Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tangled Up In Dylan

On April 12, 2015, sitting in the Altria Theatre in Richmond, Virgina, my two daughters on either side of me, I watched the greatest voice of a generation for what will most likely be the last time. Almost exactly 40 years ago, in the Beacon Theatre in Boston, I was seven rows from Bob Dylan, watching him for the first time. In-between those two concerts, he and I have lived most of our lifetimes.

Nothing stays the same, it's part of the price of admission to this thing called life. At 73, Dylan comes off as an aged shadow of his former self. At 65, I sit in wonder and respect for a man whose love of his craft has outlived his voice and energy as a performer. Would I pay $77 to sit in the same room as this man for two hours? You bet I would. He can hum and I would be just in awe. (On some of his songs, he should have hummed.)

I have two epiphanies about Dylan and his body of work. First, one of his most popular hits," Mr. Tamborine Man," is a beautiful song about death. As a young man in his early 20's Dylan contemplates his own mortality in a way that only he and I understand. A bond between two strangers, although it's inconceivable that this man could be a stranger in light of how well he understands my heart, and has touched my soul.

The second epiphany is that Tangled Up In Blue is a love song, not about two lovers, but about all of the loves of our life, every damn one of them described by every word and image in the song. It is from this perspective, as you listen to the song over and over again, that a recognition takes hold: Tangled Up In Blue is the preeminent love song of our (children of the 60's) generation.

As a testament to his age, his fatigue, the weariness of Dylan's never ending tour, he is a stanza into Tangled Up In Blue before the audience of 4,000 even realizes that he is singing it. The reaction, and the realization of just how powerful this song is to those of us who have lived that life, one of love, regret and of longing, is that Dylan gets a standing ovation mid-song. Even he had to understand for that one moment just how powerful a poet, folksinger, and in way, mentor that he has been to us.

Songs impact us in different ways, and just as we live our lives along our own imperfect paths, not all songs effect us in the same way. Mr. Tamborine Man and Tangled Up in Blue are just nice songs to some, incoherent rhymes to others, or piercing revelations of love and death to others. It is in this latter circle of aging hippies that I belong and the epiphany of it all is that he wrote these two masterpieces from deep inside of me. How he got there is the story of his greatness.