Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bob Dylan

Robert Allen Zimmerman, better know as Bob Dylan celebrates his 70th birthday today. Love him or loathe him, Bob has made an enormous contribution to  music and songwriting throughout a career that now spans 5 decades. When I was maybe 11 or 12 years old, I received a gift of a second hand cassette of  Dylan's 'Desire' album. I must have played it over and over hundreds of times and since then I have been hooked on his music. I try to ignore all the cliche stuff that has been written or said of Dylan, titles like 'living legend' or  'cultural icon' don't wash too well with me. It is true however that Bob Dylan from the very beginning had something unique to share with the world, almost like he was born to do so. Essentially the audience came to him to hear what he had to express through his songs, that is the defining power he possessed. Whether he was aware of his gift early on or not is difficult to know, obviously that came later, but surely to be idolised to such an extent must have been frightening beyond measure. Liam Clancy once said of Dylan in the 60's ...'he was the voice that expressed what people wanted to say but didn't know how to articulate'..
If Dylan's career ended after the 60's his output up to then alone was sufficient enough to mark him as one of the greatest songwriters. Its difficult to pick a favourite song by Dylan, there are literally dozens and dozens of songs that I could even start with. However one of my favourite filmed moments is when he played an electric set at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 to the horror of many including Pete Seeger, who actually threatened to get an axe to cut the amplifier cables. It was surely one of the bravest moves for a musician ever to make but Dylan had vision beyond just being a folk singer. His subsequent tour in 1966 saw him being called  'Judas' and getting booed angrily from the crowds. This was what made the man stand out, never one to be pigeonholed, always unpredictable and supremely gifted. Happy birthday Bob......


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