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Christmas Letter to an Old Friend
Anyhooby, we’re all good here. Ruthie pulled a twofer this summer—finished school and married Ben, pretty much on the same day. You’ll be happy to hear that Ben has accepted the responsibility of keeping music at the center of our little family. What about Jakob? Looked like the Wallflowers’ reunion album did well. And touring with Clapton? Helloooo. Of course, none of that changes the fact that you have a child who’s 45 years old.
So I was just recently watching that YouTube video of “Forever Young” and you know how it has that clip of you meeting the Pope? I get such a kick out of that. Just wish my parents could’ve been around to see it. “I can’t believe you listen to that whining.” Lordy. How many of us kids had to hear their parents utter that galling pronouncement. Well, they’re all gone, and here you are, still rocking the free world, and while you’re at it, meeting popes and presidents and collecting all manner of medals and shit. Thank you. Our vindication has been complete.
But it was never really about the fame and fanciness, was it, Bob? At least not entirely, right? I don’t want to get all sentimental on you, but you were singing songs in the ‘60s that made a difference in how a generation—my generation—saw the world. Still sees the world.
Remember “Oxford Town”?
Oxford town just about noon
Everybody singing a sad tune
Two men died ‘neath the Mississippi moon
Somebody better investigate soon
Nineteen sixty-three, Bob. You and Suze on the cover of Freewheelin’. I was in tenth grade, man. Did not know shit. Or off the same album, dropped in the middle of one of your funniest songs:
I was out there paintin’ on the old wood shed
When a can of black paint it fell on my head
I went down to scrub and rub
But I had to sit in back of the tub
Then, just a year later, “Only a Pawn in Their Game”? Bob, that was deep. I don’t think there were a whole lot of people looking at Medgar Evers’ murder in just that way. (I’m tempted to observe that the song is even more relevant today, but (a) you know that and (b) no need to get started.)
And with Kennedy deciding keep the dominoes from falling in Southeast Asia, here you came with beauts like “Masters of War” and “With God on Our Side.” Tell you what: if all those parents had ever actually listened, they really would’ve been horrified. But at the same time we got songs like the hilarious “Talkin’ World War III Blues,” with another one of your timeless—and increasingly unheeded—messages: People, stop taking yourselves, and me, so damn seriously.
Okay, okay. I know I’m just embarrassing you. But it’s Christmas, Bob, and I’m in the mood to count blessings. Fifty years’ worth.
Thanks again for the card. So great to hear from you. And next time you come through Atlanta, you better come out here and spend the night.
- Images: Bob Dylan performing for John Paul II by TraditionInAction.org (no attribution provided - email for take down); The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan by Bob Dylan (promotional); (feature image) Bob Dylan performing at St. Lawrence University in New York from the 1964 yearbook - artist unknown via flickr/Creative Commons.