Bob Dylan at 80

Chris McDonnell pens a tribute to Bob Dylan on his 80th Birthday.

Drawing by Irish rock legend, Rory Gallagher. Copyright Strange Music Ltd.

Dylan at 80

24 May 1941

We were both born in the month of May

in the early war-year of ‘41.

Each of us has lived a singular story,

of days spent in the warming sun.

Walking the streets of childhood

Foot fall on smooth, worn stones

Growing stronger day by day

the gathering of bones.

No, no, no,

it ain’t me babe

It ain’t me you’re

lookin’ for babe.

You sang the 60s into life

told the ballad of those cold-war days

Called-out words from blinded eyes

tested life’s uncertain ways.

Your voiced guitar, a steady gaze

that gave song words wider vision

in a new-found time of consequence

without the necessary permission.

The answer my friend

is blowin’ in the wind,

the answer is blowin’

in the wind.

The band played on, the voice grew hoarse

as you sang around from place to place,

assembled words in strings and loops

harmonica pressed tight to face.

My own story is simply told

in broken words and half-formed lines

shaped the way my crafted tales

cut the stone from my poor mine.

Come gather ’round people

wherever you roam
And admit that the waters

around you have grown

The changing echo of passing years

the challenging voice of stage-sung chords

the never-ending tour from here to there

as chorus words defied threatening swords.

Cradle each rich-soiled song in open, hollow hands

pause between words and reflect on meaning

in these fading twilight years, rest awhile

but keep on dreaming.

Chris McDonnell


Because the comments are closed on this story, Paddy Ferry’s comment is being inserted here:

Comment from Paddy Ferry:
Bob Dylan at 80.
Soline, thank you for sharing Frank McNally’s article. I am always surprised when something really significant on this site passes without comment and Bob Dylan at 80 is certainly significant. ( I have placed an order for Liamy’s book.)

I have a friend here in Edinburgh who has seen Bob in concert 6 times, once in America, which left me really impressed. However, to read in that Irish Times article that there are those who have seen him one hundred or up to two hundred times is truly remarkable.

I have seen him only once, here in the Playhouse in Edinburgh about twenty years ago. My favourite Dylan song is Mr. Tambourine Man–the Byrds’ version –and that would be in my top three favourite contemporary “pop” songs of all times. It’s position in my top 3 does vary from time to time. There is that wonderful clip of Bob first performing it at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964, I think, which comes up on my FB page from time to time. However, that night in the Playhouse he absolutely slaughtered the great song. His voice was in particularly poor shape that night. It is hard to believe that Mr. Tambourine Man is the only Dylan written single to reach No.1 on either side of the Atlantic.

I wonder is there any mention in Liamy’s book of Bob’s great hero and inspiration, Dylan Thomas spending the summer of 1935 writing poetry in Co. Donegal near Glencolmcille. It might well be that there is a Donegal connection here and, perhaps, the poetry that most inspired Bob was written in Donegal. There could well be a significant Donegal influence in this whole story.

My old friend, the late Keith O’Brien received his Honorary Doctorate from St, Andrew’s University the same day that Bob received his. Keith was most unimpressed by Bob’s sullen, disinterested demeanour. I explained to Keith that geniuses are allowed to behave like that and that Bob Dylan is a genius. Keith did not really buy that one.

I heard Bob once explain how easy he found writing rhyming couplets. More important than the poetry is the reflective, insightful message it usually contains, anthems for a generation.
Bob can so easily nail it in one or two succinct lines.

I was reading Derek Scally’s book The Best Catholics in the World when much was being written in the lead up to Bob’s birthday.
One of the major themes in Derek’s book is the whole issue of collective guilt in the country; who knew what, how much was known and who knew what not to know and so on.
There is a significant line in one of Dylan’s greatest songs, Blowin’ in the Wind: “How many times can a man ( or woman) turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see …..”


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