dylan at 70: he don't look back

bob dylan.

bob dylan.

It was a hectic day yesterday, one where every minute was spoken for, from the time the alarm sounded in early morning to the commercial break after David Letterman’s monologue just before midnight. But it was a special day nonetheless, one that warranted at least some belated notice today. That’s because yesterday was Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday.

So I was determined on my way out the door today to grab the first great Dylan CD I could find to listen to on the way to work. No Empire Burlesque. No Self Portrait. No Down in the Groove. A classic was called for. Dylan cut at least a dozen of them. Any would do for this makeshift celebration of His Bobness.

And there it was. In a stack by the bedroom dresser – Bringing It All Back Home, the album that made Dylan a folk outcast in 1965 by, dear heavens, embracing rock ‘n’ roll. Never mind that nearly half of the record was in line with the same folk attitude that drove Dylan’s first four albums, an attitude that yielded some of Dylan’s most superlative acoustic works. Among them: Gates of Eden, Mr. Tambourine Man, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue and the pensive political masterwork It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).

But in listening again to the renegade electric pieces that start the album – Subterranean Homesick Blues, She Belongs to Me and Maggie’s Farm – one has to wonder if audiences didn’t consider Bringing It All Back Home as a bittersweet epiphany. Here was the most heralded folk celebrity of his day plugging in and setting sail for an altogether new audience.

“She’s got everything she needs. She’s an artist. She don’t look back.” That’s the opening line to She Belongs to Me, although it easy to infer Dylan was singing about himself. He was complete. He was steadfast. And from Bringing It All Back Home on, he has never looked back.

For all of his career triumphs, Dylan has been perceived as both icon and irritant, an artist capable of penning songs full of extraordinary narrative, conviction, reflection and, yes, hyperbole who has also corroded his music in performance with a sense of almost punkish anarchy.

Been to a Dylan concert lately? If so, which unnerves you the most – his impenetrable death rattle wheeze of a singing voice or the often caustic rearrangements of works from his treasured past?

Personally, I find all of that fascinating. It’s what makes Dylan so utterly Dylan – an artist who sings like a scorched but supremely confident soul. But comparatively recent albums like Time Out of Mind and Modern Times underscore just has how valid and vital his music remains.

But Bringing It All Back Home was the album that cemented the reputation of Dylan the anarchist. All it takes is a listen to Maggie’s Farm to sense how troubled the winds of change were that came blowing in his direction.

“I try my best to be just like I am,” Dylan sings in Maggie’s Farm‘s final verse. “But everybody wants you to be just like them. They say, ‘Sing while you slave.’ And I just get bored.”

That’s not my favorite Dylan lyric. That still goes to 1974’s Idiot Wind (“What’s good is bad, what’s bad is good, you’ll find out when you reach the top, that you’re on the bottom”). But it’s close. It was also a reminder this morning that the still-vital Dylan has always been the hapless master of his own artistic destiny as much (or more) than his legacy.

Happy 70th then, Bob. Keep bringing it all back home.

Letter: So vital we’re all aware of symptoms of meningitis.(Letters)

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales) February 7, 2009 Byline: Steve Dayman I WAS deeply saddened to read your article on January 22 about the inquest into 18-month-old Fatama Barkhad’s death from meningitis last year.

Sadly, doctors failed to spot the disease’s symptoms and discharged her with a sore throat. I lost my son Spencer to meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia some time ago and can well imagine the pain that all those who knew Fatama have suffered. in our site symptoms of meningitis

This tragedy emphasises the importance of early recognition, diagnosis and prompt treatment. Most parents who contact health professionals for advice do so because they are extremely concerned and know their children best.

Meningitis should always be a major consideration because early diagnosis and hospital treatment could mean the difference between life and death. in our site symptoms of meningitis

Meningitis UK has a single focus – to find a vaccine to eradicate all forms of meningitis.

It’s imperative to find a vaccine to protect against all forms of the disease to prevent other families suffering the heartache and devastation meningitis can cause. Sadly, although successful vaccines exist to protect against some strains, there is still no vaccine available to protect against the most common form – meningococcal group B, which causes almost 90% of all cases in the UK.

In the absence of a vaccine to protect against all strains, we also distribute a wide range of material to raise awareness.

If any of your readers would like a symptoms information pack, they can call Meningitis UK on 0117 373 7373 or visit www.meningitisUK.org Steve Dayman Chief Executive, Meningitis UK

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