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Me and Gary, brooding (September 2004)

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Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of genius.

— William Blake


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Learn to dance, get dressed, get blessed, try and be a success.

Bob Dylan has been in the world for 7 decades today. That's a good long time, and for about the last 5 of them he has been contributing some beautiful, significant art to the world. I'm not sure what to say about this but, happy birthday, Bob! Many happy returns of the day! The Guardian has a slide show of images from his career.

Below the fold, some of my own memories that involve Dylan and his music.

I became a fan of Dylan's music in 1983, when I was 13 years old. I had always known about him and recognized some of his songs; but in the summer of my 13th year I spent a couple of weeks staying with my parents' friend Jim Higgs (r.i.p.), who had a lot of Dylan's records and the book of his lyrics. This was the summer Empire Burlesque came out, and Jim was talking it up a whole lot; but I started reading the book and became entranced by "Subterranean Homesick Blues". I listened over and over to Bringing It All Back Home; and when my family came back to town and I went home, I raided my parents' collection of Dylan records. That year and the years that followed, I listened very heavily to Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited; and less heavily to Blonde on Blonde, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, and The Times They are a-Changin'. In autumn of 1983 Jim took me to see Dylan and Tom Petty play Sacramento fairgrounds; it was the first rock concert I ever went to.

At some point in high school I came into possession of a copy of Dylan's first album, self-titled, I think from Replay Records on McHenry -- that was where I got most of the music I bought in high school. I don't remember listening to this record a whole lot in high school, but later it would become one of my very favorite records.

I remember seeing Steve Ewert and Tim Lechuga playing at Mondo Java -- it was one of the first concerts I went to at Mondo Java, in 1989 or so -- and getting them to let me sing "Subterranean Homesick Blues" with them. That was great even though I didn't remember all the lyrics. Not as great was the second time I saw them, when I got them to let me sing "Desolation Row" with them -- I had rehearsed and knew all the words, but the spontaneity that had made the first time so much fun was gone and it came off pretty flat. Also IIRC I brought and played bongo drums without understanding going in, how lame that was.

In 1993 I bought Dylan's two new records, Good as I Been to You and World Gone Wrong. This was well before I really got into old-time music -- I loved these two records at the time but I don't think I really understood at the time, how great they are. These two certainly were part of the process that got me interested in old-time.

And since then? Well... Dylan is just part of my psychic landscape, one of the places I go when I think of music. I'm glad he's here and glad I've got his music around me.

posted evening of Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
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