I grew into Bob Dylan. I was not born unto him. That’s a possible assertion to be made by a generation not mine, but it doesn’t negate the importance his music and poetry have had on my own life. In fact, his art has had some lasting effects, surprising to even me. Only now, examining his oeuvre of extensive music on the eve of his seventieth birthday, and at the request of Biff Bam Pop! Editor-In-Chief, Andy Burns, do I see how lasting those effects have been.
There are two pieces of his music that carry a significant importance to my life:
Most of the Time, found on the Danial Lanois produced 1989 album, Oh Mercy, came to me late. I first noticed it while watching the film High Fidelity in the spring of 2000. A melancholy take on lost love, the song discovered me at a moment in my life when I was enduring an emotional toil espoused in the lyrics and music of the song. An understanding Dylan helped me through a rough patch along with close friends and time. Interestingly, our resident Editor-In-Chief, newly met at that period of my life, became and remains one of those close friends. In some was, Dylan was, and still is, part of our friendship.
But let me take you back now to a time when I was still a child.
At ten years of age, I was just discovering music with the help of the radio and music videos on television. It was 1983 and, turning channels on the family’s old Zenith, I came across Jokerman. My first encounter with him, I didn’t know if Dylan, here, was singer, poet, philosopher or preacher. My ten year-old eyes recognized some of the imagery of the video and was interested in many of the others: the politics of Kennedy and Reagan, the science of astronauts, the faith found within a church bible and the emotion in the artistry of Michelangelo, Munch and Picasso. And then there was the laughing comic book image of Batman’s arch nemesis, the Joker. Those images, from both the video and the lyrics of the song, stayed with me through my teens, and stay with me today, though my adult years.
Dylan was present in my life at a time when my interests and passions were first swirling, emerging and developing: art history, politics, philosophy, religion and even comic books. He was there, under different guises, during each break up and heart ache, on good days and nights, triumphs and travails and he remains an ever present companion in uncertain times, constantly changing, always recognizable.
Happy seventieth birthday Bob Dylan. Bird fly high by the light of the moon.