Why We Should Show Respect for Bob Dylan

One Man Band

Bob Dylan–the man, the myth, the legend. For years, he has loomed large in the legend of my own life, and doubtless in the lives of many others.

When I first discovered him, I was at the perfect age for idol-worship. I lived and breathed Dylan, as anyone who knew me at the age of 17 well knows. A huge part of my transition into adulthood was influenced directly by him–I wanted nothing more than to capture his essence and make it my own.

I’ve often asked myself what I would say to Bob Dylan if I met him. From all the interviews and cinematic depictions I’ve seen, this is the most accurate dialogue I can come up with:

Me: Hi, Mr. Dylan.

Dylan: Oh, God, not another one. What do you want?

Me: Well, I—Oh, nothing— I just wanted to say hi.

Dylan: Why would you want to say hi to me?

Me: Because your music makes me want to run away from home with nothing but the clothes on my back and hitch hike across the country to become a vagabond who answers to no one and jumps box cars and plays the harmonica and befriends wayward souls in their spare time. But it also kind of makes me want to climb a tree in my back yard and stay there forever.

Dylan: You’re reading too much into the lyrics, kid.

Me: You’re probably right. But I just want you to know that you’ve helped me, like, a lot.

Dylan: I didn’t help you. I’m just a guy, I don’t have the answers. You helped yourself.

Me: Well, thanks anyway.

Dylan: Don’t mention it, kid. *wink*

        Okay, so he probably wouldn’t have winked.

Despite my lingering tendency to create such scenarios in my head, I have reason to believe that I’ve begun the ceaseless process of growing up. It started quite recently upon discovering Dylan.

        I was in my car, deciding which CD would be the soundtrack of the drive— a very important decision. I do my best thinking while I’m driving; sometimes I talk to myself, but mostly I just sing along.

        For whatever reason, I had just bought The Essential Bob Dylan. I decided to give it a shot, having very little background on him other than my dad’s hysterically spot-on impression of his raspy, cigarette-haggard voice. Soon after pressing play, I entered another world: I could see him on stage in my head, as if he were singing directly to me. And I was transformed.

So now it’s 2016. As Dylan said, “Oh but I was so much younger then, I’m older than that now.” Even at the ripe old age of seventy-five, he face is still being splashed across magazine covers worldwide. He has just won the ultimate prize–the Nobel Prize in Literature–and so far he’s been utterly silent about it. Am I surprised? Not in the slightest. In fact I would be surprised if he had said anything. Bob Dylan has never been one to accept public affection. In the mid sixties when fans started hailing him as “the voice of a generation” his reaction was characteristically nonchalant. It was clear that he did not identify with the moniker, and shortly after reaching the peak of his fame, he dropped off the face of the earth following a mysterious motorcycle accident. It later came out,  in his autobiography Chronicles Volume 1 (a highly recommended read) that he recovered quicker than he let on–the crash was a welcomed excuse to fade off the grid and embrace family life. What lesson can we learn from this? Leave Dylan alone. He doesn’t need our praise, nor does he want it. I would not be surprised if he chose to stay home for his Nobel ceremony on November 10th.

Still, I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t say that I think he absolutely deserves the award. Because the founder of the prize, Alfred Nobel, made his fortune in armaments dealing, it would be pretty ironic for the guy who penned “Masters of War” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” to accept the money. Many highly educated people, including Will Self and Pierre Assouline are calling for Dylan to reject the prize, as reported in The Guardian. In all likelihood, they will get what they want.

Dylan himself said, “I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.” And I, for one, will be damned if I remain silent in response to accusations that Dylan did not suffer for his art like “real” poets. What is a real poet anyone? If anyone has made sacrifices for what they believe in, it’s Bob Dylan. End of story.

After traveling the country on Dylan’s shirt tails, I have come to perceive seemingly trivial things as having a purpose. A long, lonesome road is no longer aimless, but is now the path to limitless possibilities. It seems to me that if a scruffy, baby-faced boy can skyrocket from nothing to everything just by the power of his words, there just may be hope for the rest of us, too.

Margeaux Sippell, Intern
Sources: The Guardian, Chronicles Volume 1


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