My first name is Bob. I am a Gemini. I was born and raised in the Upper Midwest and moved to New York in 1961. But for these facts, I have absolutely nothing in common with Bob Dylan, except for his music and his words. Those wonderful words!
I suppose there are many ways to measure a man. One way is to mark what he does. Another is to note the length of time he does it. And yet a third way is to measure the impact that he has had upon the world. By any yardstick Bob Dylan is one of the towering artistic figures of the past fifty years. (Has it really been that long?)
I’m sure that the next week will be filled with testimonials to Bob from around the world. To all that will undoubtedly be said, I would just like to add my personal message:
Thank you, Bob.
Thank you for a lifetime spent ensuring that words are still important in this world. Since the young Bob Dylan first came to NYC in 1961 we have become a far more visual global culture. More art and communication is visual, fewer books, newspapers, and magazines are read. But thanks in great measure to Bob Dylan and the body of his life’s work, the word both spoken and sung still retains its power to move, to inspire, and to feed human imagination. It is not enough to simply call Bob Dylan a poet. He has kept the world listening to the word for more than 50 years. No small feat.
Thank you, Bob, for keeping it all so fresh and new, and for making the old new again. Especially over the past two decades, Dylan has brought much of our rich American musical tradition to new audiences, not just singing old traditional songs as he did on a couple of early 1990’s albums, but by reworking honored American musical and folk themes into his own compositions. To my mind, this endeavor is the musical equivalent of the establishment of the National Park System, and the work of landmark preservation groups. To come to understand that there is much of value to find in our collective past is no small lesson for a people to learn.
Last year a group of my students asked me “If you could make one journey in life what would it be and with whom would you like to travel?” I told them I’d like to travel down Highway 61 with Bob Dylan, and so I have. And what a long, strange, and revealing trip it has been.
Thank you, Bob.