Happy 70th Birthday Robert Zimmerman

“Oh Hann, that guy can’t even sing.” That’s what I usually heard from my parents when I’d start studying or consider buying a Bob Dylan album at whatever music store I dragged them to in exchange for my putting up with their shopping for socks, power tools, and other things generally boring to a teenager. I was maybe 15 years old. I’d been studying guitar for two years, fallen in love with the Beatles, and immersed myself in finding out where it all came from. Folk music…that seemed like my kinda thing. This Bob Dylan guy seemed like my kinda songwriter, at least from all of the books and articles I was reading. Then there were the folks who poked fun at his singing ability. So I hesitated on adding his CDs to my growing collection. At this point, any bit of money I earned went to CDs and guitar strings. When my parents cautioned about spending my dollars on Dylan, I listened…until that one day. It was one of those big trips to a Sam’s Club in Harrisburg. While my parents went off loading the shopping cart with enough toilet paper and soap to last five years, I checked out the discount CDs. There they were, three Bob Dylan albums all packaged together at a killer price: Freewheelin’, Another Side Of, and The Times They Are A-Changin’. This time my parents just raised eyebrows and said something along the lines of “It’s your money.” Yes, it was! and for that matter, what did my parents listen to? My dad replayed the same Peter Cetera song over and over most of the time. (No offense to my folks. I love them, but music might not be their strong suit.) I bought the set. I got home. I listened. I searched for the pieces of my mind that were blown away later. All three albums were from a young Dylan. His voice was still very clear and tender, but it wasn’t that. It was the lyrics. Finally, I found an artist with even MORE to say. The songs didn’t have to be pretty or entertaining. Thank goodness, because I was neither as well. So began a long love affair with the work of Robert “Bob Dylan” Zimmerman. Happy birthday you horrible singer.

One Reply to “Happy 70th Birthday Robert Zimmerman”

  1. Finally saw Bob Dylan in concert at the BJC last winter and, as I expected, I wasn’t that impressed. His concert presence has never been his strong suit. But between Dylan and Neil Young (my other favorite) alot of the best lyrics of the last 50 years are covered. My voice matches up better to Neil Young (I’ve been accused of channeling Young when I’m singing songs off Harvest Moon), but I love doing some of Dylan’s, too, just because they’re lyrics you can wrap your soul around while you sing them. “I Shall Be Released”, for example. Or the little known “Dignity”. I’d love to help pull together a Bob Dylan/Neil Young tribute music festival in Millheim sometime. Multiple venues of all sizes – Elk Creek, The Green Drake, The IngleBean, the old theatre they’re working on re-opening down Penn Street, and lots of artists, but only covering Dylan and Young. We could call it the “Highway 45 Revisited Harvest Festival”! No clue what the logistics would be like, but what do you think?

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