I always thought it was strange that you never really dug Bob Dylan.
Especially because a major quality of his music, for me, was how he was reminiscent of you. I thought that if you became a folk protest singer when you were young, you’d make the same allegories and facetious jokes about hunting “reds” that Dylan did in his songs.
His old sound, acoustic and simple, with the hint of Midwestern twang, floods me with images of you growing up in Indiana. In pictures, you were gangly with a funny smile. Dylan had a goofy look about him, too. And I bet if the love of your life left you, you would write romantic and anguished songs about loss, like Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks.”
Listening to Dylan brings me a great and fulfilling sense of inner peace. However, I know that I have yet to achieve inner peace. What can I say? I’m a college student: broke, confused, anxious, in love and heartbroken. I feel like I am in a constant stage of transition, always changing. But when I put Dylan on, I can hear the wisdom and contentment of a gifted man in a simpler time. He sounded whole and genuine, and satisfied with himself. Some called him a traitor, though, when he picked up a Fender Stratocaster, but even now, Dylan does whatever the hell he pleases. Much like you, I think.
Dylan has been a leader of the revolution, a born-again Christian, a cowboy, and I would personally call “It’s Alright Ma” an early stage of hip-hop. There are many sides to him, and you. I suppose that’s why he’s appealing, because nobody’s life is static.
We have epic moments of brilliance (for Dylan, it’s more like epic decades) and we have times of desperation and sadness (like Dylan’s attempt at salvaging his dying marriage in “Sara”). And nobody’s perfect, not even Dylan. If you think about it, he never really did settle down. He’s been through two divorces and more than 30 albums. And now, at age 66, his face and voice seem ancient, worn out from years of pain and pressure. But I’ve seen him twice, on stage and moving his hips. So when I listen to “Modern Times,” I’m listening to an old man, still confident and comfortable behind a microphone. And when I see you, 63 years old, waltzing around the house in Mom’s robe, I’m seeing an old man secure in yellow terrycloth spotted with stars and moons.
Maybe it’s a stretch, trying to relate two old men to a freshman like me. But I don’t think we’re so different. You and Dylan remind me not to take the world too seriously. Because even a poetic, lyrical and musical genius, or a father, can be as troubled and confused as a college student. That doesn’t mean, though, that we have to let it affect who we are.
Sarah Sanders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.