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 80 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.