Updated: May 25, 2021 7:53:49 am
Those who don’t get it just don’t get it. For about six decades, the detractors have insisted that it “isn’t music” or even that so much of what he says (or sings) is trite platitude masquerading as profundity and poetry. But for almost everybody else, across at least three generations, Robert Zimmerman — Bob Dylan — has been all the things he is accused of not being, and so much more. Dylan turned 80 on May 24, and the reclusive songwriter is indeed Mr Tambourine Man.
So, what does Dylan sing about? The answer, of course, is Blowin’ in the Wind. For those who have admired his words, the assumption — given his reclusiveness in an age where everyone and their uncle is an “influencer” — has to be, whatever drives him in the moment, which is so often bigger than himself. At the beginning of his career, in the early 1960s, he was just another folk singer with an interesting voice. But as the disillusionment and hope of the ’60s and ’70s began to take root, Dylan turned both chronicler and prophet. He told the world “The Times, They Are a’ Changin”. Since then, he has been poet and musician for various causes, he has written with ease, wit and wisdom and sung about travel, loneliness, sex, love, politics and morality.
At 80, Dylan no longer strums the guitar as much he did — arthritis has forced him onto a piano. His is a life well-lived — a Nobel prize acknowledged his legacy, the payment of $300 million for his back catalogue affirmed his market value. Yet, he still plays music and writes. In a year when the world has lost so many people too soon, when the ways in which we live and work and love have altered fundamentally, there is great comfort in knowing that somewhere in America, Robert Zimmerman endures.
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