Bob Dylan and me, Sept. 28, 2005
Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005
I was glued to the TV the past couple nights watching Martin Scorsese's biography of Bob Dylan, "No Direction Home."
I was a huge Dylan fan as a youth. I must have been about 13 when my brother returned from a semester in college with his records, among them "Blood on the Tracks" and "Dylan's Greatest Hits.'
Kids going off to college and then coming back home to rural West Virginia was the main source of evil, outside influences like Dylan's music, infecting our culture. My older sister, who went a few years earlier, had brought back salads and broccoli to introduce into our meatloaf, beans and potatoes-driven diet.
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The deep, often sad, or at least pessimistic lyrics played right in to the teen angst I was feeling at the time (1974/75) and I would sit for hours with my eyes shut and just listen. It was powerful.
I remained a Dylan fan until his "Slow Train Coming" album came out in 1979, I think, which was heavily influenced by his conversion to Christianity. Not that I minded the Christianity, I didn't, it was just that the music sucked. I saw him in an auditorium in Charleston, W.Va. in 1982 or 83 before a crowd of about 2,500 people. While I was thrilled to be in Dylan's presence, it was my worst concert experience, ranking down there with Styx concerts friends had dragged me to a couple years earlier.
He did not play a single song from his 1960s hey day. We all left disappointed.
Anyway, I wanted my kids to watch Scorsese's movie with me, figuring they could learn a lot about an era about which they know little, as well as the Village art scene at the time.
They tried, God bless them, but Dylan's voice was just too much for them to take. They had to leave the room.
For me, that voice n both figuratively and literally n was what made Dylan great. Nobody of course, then or now, could touch him as lyricist or poet, but those lyrics, delivered with that raw, nasal voice, was a powerful force.