Bob Dylan will turn 72 on Friday
My first exposure to the potential for beauty in words and stories came from Bob Dylan. When I was a girl, my mom was brave enough to let me listen to her record collection. I’d spread the albums out and sit cross legged on the floor in front of the record player. Dylan’s voice wailed through the tinny speakers, imploring his lady to lay across his big brass bed. While the five year old me had no idea why anyone would want to get in bed with someone with clean hands and dirty clothes, I felt the rare beauty of the invitation in each poetic phrase.
John Wesley Harding and Oh, Mercy were the soundtracks to my first “grown up” college romance (free of the constraints of curfews and porch lights that flashed when I lingered in a boy’s car too long). Discovering someone who wasn’t as old as my parents who loved Dylan too seemed fateful at the time. Oh, how young we were. A few years later, I walked in the door with my first broken heart, turned on the radio and Just Like a Woman was playing. That seemed like fate too (and oh, what a jerk he was).
Dylan constantly reinvents himself and his music, but I have also reinvented and rediscovered his music as I’ve grown up. From records to tapes to cds to Pandora, Bob Dylan has woven tales about heroes and saints and lovers and heaven and hell. I’ve held my breath, waiting for a well turned phrase or suddenly discovered some new question to ponder. What does it mean to be a hero or a criminal or a lover or a loser? Mysteries quiet or bold left to linger unseen in a nearby world, like the flowers in my neighbor’s garden.
In his autobiography, Dylan says he had a second artistic renaissance at 40 years old, and the same has happened for me. He talks about those secret moments of wondering if he was too old, of wishing he could have been twenty years younger, but doing it anyway. I know my own artistic impact is a thousand times smaller, but I can relate.
I haven’t got a clue who Dylan really is as a person, but an artist with over 60 years of creative passion is worth celebrating. Wake up every day and make it happen. Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan.