Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Happy Birthday, Bob!

Unless you live under a rock or in a cave, you probably know that it’s Bob Dylan’s 70th Birthday today. I’m a huge Dylan fan; he’s without doubt my favourite artist. I’m a relatively recent convert though in many respects, having always had a few records from about aged 16 onwards, but not really a true fan. It was only when I read ‘Chronicles, Vol 1’, his stunning 2003 autobiography that I decided to listen more seriously. I remember putting the book down when I had finished and thought, ‘I’ve just got to go and listen to this man’s records’. So I decided to start at the start and buy the very first LP and proceed from there and plug the gaps of the few Dylan records I had. It’s been an amazing journey so far (though I have currently stalled at the Eighties, which I think most people did!), and he is an artist whose music goes incredibly deep if you open up to it, much more than anyone else I have listened to.

This is why I am such a fan these days. So much so in fact, that every couple of months I meet up with a group of friends in a pub in Birmingham to discuss all things Bob. I’m a fan, but these guys, all about ten years older and more than me, are seriously hardcore. They often regularly follow him around the country on his British tours, like so many of his followers, fascinated by his famously unpredictable and exciting live shows. I’ve been to a few myself now, and they possess a great edge and unpredictable nature. You couldn’t describe this about many artists of Bob’s age or with his iconic reputation. He doesn’t on the surface seem to give two hoots about his ‘reputation’, which is what distinguishes more as a true artist, and why he is able to still keep his music fresh, supple and alive, particularly in performance.

It only seems fitting that I had to write something today on the blog, but there is so much currently in the media and on the TV and radio, that I don’t think I could even attempt to write anything that hasn’t been said in a more interesting way by someone somewhere just now. It says so much about the importance of Dylan just how much his birthday is being covered everywhere- I can’t think of any other musician who would receive this sort of exposure . It probably seems more appropriate therefore that I say something about his paintings and drawings that have been exhibited widely in the last few years. There is an awful commercial gallery in Birmingham, Castle Fine Art, that sells the most dreadful work, but also some of Bob’s prints which seem very incongruous amongst this other stuff. I often find myself popping in when I pass on the way to Ikon. I really love them.

They have a wonderful, poetic quality that is all Dylan’s own, despite the range of influences that you can see: from Max Beckmann to Chaim Soutine, two other artist’s I really love. I think I especially like the way he intimately takes you into hotel rooms and balconies peopled by curvy girlfriends, or into parking lots and diners on the road. Despite the seeming mundanity of the subjects they possess a mystery and inscrutability, much like Bob himself. They also have a great deal of humour and are observed with that sharp glint in the eye that he has (the one of the large bottomed lady in the bar in Blackpool makes me smile and says much about Bob’s reputation as a ladies man).

Q `I’ve been playing Bob in class most of the day, and telling the students that they should all listen to some of his music today. These suggestions were met with rather blank expressions…I'm not worried though. Even if his music won't live on with the students at JCC, I know it will live on everywhere else...

Happy Birthday, Bob!

1 comment:

Tim Alexander said...

He just was the best, I love his music and his films, he was the best.
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