- Lois Legge is a part-time instructor at University of King’s College School of Journalism. She’s been a features writer for most of her career and a Bob Dylan fan for most of her life.
The drunk woman behind me kept screaming his name.
So I was grateful when security ushered her out of the small Tampa, Florida auditorium.
But I understood the sentiment. I was screaming his name too, quietly, in my head.
To paraphrase Joan Baez, not everyone’s into Bob Dylan but for those of us who are, he runs deep—in my case even when his voice is gone and his version of “Must Be Santa” lives on.
Even when he sings Frank Sinatra songs instead of his own.
Even if he’s impolite, as critics say he’s been, since winning this year’s Nobel Prize for literature. And then declining to attend the December 10 ceremony.
It can be a hard road for we Dylan-defenders. He doesn’t make it easy.
But I’m helpless, as the songwriter says,
like a rich man’s child.
I’ve seen him five times in concert, including that ’80s Florida gig and a rollicking ’90s show in Halifax when he still played guitar and harmonica and tangled us up in blue.
But I’ve been listening to him for longer—since I was a kid and heard about jingle jangle mornings and skipping reels of rhyme.
Money that doesn’t talk it swears.
The foggy ruins of time.
Since then, I’ve listened to thousands of his words, thousands of times—The mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail and a sky that cracked its poems in naked wonder.
An earth that’s strung with lover’s pearls.
A home out in the wind.
But he remains on my playlist more than any other, in all evolutions he cares to share.
The iconics: “Like a Rolling Stone,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”
The songs that double as short stories: “Desolation Row,” “The Ballad of Hollis Brown.”
You looked for work and money
And you walked a rugged mile
Your children are so hungry
They don’t know how to smile.
The primal political screams: “Masters of War,” “It’s alright Ma (I’m only Bleeding).”
From the fool’s mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying
And his under-acknowledged love songs:
I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul—that made me fall in love with words.
So yes, his voice is now a croak.
But he wrote this: In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”
And yes, his mumbling make for easy mocking. But he wrote this:
My love, she speaks like silence
Without ideals or violence
She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful
Yet she’s true, like ice, like fire.
And yes, he shredded “Must Be Santa.” But he wrote this: With your mercury mouth in the missionary times
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes.
So when he receives, in absentia, the Nobel Prize this week, I’ll be happy even if he isn’t, even if he doesn’t say a thing.
It’s not what he doesn’t say that matters, it’s what he’s already said.
I try my best
To be just like I am
But everybody wants you
To be just like them.