Today is Bob Dylan’s 71st birthday. He was born in 1941; that was the year they bombed Pearl Harbor, and—as he said in November of 2008—he’s been living in a world of darkness ever since. On the plus side, he’s been gifted with the talent and opportunity to write a whole lot of great songs which bring solace and joy to countless souls.
I wonder who the most covered songwriter on YouTube might be? I’m not referring just to professional recordings, which are only a fraction of what’s out there, but all of it, including the bedroom amateurs with their guitars, electronic keyboards and webcams. It would be an extremely difficult statistic to calculate, even if you had access to all of YouTube’s data, because songwriters’ names aren’t always invoked.
Yet, I’d be willing to bet (a very non-Romneyesque) ten bucks that it is Bob Dylan. One factor that helps convince me is that aside from all of the super-well-known songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” and “Make You Feel My Love”—each of which has thousands of versions out there—Dylan has hundreds of other songs that are obscure to the general public but which fans are more than happy to dig out and perform for the camera. They do it because they love the songs. Obscure or not, I think every song Dylan’s ever put out has its aficionados and its advocates. Even the ones that seem so very minor, or are from what is a terribly unfashionable period in the opinion of the usual rock critics, are guaranteed to touch chords in somebody’s heart, somewhere. One of the reasons, I think, is because there’s a common thread of integrity to them; even when they’re wacky, they have some kind of honesty at their core.
And the degree to which people love to sing Dylan’s songs must surely be the highest compliment he can enjoy as a songwriter. So, happy birthday, Bob, and dig this one I just found: a really nice version of “I’ll Remember You” (Empire Burlesque-1985) from a YouTube user named “nakasoner” accompanying himself on ukulele.