Bob Dylan turns seventy today.
I first heard a Bob Dylan song in the summer of 1963, when I was 13.
It was Peter, Paul and Mary's cover of “Blowin' In the Wind”. Just
about everybody heard that version of the song in the summer of 1963 —
it made it to number 2 on the Billboard charts and got lots of radio
In the Fall of that year I went off to boarding school and a classmate
had brought with him an LP of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. That was the
first Dylan album I ever heard.
So from the onset of puberty until today, Bob Dylan has been with me. He helped me grow up when I was a teenager, he helped me get
old. He helped me with belief and with unbelief.
Most of all he helped me with the problem of losing things. All of
life is about losing things — loves, innocence, friends, dreams. In
the end, we lose everything, in that pine box for all eternity. And
this is cool — it's what we're here to do. Lose. “The stars are
threshed, as souls are threshed from their husks,” is how William Blake
put it. Dylan said, “Just when you think you've lost everything, you
find out you can always lose a little more.”
The world, especially the modern world, tells us we can have
everything. In truth, we can have nothing, except what's left when
we've lost everything. Dylan sings about what that is, too.
Prophet, wise counselor, mentor, heckler, song and dance man — Bob Dylan has walked beside me every
step of the way through my adult life. Even when I lost sight of
him, he kept up with me, and was there when I needed him. Even when I gave up on him, he never gave up on me. “You might need this song someday,” he's always said, “so here it is.”
I know he would not want any thanks for this — the gifts he had to
give weren't his. He found them somewhere, and passed them along. He
never got adjusted to this world, and has reminded me that I shouldn't
get adjusted to it either. We've got business elsewhere.