Shobana Mathews, our literature curator, is a Bob Dylan fan, period. When someone publishes a dissertation titled ‘Folk Song as Poem: A Critical Study of the Lyrics of Protest Folksinger, Bob Dylan’ they earn their claim. Read her serenading Dylan on the occasion of his birthday and join in on the celebrations in the comment section!
” Bob Dylan, the original vagabond! In your own words, Bob, may you always know the truth and see the lights surrounding you… (Forever Young ,1973)
In the lifetime I have known Bob Dylan, as a restless teenager to an equally reluctant academic… these words haunt me…surfacing in times of conflict, in times of temptation to give in and conform. Then that liberating call to be a rolling stone, on your own, with no direction home.
And every minute is a reminder that if I’m not busy being born, I’m busy dying.
From the topical protest songs like Hurricane (1975) to the hilariously dystopic and breathlessly surreal Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream (1965) to the intensely evocative and much covered All along the Watchtower (1967), the sheer magnitude of Dylan’s imagination is researcher’s delight.
Joan Baez refers to him as the ‘unwashed phenomenon’ in her bittersweet lovesong to him, Diamonds and Rust (1975). She creates an unmistakable profile of him…dismissive of her poetry, restless, tender and yet haplessly drawn to his ‘Madonna’, an allusion to their tumultuous love affair.
Referred to as the guerrilla minstrel for his political activism and the trovatore bifronte (troubadour of the two faces) …the critic and the entertainer… Dylan has never stayed long enough to be pinned down with a carefully formulated phrase.
And as I raise this vodka in a champagne glass to my lips and murmur softly, Salud, my friend …many years and avatars to you …I know you’ll stay Forever Young, you Joker, you Thief, you horseman of the apocalypse! “