29 PM

    Austin, Texas, September 24 1965

    https://www.austinchronicle.com/music/2015-09-25/playback-bob-dylan-goes-electric-again/

    I was there with my extremely pregnant wife. My daughter, a fine singer, still lives there. She was born October 6, two weeks later.

  • Rob De Witt May 24, 2021, 5:29 PM

    Austin, Texas, September 24 1965

    https://www.austinchronicle.com/music/2015-09-25/playback-bob-dylan-goes-electric-again/

    I was there with my extremely pregnant wife. My daughter Kristin, a fine singer, still lives there. She was born October 6, two weeks later.

  • Sisu May 24, 2021, 6:55 PM

    It’s a funny thing – as Lennon ultimately said about “Imagine”: “It’s just a song.” More specifically I understand it to be as is Dylan’s song “Forever Young” a youthful, narcissist’s denial of reality and the purpose of each individual’s life. As children this same generation heard tell of the “Pied Piper” … Seems many failed to understand. … Too many have chosen to stay “Forever Young”, refusing to grow up and be responsible for the next generations. Look at the state of the “country” and “world” you all were going to change. You are at best no better than your parents or grandparents … They had less but faith in the country’s future. You had more but lacked the latter.

  • jwm May 24, 2021, 7:47 PM

    I remember having my first table top radio, a GE circa 1964. It was the real thing, with tubes and the whole deal. It had an On/Off volume dial, and one more big dial with all the AM stations LA had to offer. AM radio, then, was a very eclectic mix. You had KRLA, KHJ, KFWB, all playing top 40. The playlist might have Sinatra, The Singing Nuns, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and all the R&B, maybe even Alvin and the Chipmunks. Summers I would fall asleep with the radio on.
    But there was that one song. The DJ would always say, “Now for a little Mind Bending music”. I’d hear those piano chords, even in my sleep, and immediately awaken to hear “Ballad of a Thin Man”. It was creepy as bad dream, scary to hear alone in the middle of the night. It took me forever to find out who actually sang it. I still have the Highway 61 Revisited LP in monaural.

    JWM

  • Double XX May 25, 2021, 7:29 AM

    Sisu; for the win; !!!!!

  • Casey Klahn May 25, 2021, 8:24 AM

    Richard: thank you.

    jwm: a masterpiece comment. I could smell it.