Quiet Desperation

We've come a long way together

He’s been following me for years. Waiting for me around every corner. I can’t get away from him. The truth is I don’t want to.
Bob Dylan was born on May 24, 1941. That means he’ll be 80 years old in a few days.
What I have is an appreciation for an earthly character who sits in front of a typewriter and makes strange and wonderful word connections with life.
There are two ways to take him. One is straight like a shot of rye. His voice, I’m told, is a nasally mutter in concert, but recorded its lack of refinement is perfectly suited for his unique lyrics.
Or you can take him prettied up by others. The first Bob Dylan song I heard performed by someone else was “It Ain’t Me Babe,” by a group called the Turtles.
Others soon followed: Peter Paul and Mary, the Byrds, the Band, Joan Baez, the Beatles, Nina Simone, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix.
And Duke Ellington.
Dylan’s first radio hit, “Like a Rolling Stone,” peaked at number 2 in 1965. Although it didn’t do much for me, there was a lot of it: At six minutes it was twice as long as everything else on Top Forty radio.
Between the release of “The Times They Are a-Changin” in 1964 and “Things Have Changed” in 2000 not a lot did change.
And they still haven’t.
“Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call / Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall / For he that gets hurt / Will be he who has stalled / There’s a battle outside and it’s ragin’ / It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls.”
That could have been written earlier this year.
His folksy fans booed with intolerance when he plugged in his guitar. That was a personal discovery about hypocrisy. One that continues to be sustained in abundance by politicians and priests and countless others.
Half the time I didn’t know what he was talking about. Then I quit wondering and just went along.
“An’ he just smoked my eyelids and punched my cigarette.”
Bob Dylan? Eighty? It can’t be, but it is.
“Your debutante just knows what you need, but I know what you want.”
Half a dozen songs of his songs make me put down whatever I am doing and listen.
“Memphis Blues Again” is one. The lyrics make no sense. But I quote them to someone if it’s only to myself all the time.
The end of the song is an unexpected perfection about any experience we go through that we don’t want to repeat.
“An’ here I sit so patiently / Waiting to find out what price / You have to pay to get out of / Going through all these things twice.”
In 1959, singer Bobby Vee and his band the Shadows were looking for a piano player. Dylan introduced himself as Elston Gunnn (yes: three “n’s”), and said he had just gotten off the road with Conway Twitty.
Gunnn didn’t own a piano and played on one that was out of tune. Eventually, Vee decided the band couldn’t afford him and Gunnn left.
In 2013, three years before Vee’s death, Dylan sang Vee’s “Suzie Baby” as a tribute.
We separated for a while after his motorcycle accident and again during his born-again period (1979-81). But since then it’s been like old times and good.
Some people get into your life and stay there. If you’re lucky.
Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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