There is only one success--to be able to spend your life in your own way.-Christopher Morley
Holy Cow! Bob Dylan Is Seventy
Posted May 24, 2011
Well, I guess that I should start off by saying that I never personally met or spent time with Bob Dylan. But that didn't stop me from spending what seemed like a million hours wearing headphones listening intently to his words and songs as if they held all the secrets of the cosmos. All I needed to do to gain this miraculous knowledge was to decipher the deeper meaning of Bob Dylan's lyrics.
"There must be some way out of here," said the joker to the thief.
"There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth.
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth."
"No reason to get excited," the thief, he kindly spoke.
"There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate.
The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late."
Hmmm... The joker said to the thief that there's too much confusion, so he can't get any relief. Apparently, too much confusion is the reason for not being able to get relief. Relief from what? I'm not really sure, but still... At least you and I, we already have gained the wisdom that comes with experience, so we're spared that terrible fate -- just so long as we don't talk falsely when the hour's getting late.
Well, alrighty then. Late-night honesty must be the key. Now that I know that, I'll know just what to do when the opportunity presents itself late one night. Ah, yes...
And so it went. I spent hours as a teenager trying to reach all kinds of philosophical conclusions, because not only did Bob Dylan's words of wisdom seem to offer spiritual advice, they also presented me with an incredibly practical roadmap for happiness. I was absolutely convinced that if only I followed the roadmap, I would be making very wise moves all the time, no matter what challenging situation I would unexpectedly face.
It's amazing what teenagers will believe. Or maybe it was just my friends and me. But we did believe that Bob Dylan was the coolest and wisest philosopher/anti-establishment poet who really knew what we were thinking and feeling at the time. He had sage advice for us all. Every one of his songs was a treasure trove waiting to be unlocked by us. Every lyric a shot at wisdom and, most importantly, ultimate coolness -- the most sought-after prize every teenager craved.
Thirty years later, I'm sitting at home across the continent from the Bronx where I once was that teenager listening to Bob Dylan. My children will soon start their own teenage years. As incredible as that seems to me, it's equally amazing that today is Bob Dylan's seventieth birthday. Wow! Bob Dylan is 70!
I look at the album cover of him and his girlfriend from 1963, two years before I was born. They look like two kids, and the album is named The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. They look exactly like the kids in my high school, and like the kids today. And the streets of Greenwich Village in New York City look exactly as I knew them when I walked down those mean streets very late at night as a teenager.
But Dylan is now 70 years old. It's difficult for me to imagine the pop culture icon I admired as a teenager being this age. Although he's probably a better musician and performer today than he was when he invented his lyrics under the influence of some massively potent substances, the teenagers of today would never relate to him as he is now. Because, as is often the case, the messenger is just as important as the message. True, the messenger, or the pop icon, need not be incredibly handsome or polished, or a fashion trend-setter. On the contrary, Dylan was a simple guy whose strength was that he elevated his lyrics into poetry (or so it seemed), while remaining genuine. Authentic. Real.
Yes, all of Dylan's simplicity was not only overlooked, but actually part of his greatness. Even the fact that, when sober, it was questionable whether his lyrics were mostly devoid of any meaning or logic could be easily forgiven. Because in the world of pop culture, everything an icon does can be forgiven. Except for one thing: Getting older.
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