Bob Dylan and Me


Next week, Bob Dylan turns 70 years old.

When Bob turned 50, I bought a bottle of champagne and watched Don’t Look Back 
(after calling the Anchorage video store days ahead to put a hold on a copy only to find 

out from the baffled clerk there was no huge demand), and toasted Dylan’s health and continued genius.

This time around, Rolling Stone is throwing the party.
The current issue includes a list of his 70 greatest songs (as decided by a panel)
along with some commentary from various singer/songwriters.

It’s an interesting list, in part because the enormity of Dylan’s song catalog boggles the mind.
How to choose?

My mother texted me the other night (yes, she’s 81 and she texts!)
to tell me she was reading Rolling Stone and to ask which was my favorite song.

I said I couldn’t choose just one but that "Hurricane" was the song that caught my attention
when I was 13 years-old, and that I bought the 45 and then wrote out all the lyrics.
The song’s so long it was both Side A and Side B, and somewhere around here I have
those sheets of notebook paper with the hand-printed lyrics.
It was a long process and I remember sitting next to my record player, 
lifting the needle to replay parts so I’d catch every word.

"Pistol shots ring out in a barroom night . . ."

Years later when I lived in North Hollywood in a funky old house converted to a triplex,
my artist-downstairs-neighbor was working on a collage and invited me to make one, too.

I went up to my tiny apartment and gathered the Dylan scrapbook I’d created when younger.

Over the years, this collage has hung on various walls in the places I’ve lived,
and more than one person has looked at it and asked, "Who’s the big black dude?"

That’s Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, the boxer who was wrongfully accused of murder,
and the subject of "Hurricane."
I cut that photo of him from the sleeve for the 45.
Dylan brought a lot of attention to the case and many years later Rubin Carter 
was released from prison where he sat "like Buddha in a ten-foot cell."
"Hurricane" is just one of many, many awe-inspiring songs 
that happened to mark the the beginning of my fascination with Dylan.
The man from Hibbing, Minnesota, caught my ear with a song calling out for justice, 
and kept me listening all these years.
Even when I couldn’t understand what the hell he was saying.

12 thoughts on “Bob Dylan and Me

  1. I sent this link to my brother earlier in the week but obviously I should’ve it to you too, Tracy!

    BBC 2 did a folk tribute, The Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan which is up to listen to online for the next few days. You’ll also find links to The Bob Dylan story up there to listen to.

    I’ve only seen him live twice (was supposed to go another time but ended up giving the tickets to my brother who is the bigger fan) and listening to him sing The Times They Are A-Changin live still gives me chill!

    Also, I love that 81 year old mother texts and reads Rolling Stone!


    • Thanks for that link, Carolyn! I’ve got it going right now. 🙂

      That was most generous for you to give those tickets to your brother. The Times is an incredible song and I totally understand the chills. He blows me away, every time I listen.

      My mom started reading Rolling Stone for the Matt Taibbi’s political pieces but likes the music stuff, too.


    • One of the all-time great opening lines. Of course, he’s got lots. When I was back in that tiny North Hollywood apartment, I thought my cat was pregnant(turned out vet was wrong!), and my friend and I were coming up with Dylan character names for the kittens. Johanna was in the running.


  2. hey Tracy—GREAT post!

    …and cool art!

    I kinda skipped Dylan when I was 13 as I was too much of a Beatles’ fan to pay attention. But I did some serious “catching-up” when I went to art school in Boston in the early ’70’s. At the time, I was obsessed with that trio of albums from the mid-sixties just prior to his motorcycle accident—Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde—his initial electric period.

    His lyrics were the words I illustrated in a thousand pictures yet unrealized and a few that have been—like “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry”—which was the inspiration behind the print you own.

    Thanks for sharing these great memories!


    • Re: hey Tracy—GREAT post!

      Cool art? Me? Thank you!

      It’s funny about my Dylan education. I knew all his early stuff because those were the albums on sale in the Columbia record club so I had all those but not the electric stuff until years later. I was way behind the curve on that one. Now it’s just amazing to sit back and listen to the entire span of music from all the years. Wow.

      I love my Train-inspired work of art. 🙂


  3. Glad you had a chance to listen to the show, Tracy!

    “Johanna was in the running.”

    Ah, that song’s so amazing. I was crazy about the lyrics:

    “Little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously. He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously.”


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