I picked up the recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine that celebrates Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday. I was in the airport, on a very long and unexpected airport delay, so I had time to spend. I was a bit miffed because the panel of Dylan experts picking his great songs was all men. And none of the songs listed was more recent than 10 years ago. The thing about Bob Dylan is that he may have lost whatever singing ability he ever had, but he hasn’t lost his songwriting ability. I think his more recent songs get overlooked because his voice is so ravaged by time, and probably too may cigarettes.
As my family knows, much to their chagrin, I love Bob Dylan. He is one of my top inspirations, role models, and just plain favorites of all time. That said, I am not obsessed or a stalker, just interested. And now I’ll tell you why:
1. He has never stopped creating, and challenging himself. So many musicians and artists live off their old hits or stay stuck in their heyday. Not Bob. He keeps on moving forward. Like a rolling stone!
2. While he is a famous icon, you rarely see him in the gossip pages—he remains a mystery. Where does he live? How many kids does he have? Is he or is he not married? I don’t know…and I read People magazine! To me, that shows he has a healthy sense of private versus public awareness. I like that about a person.
3. His satellite radio show—Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour—is smart, funny, educational, and truly bizarre in a good way. I learn things from him. Like the fact that the word “bookkeeper” is the only word in the English language with three sets of double letters…what is that called? He told his listeners, but I forget.
4. Some of his newer songs are truly great, and I think will go down as some of his best. My favorites: “Born in Time,” “Spirit on the Water,” “Beyond the Horizon,” “Thunder on the Mountain,” and “Dreaming of You.”
5. With one guitar riff he can capture a whole era for me. In the beginning of “Spirit on the Water,” there is a guitar intro that sounds EXACTLY like something I would hear at the Lehigh Country Club growing up in the ’80s at a Saturday night dance with my parents. It’s classic. It makes me laugh every time I hear it.
6. He can be played by Cate Blanchett—and it works. When she plays him in the film I’m Not There, it’s brilliant.
7. He doesn’t seem to really care, and yet he must. Anyone who writes songs like his has a deep sense of caring, and yet I get the feeling he could just walk away from anything. It’s kind of like rock ‘n’ roll non-attachment.
8. He’s a really good painter, too. I don’t know how I found his paintings online, but they all look like they could be amazing book jackets from the ’40s and ’50s—good the way book jackets used to be! Totally cool.
9. He brought Mumford and Sons and the Avett brothers onto the Grammys! Which again shows that he has not stagnated, nor remained overly attached to the past. Both of these new bands are the best there is out there right now. Seriously. The fact that Bob has anointed them proves it.
10. He’s just so damn cool.
Happy (belated) Birthday, Bob!