When I was young I liked Bob Dylan okay. Blowin In The Wind. Subterranean Homesick Blues. All Along the Watchtower. Rainy Day Women. Mr. Tambourine Man. But, I would not have walked across the street to see him for free - until the day Bob Dylan came to the Topeka Performing Arts Center and Bill Stewart asked me to go. I was fully expecting an incoherent concert from a crazy old burnt-out has-been. Bob's voice was as horrible as ever, but his music was as good as ever. Even better. The musicians were excellent. It was gooooooood!
The best thing about that Bob Dylan concert was simply being there for it. Topeka had just opened the TPAC. It was clean and carpeted and about as high brow as it is ever going to get in Topeka.... but Bob Dylan?! Come on, now!
No smoking. No drinking. No eating. No putting your feet on the seats in front. An army of old folks in green blazers stationed at each section quite cheerfully, but FIRMLY, insisted people put their feet down, and not bring drinks into the seats.
Bill and I were a pair, two old hippies for certain. To this day, we wear our hair long, to our waists. We found our seats and looked around while the house lights were up. ALL of us old hippies were smiling goof balls as we spotted one another in the crowd. We were all thinking the same thing: the first concert ever with no joints making the rounds after the lights dimmed! We were all remembering what we were doing when we first heard Bob Dylan - Vietnam war, maybe antiwar demonstrations, Joan Baez, bell bottoms, college, young and beautiful. Well, we made it to middle age after all, and ol' Bob was still with us.
There were people of all ages at that concert and I enjoyed every moment of it. I rediscovered Bob Dylan. I realized by that time in my life, I had enough experience to actually understand what the hell Bob was really singing about.
I purchased my first Bob Dylan music after that concert. I started with the early material and worked my way forward.
When my mother died a few years ago, I spent hours listening to "Mr Tambourine Man". The comfort in that song I needed. Back in the day, people thought it referred to drug induced experiences, but I know it is about dying.
"Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind,
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves,
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach,
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow.
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow."**
I had hoped to ask my friend to sing "Mr. Tambourine Man" at my mother's funeral. Vicky's voice is as clear as the blue sky. It would have been a beautiful farewell to my mother. I was not sure my stepfather would have tolerated a Bob Dylan song. Best to just get along and let it go.
I went to a psychic not long after Mom's death. I had no intention of asking anything about my mother - she just got over there! But Mom had some information for me. The last thing, the psychic raised two fingers, waving her hand. "I see your mother doing this. Do you understand?"
I understood Mom was letting me know she was "dancing with one hand waving free". If she knew about that, then she also knew about my unspoken wish for Vicky to sing.
Yes, indeed, I "get" Bob Dylan now.
**I like ol' Bob a lot, but he did sue Hootie and the Blowfish for referring to his lyrics in their song 'Only Want To Be With You", so here is the legal info, just in case: copyright 1964 by Bob Dylan.