Tuesday, May 24, 2011
I think of Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday today with tremendous gratitude. There’s no other recording artist who has affected me the way he has–and I’m not unique in that. Looking at his body of work, I wonder how one individual could have written so much, and with so many songs becoming classics: “The Times They Are A Changin’,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright,” “Like A Rolling Stone” (performed above in 1995), to name just a few.
One Dylan title, “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)” expresses his artistic credo of always going his own way. When he arrived in Greenwich Village during the 1960s folk boom, the emphasis was not on original material but on performing traditional acoustic folk and blues tunes. Dylan countered that by becoming the era's first major singer-songwriter. In 1965, he outraged folk purists at the Newport Folk Festival by going electric, initiating the folk rock explosion. As a songwriter, Dylan has evolved from protest songs to the surreal to the American roots of his past few albums. In all of his evolutions, he has had a huge influence on countless performers and is one of the most covered songwriters in history.
What’s next for Dylan? One can never say. Though a 1967 documentary on his England concert tour is titled, “Don’t Look Back,” his 70th birthday gives us an opportunity to look back with thanks for Dylan’s profound contributions to social change, music and American culture.