Bob Dylan is turning 80 today. And that’s the most inspiring thing I’ve ever heard.
Because the ‘60s were filled with musicians and writers. Dylan easily could’ve peaked after his prolific 1965-66 period, faded away into the American subconscious, and years later, he might be another forgotten star, another “who?”, another Wikipedia stub.
Instead, fifty years and many Dylans — protest singer, recluse, rocker, leather-and-earring ‘80s dude, country singer, folk Judas, loner — after Charlie Brown lamented the loss of Dylan’s youth, Dylan is still writing, (“Rough and Rowdy Ways” is tremendous) painting (you can buy a book of his works, “The Drawn Blank Series”) welding (Google Black Buffalo Iron Works) launched a whiskey brand (toast him tomorrow with Heaven’s Door bourbon) has been honored with a Nobel, a Pulitzer, the Medal of Freedom.
Like any great writer, Dylan means different things to different people. He might feel like your friend, your ally in this crazy world, because that’s what great writing does: It forms human connection.
It’s why people love “Seinfeld” or J.D. Salinger. The writer fades, the writing surfaces. It’s the words you’re connecting with: “I know that feeling. That’s me.” Whether you feel that through Tolstoy or Joni Mitchell, Joyce Carol Oates or Larry David — if you’re moved, if you feel something, if you’re laughing or crying or musing on something deep from your past, if you feel a punch in the gut, a tear in your eye, a smile on your face — that’s great writing.https://1b1671d18ce2d08ec8e67c4ed9774c96.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
It doesn’t matter whether that comes from John Steinbeck or “John Wesley Harding.”
As I’ve said here before, this column is about more than loving books — we love words.
Dylan loves words. It’s in the way his uses them, stretches them, bends them, bunches them together. It’s in his unique vernacular, his turns of phrase, his blending of common language with poetic imagery.
So turn that frown upside down, Charlie Brown. Bob Dylan turns 80 tomorrow. Let’s salute him when his birthday comes.
The best way to salute him is to appreciate his words. Sit with them. You can find many books of his lyrics online. A good start is “Bob Dylan: The Lyrics 1961-2012.” Or open up a songbook, scrolling through the lyrics on his Web site. Listen to his songs while you read them.
You’ll find short stories —“Boots of Spanish Leather,” “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” — and lots of moving poetry.
I’ll leave with you with a few example, phrases or stanzas that strike me for different reasons. They’re all uniquely Dylan.
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