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Bob Dylan turns 70: 'I'm younger than that now'

May 23, 2011 | 11:59 pm

Bob Dylan 2009-Kevin Winter Getty Images Bob Dylan 1965 Sony Music Entertainment Inc

 

Somehow, a chorus of “Happy Birthday” just doesn’t cut it for Bob Dylan, the Poet Laureate of his generation, today as he hits the milestone of 70. First and foremost, Bob didn’t write it.

Not surprisingly, the momentous occasion is being observed in many quarters. Rolling Stone magazine has devoted the cover of its latest issue to him, for a story listing the 70 greatest Bob Dylan songs as selected.

Tonight at the Grammy Museum here in Los Angeles, author and historian Sean Wilentz (“Bob Dylan in America”) and journalist-author Mikal Gilmore will lead a musical and philosophical exploration of Dylan’s legacy following a screening of Murray Lerner’s documentary “The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at the Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965."

And—gulp!—AARP magazine, the publication of the American Assn. of Retired Persons, also has a Dylan cover piece in which the editors coaxed Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Judy Collins, Mavis Staples and Martin Scorsese into writing a few words in recognition of their peer/hero and/or friend.

Not to be outdone, Pop & Hiss views the occasion as a chance to offer up a salutary bonus episode of Dylan’s brilliant radio series, “Theme Time Radio Hour.” Number-conscious guy that he is, Dylan signed on with XM (now Sirius XM) satellite radio and delivered exactly 100 shows from 2006-2009, each devoted to a broad swath of songs reflecting a given theme, such as the Devil, Christmas, Cadillacs, Jail. Then it was time for he and those famous boot heels to be wanderin’. (TTRH had still been part of the Sirius XM lineup in reruns until, ironically, this month. It’s been taken off the air to make room for the Earle Bailey show.)

So with all humility, here’s a chronologically organized playlist of 70 minutes’ worth of Dylan songs spanning nearly 50 years, songs that reference various facets of age, a topic that’s surfaced repeatedly in his music over the decades: birth, death, youth, maturity, fate, heaven, hell, existentialism, spirituality, generational differences, paradise, past, present and future.

The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964, from the album "The Times They Are A-Changin’" ) (3:12)

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

My Back Pages (1964, "Another Side of Bob Dylan") (4:23)

Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) (1965, Bringing It all Back Home) (7:29)
He not busy being born is busy dying

Absolutely Sweet Marie (1966, "Blonde on Blonde") (4:54)

Well, I don’t know how it happened
But the riverboat captain, he knows my fate
But ev’rybody else, even yourself
They’re just gonna have to wait

Forever Young (1974, "Planet Waves")  (2:48)

May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young

Buckets of Rain (1976, "Blood On the Tracks")  (3:23)

Life is sad
Life is a bust
All ya can do is do what you must
You do what you must do and ya do it well

Dark Eyes (1985, "Empire Burlesque") (5:06)

Time is short and the days are sweet and passion rules the arrow that flies
A million faces at my feet but all I see are dark eyes

Most of the Time (1989, "Oh Mercy") (5:04)

Most of the time
I’m halfway content
Most of the time
I know exactly where it went
I don’t cheat on myself, I don’t run and hide
Hide from the feelings that are buried inside
I don’t compromise and I don’t pretend
I don’t even care if I ever see her again
Most of the time

Tryin’ To Get to Heaven (1997, "Time Out of Mind")  (5:20)

I’ve been walking that lonesome valley
Trying to get to heaven before they close the door

Not Dark Yet (1997, "Time Out of Mind") (6:27)

Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain
I was born here and I’ll die here against my will
I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still

Summer Days (2001, "Love and Theft") (4:52)

She’s looking into my eyes, she’s holding my hand
She says, “You can’t repeat the past.”
I say, “You can’t? What do you mean,
you can’t? Of course you can.”

Bye and Bye (2001, "Love and Theft") (3:16)

Well the future for me is already a thing of the past

Beyond the Horizon (2006, "Modern Times") (5:34)

Beyond the horizon, behind the sun
At the end of the rainbow life has only begun
In the long hours of twilight 'neath the stardust above
Beyond the horizon it is easy to love

It’s All Good (2009, "Together Through Life") (5:27)

Talk about me babe, if you must
Throw on the dirt, pile on the dust
I'd do the same thing if I could
You know what they say, they say it's all good

That's my show. Pop & Hiss readers are invited to offer up their own additions, substitutions or other recommendations from the deep recesses of the Dylan songbook in honor of the occasion.

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--Randy Lewis

Top left photo: Bob Dylan at the American Film Institute's tribute to Michael Douglas in Culver City in 2009. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images for AFI.

Top right photo: Bob Dylan playing bass during 1965 recording session. Credit: Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

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