In two days – May 24, 2014 — Bob Dylan will turn 73.
Well no, actually, I don’t think so.
I think Robert Allen Zimmerman will turn 73, but Bob Dylan? No way.
How can Bob Dylan be 73, when I swear just yesterday I spent several hours listening to the 25-year-old Bob Dylan perform at the Royal Albert Hall in 1966.
And in the days prior to that I listened to the 25-year-old Bob Dylan perform live in Glasgow and Edinburg, and I heard him duet with Joan Baez on “Troubled and I Don’t Know Why” in the fall of 1963.
Just this week you might have watched the 24-year-old Bob Dylan tour the U.K. via the great documentary “Don’t Look Back,” or listened to recordings he made in 1961.
Or those great Rolling Thunder bootlegs from 1976.
You could spend some time with a much younger Bob Dylan, if you were to read Robert Sheldon’s bio, “No Direction Home.”
Or hand with him during time he was hanging out with Joan Baez if you read “Positively Fourth Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina.”
What I am suggesting here, and it’s not my original idea, certainly not, but Bob Dylan is a construct. A conceptual art piece created by a genius known as Robert Zimmerman.
And if Bob Dylan is a work of art – and certainly he is – than even as new versions of him show up on the Never Ending Tour, all of the older versions still exist, at least as long as someone made a video or a film or a recording or wrote a book.
Now I’m not saying that Bob Dylan is a role that Robert Zimmerman plays the way an actor plays a roll in a film.
In a way he does, but it’s so much deeper than that.
We know, however, that the middle class kid who grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota wasn’t an Okie. And he wasn’t a country-western singer. And he wasn’t the Beat/rock ‘n’ roll dude with wild hair, shades and leather jacket who showed up sometime in 1965.
Yet when the character known as Bob Dylan arrived up in New York in 1961 he spoke like the Woody Guthrie fan that he was, looked like he’d been hoboing around the country, and he told tall tales of a youth that he certainly never lived.
It has been said before, said more eloquently, that fiction is a means for getting to a deeper truth than non-fiction.
The Bob Dylan character that Robert Zimmerman created has shared many, many deep truths with us. He’s written hundreds of songs, and most of them are damn good. He’s enriched our lives in so many ways.
Somewhere in the world, Robert Allen Zimmerman is going to turn 73 on May 24, 2014. As for Bob Dylan, who knows.
So me, I’m wishing Robert Zimmmerman a very, very happy birthday, and I thank him for creating Bob Dylan.
[In August of this year I’ll be publishing my rock ‘n’ roll/ coming-of-age novel, “True Love Scars,” which features a narrator who is obsessed with Bob Dylan. To read the first chapter, head here.]
–- A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-