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Good Enough For Me

May 24, 2016

“The immigrant son left the mining town.
Electrified the traditional
And had it out on Highway 61.

There’s no reason to feel downhearted.
There’s music in the wheels
There to be found.”

– Jay Farrar,
from Afterglow 61

I’ve listened to Bob Dylan’s music since the eighth grade. With odd job and paper route money, I bought The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan LP. I still have that album. So does the US Library of Congress.

Back then, as a matter of course, the public school libraries in our district were stacked with all sorts of treasures. I scoured the magazines articles and books to learn more. Miss Roth, one of my junior high English teachers, seemed thrilled to learn that I listened to Dylan. She encouraged me to check out his The Times They Are A Changin‘. Always one to complete his homework assignments, I did just that. I then worked my way back to Dylan’s first album. Even though Dylan had “gone electric” years before I started listening, I discovered him in his own chronological order, as a folksinger first.

20160524_083230 (3)

The album cover is a bit worn after all these years.

I read criticism of Dylan in one of those books from the junior high school library. One of the catchiest, and something that has stuck with me, was from a English professor at The University of Vermont, Samuel Bogorad:

Anyone who calls Dylan ‘the greatest poet in the US today’ has rocks in his head…having heard him on a record, I can testify that he can’t even sing! Dylan is for the birds and the bird-brained.

By my count, Dylan’s released almost seventy albums. Those, along with a gazillion bootlegs, compilations, tributes, and sit-ins stock my shelves over here. The past few days, I’ve been loop-listening to Fallen Angels, his studio album of mid-century music released last week. If you haven’t heard it yet, try Melancholy Mood.

Having heard Dylan on record and live for more than forty years, I’m not here to argue with Professor Bogorad’s (nor anybody else’s) taste for singers nor his idea of great poetry. I don’t know how he might have changed his view over the years. Maybe he never did.

Some may wonder why I haven’t outgrown Dylan by now. To which I say, it’s just the opposite. He’s still growing on me.

Well, my heart’s in the Highlands at the break of day
Over the hills and far away
There’s a way to get there and I’ll figure it out somehow
But I’m already there in my mind
And that’s good enough for now

– Bob Dylan
from Highlands


From → Life, Music

  1. I’ve been listening to Dylan since I was in grammar school, and I still love him. While I rarely put him on (because I am lazy and listen to Pandora all the time, I am always happy to hear one of his songs. The early years he really couldn’t sing, but his poetry made up for it. Later songs I would argue that his voice mellowed — lay lady lay, for example, is silky. And his gift to music and to all of us is astounding!

    Since Dylan, I’ve found I love a lot of folks who really can’t sing (I studied voice for a while). Janis Joplin and Rod Stewart are just two. But they put something into their music that makes me want to listen to them. They own it and me.

    On the other hand, while I love his songs, Leonard Cohen makes my head explode when he sings his own songs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elyse, I’ve found that I prefer to listen to Dylan when I am ready. It’s on in the background sometimes, but I much prefer it when I am an active listener. As for his voice, it’s all part of the music now. Always has been I guess, no matter what his age.

      Agree on Leonard Cohen, for sure. He can hit pretty hard. Even when somebody else is singing his songs.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I always enjoy your blog. Yesterday’s [or the last one you did] inspired a turn of phrase for me.


  3. Good post, bruce. I have been a Dylan fan for years—in fact I used to have a Graveyard playlist of his tunes on my iPod for late night/early morning work.

    Blood On The Tracks was his high-water mark, album wise, for my money.


    • Agree, Allan. Blood On The Tracks is a masterpiece. Stunning. One has to be prepared before listening to that album. I don’t work off hours anymore, but I can think of a Dylan playlist that would be suitable for that time of the day. I think his Theme Time Radio sing-song DJ sessions would be an ideal choice to carry me through a graveyard shift.


      • A lot of my tunes came off the Freewheelin’ and Highway 61 albums. One of my college roommates had both of them and the Blonde on Blonde album. Great memories of ’66—’67.


