(or, Writing 70 Reasons is a Long Time)
By Chris Moore & Nicole Fekete:
Unlike just about every other Dylan article in existence (some of mine included), we’re going to resist the urge to rattle off some witty Dylan-themed puns and cut directly to the point.
Bob Dylan is 70 today!
It’s a bit odd for me to accept that my all-time rock music icon is a septuagenarian, but, even at seventy, Dylan is still making headlines, unpeeling yet more layers of the so-called Never-Ending Tour with a top notch band, and releasing new material at a surprising rate.
Tonight, in no particular order, we celebrate Bob Dylan — holder of the record for most songs by a single artist covered at the Laptop Sessions (63) — for being awesome, for…
1) Coining the phrase, “Keep a good head and carry a light bulb,” after carrying an over-sized light bulb to a press conference.
2) “Going electric” and doing so at maximum volume.
3) Sneaking marijuana innuendo into the major radio hit, “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.”
4) Getting arrested for looking like a hobo.
5) Spawning co-founding Wallflower and outstanding lyricist Jakob Dylan.
6) Inspiring, in his words, a gazillion books.
7) Remembering words when high, yet forgetting when sober.
8 ) Assembling what is perhaps the first creative, true music video in “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in the opening credits of Don’t Look Back.
9) And for including Allen Ginsberg in it!
10) Having the bitchin’-est background singers around.
11) And for becoming romantically involved with each of them.
12) Coming out with a self-proclaimed terrible album to shirk attention and shed devotees (Self Portrait).
13) Being (one of?) the most covered artists of all time.
14) Having a song called “The Cough Song” (“Suze”).
15) Punning off stoned while being stoned.
16) Dropping my favorite f-bomb of all time (“Play effin loud!” live in 1966).
17) Recording the only country album by someone other than Johnny Cash that I enjoy (Nashville Skyline).
18) Being friends and dueting with Johnny Cash.
19) Being friends and dueting with George Harrison.
20) Making the first Traveling Wilburys session possible.
21) Taking the lead role on Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 3.
22) Writing popular rock songs that feature lumberjacks, sword swallowers, and one-eyed midgets.
23) Inspiring a song about his beard (Wilco’s “Bob Dylan’s Beard”).
24) Busting out a song like “Billy 1” from the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid for the first time live in concert… nearly four decades after it was released.
25) Inspiring that National Lampoon parody song about the “spangled dwarf in his bowtie.” (And the infantry don’t ask why!)
26) Walking off the Ed Sullivan Show when he was prohibited from playing “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues.”
27) Writing Chronicles, Volume 1.
28) Giving us hope that there’ll be a volume two!
29) Rearranging any song from his catalog as though it were the year 1942.
30) Giving the Byrds the boost they needed to truly hit it big.
31) Conceptualizing the Rolling Thunder Revue.
32) Composing some of the most notable protest songs in American history.
33) Avoiding titles like “voice of a generation.”
34) Playing “Oh Sister” at the Hard Rain (1976) concert in response to a request that he play a protest song.
35) Continuing to write subversive protest songs throughout every period of his career (“Gonna Change My Way of Thinking,” “Neighborhood Bully,” etc.).
36) Recording what is perhaps one of his best albums at the age of 59.
37) Being in the midst of a Never-Ending Tour.
38) Playing with the Band, which is best when working with Dylan.
39) Still knowing how to rock out. (see: the version of “High Water” on Tell Tale Signs)
40) “Oh, Mama, can this really be the end? / To be stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues again…”
41) For recording “Spirit of America” with Brian Wilson!
42) Surprising everyone with Christmas in the Heart, the creepy, raspy-voiced curmudgeon’s guide to yuletide tunes.
43) Inspiring a fairly uninspired collection of covers titled Tangled Up in Blues.
44) Inspiring that most ridiculous of cover collections titled Tangled Up in Bluegrass.
45) Sporting a mullet during the only decade that it was even remotely forgivable to do so.
46) Not being ashamed to wear that sequined jacket in the seventies.
47) Developing an aura that led to wild rumors regarding subjects like his legs (amputated in the motorcycle accident?) or the motorcycle accident itself (did it ever even happen?).
48) Recording and writing with the Band (heard of the Basement Tapes, anyone?).
49) Rarely swearing, then dropping just about every swear and slur of his catalog in “Hurricane.”
50) For inspiring controversy over his first performance in China (see: Maureen Dowd’s editorial, Ron Rosenbaum’s reaction on Slate.com, etc.).
51) For becoming deathly ill… right after releasing an album that was all about death… and shortly after saying that the album wasn’t necessarily about death.
52) Writing “All Along the Watchtower” and admitting to the superiority of Jimi Hendrix’s version.
53) Writing “New Pony,” and enabling Jack White and the Dead Weather to create the rare arrangement that, by far, surpasses Dylan’s own.
54) Having one of the wildest rock star heads of hair ever.
55) Introducing the Beatles to drugs. Imagine how the sixties would have been different without that…
56) Transforming and altering the public perception and memory of the Newport Folk Festival.
57) Having more talent in his left jowl than the sum total of most popular contemporary artists.
59) Hardly acknowledging the stage invader during the SOY BOMB incident (1998).
60) Writing “Masters of War” (1963), a song that would eventually (2004) cause the Boulder, CO high school band Coalition for the Willing to be investigated by the Secret Service for allegedly threatening President Bush when alarmists overreacted to the final lines of the song.
61) Releasing an album on September 11, 2001 with an eerily timely amount of twin imagery.
62) Imagining and filming the incredibly lengthy and as-yet unavailable on DVD Renaldo and Clara, yet another artifact from the Rolling Thunder Revue era (the Bootleg Series live album being the premier artifact).
63) Inspiring terms like Dylanologist, Bobolator, and more.
64) Adding sound and voice to a Victoria’s Secret commercial and releasing a limited edition compilation CD via store locations.
65) Writing and recording what is arguably the best “break-up album” of all time. Twice. (see: Blood on the Tracks)
66) Playing lead and soloing during the 1995 MTV Unplugged concert.
67) Inspiring tales such as those told by Highway 61 Revisited-era electric guitarist Mike Bloomfield, the best of which are inappropriate for a family-friendly blog.
68) Accumulating such an impressive vault of alternate versions (most recently, beautiful versions of “Mississippi,” “Most of the Time,” and others have emerged), live tracks, and more.
69) Having the guts to leave his hometown, travel east, change his name, and reinvent himself as an authentic performer and, eventually, songwriter.
70) Living a life that is more the stuff of legends and rock star biographies than any of us will ever experience or even be able to imagine.
This is, admittedly, a limited list. It was developed and written on a whim in one draft, so we encourage you to add reasons via the comment box below.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this, and until next May 24th, a happy Bobby’s B-day to one and all!
P.S. I almost forgot!
71) Inspiring an outstanding website such as Expecting Rain, which enabled my two installments of “Together Through Life: A Look Back at Ten (Officially Released) Bob Dylan Rarities” to earn the record for first and second most views in a single day of any post at LaptopSessions.com!