It was the spring of 1966 and I was a callow youth attending a brand new university called SFU, or Snafu, as UBC students derisively referred to it. No matter. I was young. I had my first university girlfriend and we were going to a concert to hear a folk-come-rock singer I had barely heard of – Bob Dylan.
My girlfriend, a dark-haired beauty, who looked really cute in her trademark, leather Mao cap, was a poet of sorts and had been sending Dylan poems detailing her romantic anguish while I was still heavily into Robert Service and the Cremation of Sam McGee. No matter! She did look cute in that Mao cap.
Anyway, the venue was the PNE Agrodome, a performing space built for Clydesdale horses, Lipizzan Stallions and the like and there was a distinct horsey smell in the air, but this mattered not a whit to my girlfriend because she was there to see God – and as far as song-writing goes – she was probably right. Me? I was along for the ride, but that soon changed.
Little did I realize at the time but we were there at probably the most seminal point in Dylan’s fabled career.
The great troubadour from Hibbing, Minnesota had just cut Highway 61 Revisited and for all intents and purposes, had cut his ties to folk music for good and this enraged his original fans who worshipped him as a folkie and could not live with the change. There is a story, likely apocryphal, that at the Newport Folk Festival the year before when the greatest folk icon of them all – Pete Seeger – saw Dylan put down his acoustic guitar and pick up the electric he went looking for an axe to cut the wire. Many of his shocked fans were in tears and in that same year at a concert in Manchester, when Dylan switched from acoustic to electric, one enraged fan screamed out “Judas.”
Dylan’s response? He turned to his bandmates and told them to crank the volume up and broke into “Like a Rolling Stone,” the song recently named by Rolling Stone Magazine the Number One rock song of all time. And the Manchester concert story is not apocryphal. It’s on tape. I’ve heard it.
Anyway, I think it was also in 1966 that Peter, Paul and Mary covered Dylan’s classic ‘Blowin’ In The Wind,’ probably the most eloquent and passionate piece against war, oppression and injustice ever written. I was hooked. I’ve been a Dylan acolyte ever since.
Now, I don’t say the forgoing lightly. No person in this vale of tears is perfect. Not Bob Dylan. Not yours truly. Not any of the rest of you for that matter. We’re mere mortals, imperfect in so many ways, but that doesn’t mean we can’t aspire to be something better. And that’s what Dylan’s music has always done for me. It has made me try to be better. Try to be a just, compassionate, caring, tolerant and more loving individual. Oh, I’ve failed many times. Still failing for that matter. But damn it, I’m trying. And that’s all you can really do. Failure just means you haven’t given up. Start worrying when you quit trying.
“How many roads most a man walk down
Before you call him a man ?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand ?
Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned ?
The answer my friend is . . . you know the rest.”
Cranbrook, you’d be well advised to take in this show. Dylan may be eccentric and not in good voice anymore – if he ever was – and not exactly a warm and fuzzy entertainer. But he’s a true living legend and the biggest name to ever play our little burg and likely to be the biggest of all time.
Go . . . And you’ll have something to tell your grandchildren.Tags: Bob DylanPerceptions by Gerry Warner
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