Dylan at 70


When Bill Monroe celebrated 50 years on the Grand Old Opry, he said he was mainly proud that he had never missed a show and had only been late twice.
That’s the way I think of Bob Dylan at 70 ? not as a genius poet songwriter but as a working musician who always makes the gig. There are no stories of Dylan arriving late or not bothering to show up or fulfill a contract. Even that time he almost died and had to cancel a tour because he was in a hospital fighting for his life, he paid his band for the whole tour anyway. It wasn’t their fault they couldn’t play the shows. And later he more than made it up to fans and promoters.

When he stands there unmoving at the end of his concerts, receiving applause as if people were pelting him with it, no matter what kind of clothes he may be wearing he looks like a blue collar plant worker at the end of a long shift, waiting for the gate to open so he can go home.

He’s done his job, and he didn’t do it so you could praise him for it. He did it because it needed doing, he did with some dignity and now it’s time to leave.

Here’s a prediction: when Bob Dylan finally hangs it up and goes home for good, he’ll do it with class, the way Cal Ripken ended The Streak of consecutive games played. There’ll be no “farewell” tour, and certainly no endless reunion/comeback tours. One night he’ll simply take himself out of the lineup, and they’ll just stop listing new dates on his website. Most of us won’t know anything important even happened.

I also respect the guy as a journeyman piano player. On Modern Times he never solos, and he’s down in the mix, but what he’s laying down is really cool. I try to play like him when I’m backing a singer.

My favorite Dylan story is the one Little Richard tells. Dylan probably hates the fact that it ever got told at all. When the Architect and Originator was almost killed in a car wreck, he lay in a coma for weeks. When he finally regained consciousness, he opened his eyes to find someone sitting by his bed. The stranger squeezed his hand and left the room. When Richard asked the nurse who the visitor was, he says she told him, “Honey, that’s Bob Dylan. He’s been here almost every day since you were brought in.”

Who knows if the story is true, half-true, or another of Little Richard’s wonderful inventions?

I believe it, though, because it fits with everything any of us has ever heard about Dylan. Mythical, legendary, larger than life, but human and vulnerable at the same time, as though he had the heart of a child in a grown man’s body. That he would come almost every day, stay until he knew Richard was going to make it, then leave without a word and not come back ? and never mention it to anyone ? what could be more Dylanesque?

Happy birthday, Mr. Bob. May someone always be there for you, the way you’ve been there.

David Vest is a writer and musician. His latest CD is Rock-A-While. He can be reached at: davidvest@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Oregon Music News.

Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?
Barry Lando
Syria: Obama’s Bay of Pigs?
Karl Grossman
The Politics of Lyme Disease
Andre Vltchek
Southeast Asia “Forgets” About Western Terror
Jose Martinez
American Violence: Umpqua is “Routine”?
Vijay Prashad
Russian Gambit, Syrian Dilemma
Sam Smith
Why the Democrats are in Such a Mess
Uri Avnery
Nasser and Me
Andrew Levine
The Saints March In: The Donald and the Pope
Arun Gupta
The Refugee Crisis in America
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Lara Santoro
Terror as Method: a Journalist’s Search for Truth in Rwanda
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Elections and Verbal Vomit
Dan Glazebrook
Refugees Don’t Cause Fascism, Mr. Timmermann – You Do
Victor Grossman
Blood Moon Over Germany
Patrick Bond
Can World’s Worst Case of Inequality be Fixed by Pikettian Posturing?
Pete Dolack
Earning a Profit from Global Warming
B. R. Gowani
Was Gandhi Averse to Climax? A Psycho-Sexual Assessment of the Mahatma
Tom H. Hastings
Another Mass Murder
Anne Petermann
Activists Arrested at ArborGen GE Trees World Headquarters
Ben Debney
Zombies on a Runaway Train
Franklin Lamb
Confronting ‘Looting to Order’ and ‘Cultural Racketeering’ in Syria
Carl Finamore
Coming to San Francisco? Cra$h at My Pad
Ron Jacobs
Standing Naked: Bob Dylan and Jesus
Missy Comley Beattie
What Might Does To Right
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi Jayanti, Gandhi’s Dream
Raouf Halaby
A Week of Juxtapositions
Louis Proyect
Scenes from the Class Struggle in Iran
Christopher Washburn
Skeptik’s Lexicon
Charles R. Larson
Indonesia: Robbed, Raped, Abused
David Yearsley
Death Songs