In high school, I was a man Bob Dylan fan. Roughly 30 years after the great man released his first song (Delia, 1960), I was strolling the halls of my high school, day dreaming through lyrics and chords and thoughts and wondering why I was born at the wrong time. Without a doubt, my favourite song was this one:
It was his lyrics that stopped me dead in my tracks, the first time I heard his music. Truth. Raw. Real. I couldn’t understand why my classmates were bopping along to lyrics like “Boom! Shake shake shake the room!” when there were words that explained the world we were in in 1994 in a much more appropriate way:
You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins.
How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
That even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do.
– Bob Dylan, Masters of War, 1963
Chances are, I was a little too passionate about Bob.
But I didn’t care. He used words that explained what was in my head. Indeed, he’s responsible for me playing guitar for the last 23 years and falling into the free-form poetry I like to dance around in.
When he came to Australia in 1998, I broke my leg hanging out washing the day tickets went on sale, and completely missed out. But then a second show was announced. Dad took me. It’s one of my best memories. Then in 2011, he came again. And by the goodness of the world, I was given – GIVEN!!! – tickets to see him. Via a friend of a friend… a moment that saw me step up the “pay it forward mentality”. Bob was again, amazing.
So what is it about this old fellow with his guitar and harmonica?
Well, for me, it’s that he’s truthful. He almost appears unpolished, but you’ll never see or hear anything more authentic and true to recording. The man lives and plays and it all merges in to one amazing experience. As a muso, I couldn’t want anything more – to listen to, or to aim for.
I also think Dylan’s disquiet within himself was, and still is, a huge part of why I love him. He whittles away the shit in life and keeps it simple. Just try and be yourself, whoever that is. If you can wake up and go to sleep and be happy in between, you’re lucky. Just do what you think you should do. And for someone who tries, fails, tries and tries again to work out who they are and what they want? These ideas are just… relief. Finding out about Bob Dylan when I was 15 proved to me for the very first time that I’m not all alone in the world. There are other heads like mine.
All I can do is be me, whoever that is.
The two good photos are by Renee Moore. Check her out.
It’s Bob Dylan’s birthday today, and guess what I found out.
Sydney in September. That’s the one I’m aiming for.
What about you. Do you have an icon? A hero? Someone who just makes the world make sense? Who are they?
Happy birthday, Bob. See you in September.