Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Happy Birthday, Mr. Zimmerman

Bobby Zimmerman (aka, Bob Dylan), one of my all time favorites, is celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday today.

No, not the greatest voice in the world.

But yes, one of the greatest songwriters ever, in a pantheon that includes the likes of George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Carole King, Lennon and McCartney, Marvin Gaye, Bono and U2, Stevie Wonder, Steve Taylor, Bruce Cockburn, Holland, Dozier, and Holland, and Paul Simon, to name a few great popular music composers.

But there is only one Dylan. No one speaks to my heart or challenges my mind like Dylan. And no one so often speaks my heart or mind like Dylan.

The song immediately below originally appeared on Planet Waves, a constantly underestimated Dylan collection put out on David Geffen's label when Dylan was in a contract dispute with his label, Columbia. Love the song--Forever Young--posted earlier today by Howard Wilkinson over on Facebook. (But then I can say that about a lot of Dylan's music.)

I also love--and sing over and over to myself--this Dylan tune from Blood on the Tracks, If You See Her, Say Hello. I prefer the album version, but this one is better than the one Dylan's people let Youtube post as "official." I also prefer the words "If you get close to her..." to Dylan's replacement here of, "If you make love to her..."

But these varied versions just demonstrate how pliantly Dylan views his songs, as he constantly changes lyrics, tunes, tempos, and arrangements. To me, the willingness to change, even to the point of what would some call desecrating one's own work, is a hallmark of a great artist. I tell people all the time, "You're either growing or you're dying." That's why at age 75, Dylan is still younger than contemporary artists who churn out formulaic sounds. Because of this element of his artistry, Dylan can rightly say as he puts it elsewhere, "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."

[Blogger Mark Daniels is the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church, Centerville, Ohio.]

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