B dylan 1996Bob Dylan is one of my all-time favorite artists. I love the inventiveness, passion, poetry and humor of his writing. I love the way he sings his heart out. I love his recreation of old blues and folk songs and even chestnuts like Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times.” Most of all, I love the way he keeps recreating his own songs, pulling something new out of a song he’s performed hundreds of times. During the time I was married to a Dylan fanatic, I went to about twenty shows, maybe more, of “The Neverending Tour.” It’s still going. Bob is still going, here on his 70th birthday.

(As a side note to those interested in the “contemporary music in worship” conversation: now you know why today’s young adults do not think of Bob Dylan’s music as contemporary. Yes, he’s still performing and releasing new songs, but not only are his most famous songs decades old, also, look at the math: he’s the age of their grandparents.)

I was going to write about a few favorite songs, and maybe I will now and then, but not tonight.  I’ll just quote some of the best words I ever heard about Bob Dylan, said by Bruce Springsteen (no slouch with the English language himself) at Dylan’s induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

The first time I ever heard Bob Dylan, I was in the car with my mother listening to WMCA and on came that snare shot that sounded like someone’d kicked open the door to your mind: “Like a Rolling Stone.” My mother–she was no stiff with rock ‘n’ roll, she liked the music–sat there for a minute and then looked at me and said, “That guy can’t sing.” But I knew she was wrong . . . Dylan was a revolutionary. Bob freed your mind the way Elvis freed your body. He showed us that just because the music was innately physical did not mean that it was anti-intellectual. He had the vision and the talent to make a pop song that contained the whole world . . . .

To this day, whenever great rock music is being made, there is the shadow of Bob Dylan. Bob’s own modern work has gone unjustly underappreciated because it’s had to stand in that shadow. If there was a young guy out there, writing the Empire Burlesque album, writing “Every Grain of Sand,” they’d be calling him the new Bob Dylan.

About three months ago, I was watching the Rolling Stone Special on TV. Bob came on and he was in a real cranky mood. He was kind of bitchin’ and moanin’ about how his fans come up to him on the street and treat him like a long lost brother or something, even though they don’t know him. Now speaking as a fan, when I was fifteen and I heard “Like a Rolling Stone,” I heard a guy who had the guts to take on the whole world and who made me feel like I had to too. Maybe some people misunderstood that voice as saying that somehow Bob was going to do the job for them, but as we grow older, we learn that there isn’t anybody out there who can do that job for anybody else. So I’m just here tonight to say thanks, to say that I wouldn’t be here without you, to say that there isn’t a soul in this room who does not owe you his thanks, and to steal a line from one of your songs–whether you like it or not–“You was the brother that I never had.”

Today someone asked me what my favorite Dylan album was. That was pretty tough. This is easier: I’ll list 70 of my favorite Dylan songs instead, quickly and without thinking too much. Serious fans may notice that I don’t name anything since Time Out of Mind (1997), which is because I haven’t gotten an album since then (well, I just acquired Modern Times, but I don’t really know it yet). Long story, but it isn’t due to my having lost my taste for Dylan.

So, 70 songs (mostly but not only written by Dylan), with a happy birthday to Bob and hope for many returns of the day.

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
Angelina
Ballad of Hollis Brown
Blind Willie McTell
Blood in My Eyes
Blowin’ in the Wind
Bob Dylan’s Dream
Boots of Spanish Leather
Buckets of Rain
Changing of the Guards
Clean-Cut Kid
Dark Eyes
Desolation Row
Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight
Every Grain of Sand
Everything is Broken
Forever Young
4th Time Around
God Knows
Going, Going, Gone
Hard Times
He Was a Friend of Mine
Highway 61 Revisited
Hurricane
I and I
I Believe in You
Idiot Wind
I’ll Keep It with Mine
I’m Not There
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
Like a Rolling Stone
Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
Lone Pilgrim
Lord Protect My Child
Love Minus Zero / No Limit
Maggie’s Farm
Man in the Long Black Coat
Man of Constant Sorrow
Meet Me in the Morning (and its earlier incarnation, Call Letter Blues)
Most of the Time
Motorpsycho Nightmare
Never Say Goodbye
New Pony
Not Dark Yet
One Too Many Mornings
Precious Angel
Queen Jane Approximately
Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)
Rank Strangers to Me
Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)
Series of Dreams
Seven Curses
She Belongs to Me
Shooting Star
Simple Twist of Fate
Someone’s Got a Hold of My Heart (and its other version, Tight Connection to My Heart [Has Anybody Seen My Love])
Spanish Harlem Incident
Talkin’ World War III Blues
Tangled Up in Blue
Tears of Rage
10,000 Men
To Ramona
Two Soldiers
Under Your Spell
We Better Talk This Over
When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky
Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)
With God on Our Side
World Gone Wrong
You’re Gonna Quit Me

Got a favorite Dylan song that is or isn’t on here?  I’d love to know which ones you love and why.

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