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Thinking about Dylan..

Yea. I do this from time to time. Nothing specific triggers it. It just happens. Last night around 1am I sent a text to my friend Kris Kehr, asking how somebody could write songs as staggering as Abandoned Love and Up to Me and Blind Willie McTell and leave them OFF records. I knew Kris would understand. He responded immediately of course. Not with an answer, because there isn’t one. But with the complete understanding of a fellow songwriter who would give his right arm to write something as good as these songs…songs with Dylan deemed disposable. Yea, he’s that good when he’s good.

The first song I ever learned on the guitar was “Girl From the North Country”. I was in college. I knew nothing but was smart enough not to pretend otherwise. I figured if you wanted to learn how to write songs you listened to Dylan. Common sense really. Then and now.

I don’t know how he wrote the songs he wrote. I have no idea where they came from. I can’t pretend to know what a song like Visions of Johanna means. I had a good friend back in the day who knew all the lyrics to Just Like Tom Thumb Blues. I thought he was a complete freak and told him I doubted even Dylan knew all the lyrics to Just Like Tom Thumb Blues. My friend’s name was Bob too. I admired the shit out of him. Still do. A few months ago I was playing a solo acoustic show in a local bar and he showed up. Haven’t seen him in 20 years. I sang Like a Rolling Stone in his honor. I would have done Just Like Tom Thumb Blues but I can’t remember the fucking words.

Tonight in the car I was taking my daughter and her friend home and I had the song It’s All Good from one a Dylan’s recent records blaring. It’s a non-sensical lyric set to a ordinary blues-shuffle….but it charms the shit out of me. Ask my why and I can’t tell you.

Even now first timers will say….”that guy can’t sing”. Us vets know better. Dylan is only the best white blues singer of all time. It’s All Good is the kind of song that Dylan can probably write in his sleep. It’s a complete throwaway…..like his song Dark Eyes from the 1980s, which he freely admits he wrote just to fill out a record with an acoustic song…..which he figured was what people wanted. Most songwriters have never written a song as good as Dark Eyes,

Dylan did what he did before anybody else did what they did. That should make sense but if it doesn’t you should probably listen to what he and his band were serving up in 1966….a time when the Beatles were playing Shea Stadium with a sound system that would shame any modern bar band. Tell Me, Mamma was the song that kicked off those long ago electric sets…and it’s no wonder that fans nearly lost their collective minds. Nobody had ever sounded like this before. Nobody had ever had the BALLS to sound like this before. Everything that followed….be in the Who or the Stones or the Sex Pistols…. sounded tame in comparison. Remember when Hemingway said that the great American novel was already written? This was Huck Finn with Telecasters. Loud.

So yea. That’s Dylan to me. After a while he’ll fade from my playlist. Maybe for another year. Then he’ll creep back in. And I’ll hear something like She’s Your Lover Now and just shake my head while reaching for the volume. He’ll release a new record eventually. It will contain some shit (like his endless Titanic ballad Tempest from his last record….which I’m convinced was a joke) and some songs that make me shake my head like It’s All Good….the old man can still cripple you with a couplet. Whenever I run out of things to say all I need to do is listen to Groom’s Still Waiting At the Altar to feel young again. I’m actually one of the crazy people who feel that, if anything, Dylan is underrated as a songwriter. Imagine the landscape without him. Can you? Throw away your Van Morrison and your Marvin Gaye and your Springsteen and your Prine and your Petty and your U2 and your Clash and your Public Enemy and your Nirvana and your Pearl Jam and your Alica Keys and god knows who else. Rubber Soul and Revolver and Sgt Pepper? Blowin’ in the Wind.

I’m glad I don’t know what brings on these Dylan jags. I’d hate to be able to predict the next one.

In a bit..


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