One of the greatest poets and entertainers of the song and dance genre turns 70 this month. Bob Dylan has kept fans and critics guessing since he arrived in New York in the early sixties, and continues to do so. In the last two years, he has released a very serious Christmas album, he has been arrested for loitering around the one-time home of Bruce Springsteen, and he has played China and didn’t comment on the government. This last point has recently caused a stink, which if anyone has caught a Bob Dylan show in the last twenty years, then they would know that Dylan doesn’t comment on anything. He doesn’t speak, whether he’s in China or Oklahoma.
Here are my favorite five moments in Dylan history. To me, these moments are the reasons that Dylan is Dylan, besides the music, of course. Where applicable, a link to a video of the event is in the title.
Happy Birthday, Bob!
During his 1998 Grammy performance of “Lovesick,” Dylan’s performance is interrupted on national television by a shirtless, skinny white guy dancing Scott Weiland-style across the stage with Soy Bomb written on his chest. Bob looks at him and goes right back to singing without a hitch. It was a very bizarre moment, which turned hilarious with Dylan’s non-caring reaction.
4. Empire Burlesque
The cover: ‘nuff said. Dylan dives into the deep end of the 1985 cesspool, complete with drum machines and rolled Don Johnson blazer sleeves. “Tight Connection to My Heart” and “When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky” were both very good though, in ‘80’s sorts of ways.
For his documentary on Dylan, No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese included a clip of a very stoned Bob looking at an odd advertisement on the streets of London advertising dog grooming and tobacco. He then begins to rant and mock, rearranging the words and yelling like a madman. The people walking by look genuinely scared. It’s funny, yet in a strange way, it shows the poetic prowess of the mid-sixties Dylan mind. It’s also a clip better seen than described.
Ridiculous questions deserve ridiculous answers. It doesn’t get much more ridiculous than the crazed beatnik with the coonskin cap asking Dylan why he used motorcycle imagery on the cover of Highway 61 Revisited. The entire interview was filmed and recently released on digital video disc (DVD for those in-the-know) and it’s very funny. If you thought Dylan was a strange guy, then take a look at what he had to deal with on a daily basis. He comes out looking very normal.
He was the voice of a generation. He was a poet speaking on behalf of blacks and whites alike. He was the poster child of youth and beatnik ideals and sixties revolution.
And with the plug of a chord, he was the devil. It made kids that believed in openness and equality boo and jeer, it made Pete Seeger wield an axe and consider violence. It caused panic and uproar. How could he do this?
It’s amazing what a leather jacket and a Stratocaster can do at a folk festival. Again, a great DVD was recently released entitled The Other Side of the Mirror documenting this entire event at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
What are your favorite Dylan moments?