  4. “Still growing on me”–great way to put it. Once upon a time I’d thought I’d heard everything from Dylan. Then I listened to “Time Out of Mind” and it made me weep.


    • Time Out of Mind is, if you will excuse me, timeless. If I could only have a small stack of my Dylan albums, that one would make the cut every time.


  5. I still have some of my original Dylan records and have recently wondered if I might enjoy adding to the collection. I think that listening on vinyl amplifies the Dylan experience! Dylan fits into my earliest musical memories and I always appreciated the “popular” songs we heard on the radio, but I went through a stage a few years ago where I listened mostly out of nostalgia and a brand new interest and appreciation was uncovered. So I suppose I could say that he’s “still growing on me,” too! 🙂


  6. Debra, at a minimum, it sounds like he is at least tugging on you. I don’t know where the gaps in your Dylan collection are. If you have your original LPs, then you are probably up through the mid-90’s. May I suggest “Time Out of Mind,” “Together Through Life,” and “Tempest” for some of the post-vinyl years? The “bootleg series” is chock-full of good stuff. I’m not buying new vinyl ($) these days, but I am sure they are available. I think that would be a lovely way to listen to these albums.


  7. While never quite fully my cup ‘o tea, the man has had a profound impact on this here world. A true poet indeed. I’ve always had a soft spot for a good story teller, and there weren’t – and aren’t – many better. Happy 75th, Bobby!


    • I would imagine there are a few holes in the Dylan collection over there. Maybe everything since Desire?

      He does tell a good story. So much so that the storyteller became the story.


  8. Thanks Bruce. A lovely personal tribute to a quintessential American Master. Bob has colonised a great space in my head and heart. Regards Thom


  9. Bob moved in and never left, eh Thom?


  10. Cloudy, stormy day here in Minot, ND, Bruce. A melancholy mood: perfect for the day. –Curt


  11. I absolutely adore Bob Dylan. Thank you for writing this terrific post!


  12. I’ve never felt ‘intelligent’ enough for Bob Dylan’s music. As you say, to listen to it, you really need to LISTEN to it, and I was too busy singing the Beatles verses out loud back in the day. But now that I’m more, ahem, mature, my music taste has widened (not to say that the Beatles aren’t brilliant – they are). After the death of David Bowie and Prince, I’ve listened to their music, really listened, and fallen in love. Perhaps that will happen with me and Bob Dylan. In the meantime, I love the Highland lyrics you shared:
    There’s a way to get there and I’ll figure it out somehow
    But I’m already there in my mind
    And that’s good enough for now
    Yup, that’s wonderful. Really, really wonderful….


  13. Maybe there’s some methodology in how we listen to specific music? Maybe the synthesizers bring us in initially and only later do we discover the bass lines and lyrics. With Bob Dylan, it’s a phrase or three, at least for me and what makes it wonderful is that “they’re selling postcards of the hanging” appears to me after hearing whatever song that line comes from dozens and dozens of times. Maybe it’s due to my short attention span or lack of concentration or simply never bothering to pay attention to all the words or….and this is my romanticized rationalization, I was rationing his words for the dry desert daze of my middle years.


  14. David Dye / The World Cafe offered a 75th birthday tribute to Dylan and I was fascinated by the authors and musicians that were interviewed. I also very much enjoyed Melancholy Mood, thanks for the link.
    While I surely listened to Dylan on the radio, I’ve never owned any of his music on vinyl or CD (I’m sure that is sacrilege to you). What do you recommend as a start?


  15. Perfect song for this rainy day, Bruce. Thanks.

    So I used to think I couldn’t stand Bob Dylan. Then I married a guy who was smitten. With Dylan, that is. Me too I think. 😉 I had to listen to Bob Dylan day in and day out (plus other artists I thought I couldn’t stand, like Neil Young) for a few years until one day, I realized I actually liked the stuff.

    The husband is long gone, but Dylan’s still here. In fact – funny story – I sat in the front row of a Dylan concert in the 90’s at a venue on the infamous University of Vermont campus. Since I had a change of heart, I wonder if the UVM English professor ever did?


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