If I can trust my memory, which I think I can, I stumbled onto Bob Dylan’s music through MTV, back in the early years when pretty much all it played were music videos. There was a video of Dylan playing “Tangled Up in Blue” live, and right from the get-go, I was blown away. I loved the brilliance of his lyrics, the story whose contours they traced. A little later, I saw the video for “Tight Connection to My Heart,” from the just-released Empire Burlesque, which became the first Dylan album I owned. There was something about being a fan of Bob Dylan in the mid-eighties: compared to even the more outré artists and bands some of my friends were listening to, Dylan was out there, his own thing. Eventually–a surprising number of years after I first heard “Tangled Up in Blue,” actually–I bought Blood On the Tracks in cassette form and wore it out on a succession of tape decks. Somewhere in there were the Traveling Wilburys albums, on which Dylan sounded as if he was having a blast, and then, later still, Time Out of Mind, with the astonishing “Highlands.” After my wife and I got together and we consolidated our CD collections, I spent one fall listening to a lot of Dylan’s early albums, amazed at how timeless they sounded–they still sound. As with so much of his music, those albums could have been released last week.
I suppose the biggest complaint my family and friends who don’t like Dylan have had over the years has been his voice, which, while tuneful more often than I think he’s given credit for, does go in its own direction. For me, though, that remains part of Dylan’s fundamental appeal, his stubborn insistence on being himself, on performing his way. He’s seventy-five today, and he continues to put out innovative and exciting work. It’s hard for me to think of anyone like him in America music. I sometimes envision the late Johnny Cash as a mountain, this great, craggy rise. If that’s the case, then Dylan would have to be the Mississippi, father of waters. May his music continue to flow on.
Here’s that original video from all those years ago.
A lesser-known Dylan track, but well worth a listen.
Dylan having fun with some other greats.