Happy birthday to Bob Dylan, born May 24th, 1941.
I’m not big on birthdays, to be honest. What difference does it really make that on one day you are technically one age, and the next day you’re technically another age? You’re as young as you feel, and the older I get, the more it pleases me to think so.
There’s predictably been enormous hoopla over Bob Dylan turning 70, and at least 30 new books have been added to the groaning shelves of tomes analyzing, documenting and distorting his music and/or life. I should talk — I’ve written untold thousands of words around those topics, albeit in shorter forms.
It seems to me that the nicest thing to do on Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday is just to give him kudos for being out there in the way that he is, at his age. What peers or contemporaries of Dylan can do as he does — touring constantly, revisiting many of the same places year after year, playing sets that are top heavy with songs from the last decade or so, and filling those seats with fannies time after time? And not all aging 1960s types — not by a long shot. His shows have loads of people under 30, under 25, even under 20. Sure — you always hear complaints from some about him changing the songs, or being indecipherable, or whatever. I’ve been to enough of his shows to know that sometimes complaints can be justified. I hate the bad or too-loud sound at too many of the venues he plays. But the numbers don’t lie. On balance, the man delivers, and gets people to come back, while doing it completely on his own terms, and keeping it fresh for himself. This doesn’t happen in popular music, as a pretty good general rule. Dylan has achieved something that very few others have. Ever. And the older he gets, the more astounding it is.
It’s not the first time I’ve stopped to point to how amazing this is, but the pride he himself takes in this was evident in that unprecedented statement he made about his gigs in China. Maureen Dowd et al aside, he was obviously irritated by some things he had read about there being a lot of empty seats, and that the concerts were attended mostly by expatriate types. NO, he said. We almost sold out, the attendees were almost all Chinese, and, what’s more, they were young! I’m willing to buy Bob’s version, given the pile of distorted lies that the media gives us on any given day (and not only about Dylan). Bob may make up stories about shooting heroin and kicking it, but it’s my belief that he doesn’t lie about the important things. He deserves to be proud of his success as an entertainer, doing it in the way that he likes to do it and giving the customers what they obviously like at the same time. It’s a helluva thing.
Many more, Bob.