This has been a big week. In case I haven’t made this clear; Happy Birthday and many happy returns. If you decide to retire then thank you for what you have done. It has given me so much pleasure to listen to your music from the age of eleven or so. It has been exciting waiting to hear what you will do next and there have been so many great memories.
It also occurs to me that you are seventy years old. I’m 53 and I know by your age I’d like to spend a fair amount of time in my garden, watching some football and doing a bit of painting. Perhaps you too would like to wind down, record and tour no more and spend your days enjoying the Californian sunshine. Who wouldn’t? If you do then rest assured you have my blessing. Anyone who makes one great album is a rare talent. Getting three out there is a wonderful achievement which a few have managed. But managing to make great records over five decades is something else entirely.
In case you were wondering I’d like to say these ones in particular strike me as really great: The Freewhelin’ Bob Dylan, Bringin It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, Blood On The Tracks, Slow Train Comin’, Oh Mercy, Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft and Modern Times. Most artists would be pleased to have so many great songs but you have done so much more. Of course there are many other really great songs – in my opinion one of your greatest – not on these records; With God On Our Side, Knockin on Heaven’s Door, Forever Young, Positively 4th St…I could go on.
However if you do decide to write, record, perform, engage in more prose or broadcast again I, for one would be very happy. I have enjoyed almost everything you have done and where I haven’t enjoyed one project as much as another I have consoled myself with the knowledge that this is how it always is with great artists.
Finally thank you for the less celebrated things you have done: for playing old records on the radio by some great performers, for visiting Neil Young’s house, for finding The Band, for offending folk-musicians, for refusing to be the spokesman for anybody and for continually taking the opposite direction people expect of you.
One final thing. When I was at school people perpetually nagged me because they thought your voice difficult or unformed in some way. Over the last month I have had the mixed pleasure of sifting through many cover versions of your songs. There are some that are good and many that are really unbearable. Eventually they all fail because they don’t have the thing which your own version always has: your voice. You are a great singer and your voice has brought me so much pleasure since I first heard Watching The River Flow on Radio 1 all these years ago.
One last personal thing. I made a long journey last year from Rome to Paris by mini bus. At the time it looked about the worst possible journey to make as we were stuck on land because of the ash cloud over Europe. I had my ipod and I listened and loved your last record, Together Through Life. I played it and I played it again against an increasingly darkening sky and high foreboding Alps. It’s a memory that will live with me forever.
My enjoyment could be repeated millions of times over by the millions who still love your music.
God Bless you Bob,