Bob Dylan is 70 years old today. I can remember when the man turned 50; it was just before 50 became the new 40 so hitting the half-century mark seemed to be very un-rock and roll. Today aging is viewed differently, but still, Dylan hitting such a significant age is cause for celebration.
Over the course of twenty years, I’ve been too roughly 21 Dylan concerts. I’ve seen him in amphitheaters and clubs, arenas and gardens. I’ve seen lackluster performances (Kingswood Music Theatre, Maple, Ontario, 1991), exciting ones (Elmira, New York, 2002) and spectacular, jaw-dropping shows (two nights at the Concert Hall, Toronto, Ontario’ 1996). I’ve read countless books, watched the documentaries and even found great moments in some of his lesser works (Masked and Anonymous, anyone?). On that note, to celebrate Bob’s big day, I thought I’d share with you 3 Dylan songs that mean something to me:
I and I, originally released on Infidels, 1983.
Though I’d seen Dylan in concert twice before, it was his co-headlining show with Carlos Santana at the CNE Grandstand in the summer of 1993 where I became a fan. It was a rain-soaked night, but our seats were about 7 rows back. I remember Dylan staring up this song, hard-edged and dark and asking my friend, a bigger fan than I, what it was. I’ll always remember I and I as the song that flipped the switch for me.
Dignity, originally released on Greatest Hits Volume III, 1994
There are a ton of Dylan best of’s on the market these days, but for years there was only two, both released decades before Volume III hit store shelves. The collection compiled the best of Dylan’s work from the 70’s and 80’s, but also threw in one new song. Originally written and recorded during the sessions for 1989’s Oh Mercy, the version of Dignity that wound up released would be produced by then Pearl Jam and future Bruce Springsteen collaborator Brendan O’brien and feature drums from The Black Crowes’ Steve Gorman. For years, this was one of two Dylan songs I always dreamnt of hearing in concert. While I still wait for a live version of Blind Willie McTell, I finally experienced Dignity live in Niagara Falls in 2003. It was well worth the wait.
Tweeter and the Monkey Man, originally released on The Traveling Wilburys Volume 1, 1988
The debut album from the supergroup featuring Bob, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty was the first Dylan oriented release I ever owned, bough for me by my dad on the strength of the hit single Handle With Care. I was 11 years old and gravitated immediately to this story song sun by Dylan. Years later, as my musical education grew I discovered all the not-so-hidden Springsteen references throughout Tweeter and The Monkey Man. See if you can spot them too!
Happy 70th birthday, Bob Dylan! You’re plenty funky to me!