Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy Birthday to Dylan; favorite lines revisited

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan, and thanks for the words and the music.

The songwriting icon, born Robert Zimmerman on May 24, 1941, has provided me and countless others with songs and verses to map our lives, the ups and downs, with words and phrases, and figures of speech in thousands of verses, hundreds of songs, scores of albums and a lifetime of coolness.

As Bob’s 70th approached, the music and entertainment world counted down to the milestone birthday of the great one, the singer-songwriter who defined several genres of American music and along the way earned his own adjective, “Dylanesque.”

Other people have paid tribute and analyzed the mystery of Dylan’s genius better than I can, in the books and studies and websites devoted to him. For me, a writer and reporter at my core, it is about the language. That’s what Stephen King, a favorite author and Dylan fan himself, said about writing well in his book, “On Writing.” It’s about the language.

In the Dylan cover issue of the Rolling Stone (with an on-line version including RS’s 15 Dylan covers), Bono wrote about Like a Rolling Stone, the number one Dylan song for many. Bono of U2, a pretty cool dude himself, described Like a Rolling Stone as a “song that changes everything.” He called Dylan “the king of spitting fire himself, the juggler of beauty and truth, our own Willy Shakespeare in a polka-dot shirt.”

It’s about the language. My love for Dylan and his songs, I have figured out, is rooted in Dylan’s use of words and phrases, rhymes and verses, to paint us eternal pictures.

Sure, his music is legendary, having created some of the loveliest, funkiest, rocking and impactful melodies in the 20th century. I dare a doubter to listen to Blind Willie McTell, Just Like a Woman, Maggie’s Farm, Gotta Serve Somebody, Tangled Up in Blue, Mr. Tambourine Man and continue doubting. But alas, I am here today not to convert those who don’t get Dylan or care, but to recognize and share the impact his words and verses have had on my life.

There is rarely a situation where I cannot apply Dylan song verses or lines. So instead of counting down my favorite Dylan songs, I offer a short list of favorite lines from Dylan songs. I welcome those who read this to offer their own favorite lines. Also, I reserve the right to add to the list at anytime during Dylan birthday week or month, so here goes.

“You don’t need a weatherman
To know which way the wind blows”

 Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bringing It All Back Home

“Well, my back has been to the wall for so long, it seems like it’s stuck
Why don’t you break my heart one more time just for good luck.”

 Summer Days, Love and Theft

“Some neon lazy slut has charmed away my brains”
“This woman so crazy, I swear I ain't gonna touch another one for years”

 Rollin’ and Tumblin, Modern Times

“I can write you poems, make a strong man lose his mind
I’m no pig without a wig
I hope you treat me kind”

 High Water for Charley Patton, Love and Theft

“When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”

 Like a Rolling Stone (LARS to we Dylan people), Highway 61 Revisited

“When I was down
You just stood there grinning...
You got a lotta nerve
To say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on
The side that’s winning”

 Positively 4th Street

“You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right”

 Don’t Think Twice, FreeWheelin’ Bob Dylan

“People are crazy and times are strange”

 Things Have Changed, The Essential Bob Dylan

“And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl”

 Just Like a Woman, Blonde on Blonde

“I see my light come shining from the west unto the east
Any day now, any day now I shall be released.”

 I Shall be Released, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, 2

“What’s good is bad, what’s bad is good, you’ll find out when you reach the top
You’re on the bottom..”

 Idiot Wind, Blood on The Tracks

“To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to..”

 It’s Alright Ma, Bringing it All Back Home

“May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young…”

 Forever Young, Planet Waves

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