The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Monday, May 14, 2001

Dylan, My Way

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: Bob Dylan turns 60 on May 24, and all the critics are jumping the gun, hoping to be first to explain something about the legendary folk-rock poet, or else tell us how unexplainable he is. A lot of attention is being put on Dylan. I don't have to tell you that Dylan remains a touchstone for a generation of a certain age — now in their late 40s, 50s and even 60s. In the '60s and early '70s, the triad of the Beatles, Stones and Dylan ruled. But while the Beatles' pop sensibilities and teen appeal made them the darlings of everyone from lovestruck pre-teens to college students and beyond, and the Stones' dark side and nasty habits brought them a slightly older but still broad fanbase, Dylan appealed mostly to intellectuals in high school and college. Anyone, it seemed, could relate to "She Loves You." It took a more discriminating music fan to make sense of "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," or even "Desolation Row." Still, at one point Dylan's audience was massive. In 1974, he filled arenas across the U.S. when David Geffen convinced him and The Band to tour together. Sometimes I wonder if some of the more pointy-headed kids in high school now, as well as the college crowd, seek out Dylan albums the way some of us, many decades ago, sought albums by blues, folk and country artists from the '40s, '50s and '60s. What do they make of him? I would think that anyone who could relate to Beck or Songs: Ohia, Low or Mark Eitzel, Cat Power or even Sleater-Kinney would love Dylan. He made wonderful folk albums in the early '60s, including a most amazing work, Another Side of Bob Dylan, that took folk to a whole new place. Then he went electric and remade what rock could be with Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, before helping create country-rock with John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline. In a lengthy essay in the May 11 New York Times, Ann Powers talks about how Dylan has kept changing and how, while critics kept searching for a "new Dylan," the old Dylan kept becoming the new Dylan. Certainly that's true. But I also think we, the fans, the ones who listen to the albums over and over, make the artists into who we want them to be. My Dylan probably isn't your Dylan. My Dylan is an arty, romantic Bohemian as seen on the covers of Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, in the wonderful photographs of Daniel Kramer and in the film "Don't Look Back." He's an angry rebel, the first punk, dressed outrageously with his hair long and curly. He argues with the media. He stares down the world. As I see it, his music, simply his music, can make a creep like George W. Bush shrivel up and crawl back to the safety of his stupid Texas ranch. Dylan's music was part of the soundtrack of my youth. I played his songs on my acoustic guitar when I was 15. I spent an entire summer listening to Highway 61 Revisited over and over. Many, many years later, when I used to travel a lot, I more than once found myself buying Dylan CDs I already had at home at the Tower Records store in the Village, 'cause I wanted the comfort of Dylan's songs in that sometimes cold, hard city.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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