I can’t say when it occurred to me to write my own songs. I couldn’t have come up with anything comparable or halfway close to the folk song lyrics I was singing to define the way I felt about the world. I guess it happens to you by degrees. You just don’t wake up one day and decide that you need to write songs, especially if you’re a singer who has plenty of them and you’re learning more every day. Opportunities may come along for you to convert something — something that exists into something that didn’t yet. That might be the beginning of it. Sometimes you just want to do things your way, want to see for yourself what lies behind the misty curtain. It’s not like you see songs approaching and invite them in.—Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee—his hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.”—Muhammad Ali, of course
Today is our first day without Muhammad Ali. If the world seems to be off its axis today, I would point to that sad fact.
The photo at top is from the great photographer Ken Regan, who took it backstage at Madison Square Garden on December 8, 1975. Bob Dylan had brought his Rolling Thunder Revue to New York City and Ali joined the parade of well-wishers.
Regan wrote, “Ali had brought Bob a giant boxing glove that was about as big as Bob; just the right, spontaneous, quirky touch that captured the spirit of the Rolling Thunder Revue.” You can see the pair of gloves and a silk robe on the bench between them. Ali is finishing off an apple and Dylan appears almost kid-like in glee. Even Bob Dylan seemed to regard Muhammad Ali as “really famous.”
On February 20, 1991, Bob Dylan (who turns 77 today) was handed a Grammy “Lifetime Achievement Award” by Jack Nicholson. (Will they grant him a second one soon? The man is still working, after all.)
Dylan in 1991 was beginning to receive the oldies act treatment, and he did not appear to enjoy this fact even one little bit. Since 1991: he has released ten albums, the most recent one of which came out on May 20 of this year; has performed a hundred or more live concerts each year on what critics decided to call his “Never-Ending Tour” around 1988; released a dozen box sets from his “bootleg” series; and publish an award-winning volume of his memoirs. Oh! And there are his many paintings and twisted-iron sculptures, some of which he debuted three years ago.
Bob Dylan turns 74 today.
On February 20, 1991, Dylan was handed a Grammy “Lifetime Achievement Award” by Jack Nicholson. (Will they grant him a second one soon? The man is still working, after all.) Dylan in 1991 was beginning to receive the oldies act treatment and he did not appear to enjoy this fact even a little bit. Since 1991: nine albums, a hundred or more live performances every year on what critics decided to call his “Neverending Tour,” a dozen releases from his bootleg series. And his paintings and twisted-iron sculpture series, which he debuted two years ago.
Bob Dylan turns 73 today.
On February 20, 1991, Dylan was handed a Grammy “Lifetime Achievement Award” (will they grant him a second one in a few years? the man is still working) by Jack Nicholson. The First Gulf War was underway and there was no threat of protest or off-message anti-war messages from the show business crowd attending. (That war went very very well, if you recall.) So Dylan and his band played a violent version of his song “Masters of War,” sadly unrecognizable from his unpunctuated singing—would that he had enunciated the lyrics, but Dylan does not do the obvious even when he does the obvious—and then he accepted the cheap plaque (in the clip it looks like something the Grammy people bought at a Kinko’s) and delivered a brief speech:
“Well, my daddy, he didn’t leave me much, you know he was a very simple man, but what he did tell me was this, he did say, son, he said.” (There was a long pause, nervous laughter from the crowd.) “He said so many things, you know? He say, you know it’s possible to become so defiled in this world that your own father and mother will abandon you and if that happens, God will always believe in your ability to mend your ways.”
It took him less than a minute, even with his nervous hat fumbling and pauses, but Dylan had just delivered an Old Testament sermon from Psalms 27:10 about the disfigurement of a life spent enslaved to the material things to the bejeweled, genially war-applauding, Hollywood crowd.