Every Record I Own - Day 357: Bob Dylan Nashville Skyline
When you spend your formative years obsessed with bands that play in basements and VFW halls, you graduate into adulthood without the reverence for the mythology of rock music. In some ways, this helps keep me on my current path, because if success is gauged merely by entertaining a basement full of spectators as opposed to selling out Wembley Stadium, it’s not too difficult to attain a sense of accomplishment.
But not having that reverence also means not having these larger-than-life role models. A friend recently asked if there was any musician I idolized that I would want to hangout with for a one-on-one chat. I was stumped. Between touring and writing, I’ve met a lot of my heroes from my youth and always found them to be personable, but I’ve never walked away from the encounter feeling enlightened.
Bob Dylan might be the only rock icon I ever put on a pedestal. And maybe that’s because he’s the only icon I latched onto in my teenage years (granted, I latched on at 19, but perhaps that last year made all the difference). And I think part of that obsession is that Dylan knew how to navigate his public life. He was able to play different characters in his output—such as the country balladeer on Nashville Skyline or the road-weary traveller on Blood on the Tracks—and he was able to play different roles offstage as well—the protest singer, the surrealist poet, the sardonic rocker, the critic of critics. He was a man of facades when the cameras were on him, but a speaker of deeper truths when given a microphone.
But given the opportunity, I’m not sure I’d have anything to say to Dylan. He belongs to a different world. He belongs to the larger public sphere, whereas all the weirdo punk and hardcore bands I grew up with belonged to me and the handful of other kids that threw a few bucks in the donation jar. That said, I wasn’t gutted by the death of Bowie or Prince or Lemmy, but I’ll be gutted when Dylan passes.