Today, Bob Dylan Achieved The Highest Honour In The Literary World. Couldn’t Have Happened To A More Worthy Soul.
In the late winter of 1965, I was walking home from visiting a girlfriend in the south end of Fort Erie, where I grew up. A fresh snowfall had just hit and I was walking down the middle of a side street with a small transistor radio on my shoulder pointed at my left ear,
I was listening to KB radio or WKBW in Buffalo, the station where I first heard the Beatles and Rolling Stones.
The disc jockey…it could have been Dan Neverath, announced that he was going to play a new release and would really like to hear from listeners, because, in his opinion at least, this artist was very unique and special.
Without further ado the now all too familiar organ & guitar chords of Like A Rolling Stone started to play.
I was immediately mesmerized. This was unlike anything I had ever heard before on the radio. The voice was high pitched and nasal sounding which kind of forced you to listen to the words. I didn’t know anything about writing back then. I only knew that what I was hearing was something really special
Over the weeks to come, this song would put this artist whose name was Bob Dylan, on the music map.
The radio personalities at KB were very curious about him.
Apparently he came from Minnesota, up near the Canadian border, and worked his way to New York City singing folk and protest songs in coffeehouses. His idol was Woody Guthrie.
Soon after arriving in New York he quickly became part of the flourishing folk scene there and was eventually ‘discovered’ by legendary Columbia Records producer, John Hammond.
A couple of years later, I had just moved to Toronto by way of Ottawa where I spent a year and a half and the first of two years in grade 13. I had a part time job working for United Cigar Stores and the first three Bob Dylan albums which I played to death.
Around this time, I started to be able to find out more about Mr Dylan, because there was a new magazine called Rolling Stone, (coincidence, I think not), that wrote about him a lot.
I devoured every bit of information I could get about Dylan, and while he was not the only artist I listened to, he was definitely the one who spoke to me in the strongest language.
His songs where like impressionist paintings. They taught be more about irony, metaphor, allegory and other literary devices than all the English classes I had ever attended.
But the most important thing that Bob Dylan did was inspire me. He inspired me to sit down with a pen and corral on paper all the thoughts and ideas that were floating around in my head.
For better or for worse, and a lot more the latter than the former, I took the first baby steps to becoming what I would be for the rest of my life.
So you could say, I owe Bob Dylan a hell of a lot.
My fan-to-artist relationship with Bob Dylan has stayed strong over the years. I have owned every record he has ever created or had anything to do with. I have seen every film and documentary and interview. I have read almost every article written about him, I have read the first volume of his biography, and I have been fortunate enough to have spent about half an hour alone with him in the late 1970s, mostly talking about architecture and living on the road.
There are a lot of artists and writers I respect and admire. But there is only one at the top of that heap.
When I found out this morning from my sister, and a Facebook friend named Katherine Hollinsworth, that Dylan had just received the 2016 Nobel Prize For Literature, it was a moment of pure joy for me as I am sure it was for him.
It’s impossible to measure how many people writing or performing professionally today owe their start to the inspiration that Bob Dylan provided. His genius is and always has been, in my opinion, in a class of its own.
So congratulations, Bob. Now the whole world will know what a lot of us were dead sure of half a century ago.