Friday, May 23, 2014


If one wants to read about Bob Dylan there are any number of biographies, his own autobiography and the ever dependable Wikipedia. So I cannot really write anything new and nor do I know anything special about him except as to how special his music was to me. It was sometime in the late sixties that I first had the chance to be exposed to his music (I prefer to call it music rather than say songs). Having entered college with an overdose of The Beatles, Elvis, Cliff Richards and the like I was thrown into the world of Santana, CCR, Pink Floyd and the rest of the gang of Hard rockers or whatever you may call them. In the midst of all this melee and pulse beating sounds three voices stood out – Simon and Garfunkel, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Though his music has stretched on from the early sixties through to the nineties my personal preference has been the songs he wrote and sung during the sixties.

I remember the first song that I heard was the ‘Tambourine Man’ a song where Dylan accompanied himself on the acoustic guitar and the harmonica (this was of course a trade mark in most of his compositions). We had been practicing the song for the music festival and so had to hear it a number of times again and again to get it right. The person who sung it, I remember was himself as wild looking as Bob Dylan, of course the harmonica and the guitar were played by other musicians. It ultimately came out well but the song remained with me long after. It does even today.

You see there was something about his voice which is hard to explain, but it has the capacity to keep on ringing in your years. I am quoting a piece that I have read elsewhere that would best describe his singing - “The rough edge of Dylan's singing was unsettling to some early listeners but an attraction to others. Describing the impact that Dylan had on her and her husband, Joyce Carol Oates wrote: "When we first heard this raw, very young, and seemingly untrained voice, frankly nasal, as if sandpaper could sing, the effect was dramatic and electrifying."

Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman on 24th May 1941 he subsequently changed his name to Bob Dylan. In his memoir, Dylan acknowledged that he had been influenced by the poetry of Dylan Thomas. Explaining his change of name in a 2004 interview, Dylan remarked: "You're born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents. I mean, that happens. You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free.”

I have most of his songs on my ipod and listen to them on my walks. But I have my favorites – ‘Blowin in the Wind’, ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’, ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ and of course ‘The Tambourine Man’. Whether Civil Rights or the Vietnam war Dylan was always there and along with Joan Baez represented the voices of protest and that perhaps captured the imagination of that generation to which I belong. I felt like reproducing some of the most significant lyrics he has written, which gives an idea of the man -

Yes, how many years can some people exist

Before they're allowed to be free?

Yes, how many times can a man turn his head

Pretending he just doesn't see?

Yes, how many ears must one man have

Before he can hear people cry ?

Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows

That too many people have died ?

The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind

The answer is blowin' in the wind.


Come mothers and fathers

 Throughout the land

 Don't criticize

 What you can't understand

Your sons and your daughters

 Are beyond your command

 Your old road is

 Rapidly agin'

Please get out of the new one

 If you can't lend a hand

 For your times they are a-changin'


I again end with a quote here which best describes Bob Dylan and what he meant to a generation.

In December 1997, U.S. President Bill Clinton presented Dylan with a Kennedy Center Honor in the East Room of the White House, paying this tribute: "He probably had more impact on people of my generation than any other creative artist. His voice and lyrics haven't always been easy on the ear, but throughout his career Bob Dylan has never aimed to please. He's disturbed the peace and discomforted the powerful” – source Wikipedia.

I am posting this on the eve of his birthday which falls on 24th May. I never forget it for that is one thing I share with him.



Svaathi said...

This year I will be going to the city where he was born - Duluth, MN

Varsha Uke Nagpal said...

Very meaningful words and a lovely voice. This music does soothe and also makes one think.
Thanks for telling us about his birthday! Nice that you share his birthday, just as my grand daughter does too.


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