Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

For a month now, one of France’s radio stations – France Inter – has been airing a tribute to this celebrated singer-songwriter on Sunday mornings. Going way back to his origins and early work, I and every other listener, have been rediscovering the genius of Bob Dylan.

I admit to feeling baffled when he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. But now that I’ve become better acquainted with his early songs from the 1960s and re-listened to the whole vocal range and span of his repertoire, I agree with the award citation –  “For having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

This morning, while standing at my kitchen table pouring almond milk into my large mug of coffee, this song came on (link way down below.) I turned up the volume and listened with rapt attention. And then, to my utter utter surprise, I began to weep. A flood of memories overwhelmed me and I had to sit down. (Proof that songs really can trigger an emotional response in the listener.) I felt intensely sad. I felt an acute sense of loss: of a past era, a time and place, great great musicians that defined my rebellious teen years and left a huge mark on the artistic landscape. Far away, never to return (except on YouTube). We’ve moved so far from the world I inhabited as a teenager; in some ways a better world, in other ways worse. Much worse.

And to be replaced by what? By who? Who are our role models and heroes today? I can’t think of a single person. (If someone can offer up a name, please share.)

The funny thing is that I was never a Bob Dylan fan. A mere child in the 1960s, I was busy listening to Sparky’s Magic Piano on the record player. Oh, how I loved Sparky. In the early 1970s I was into Cat Stevens, Simon & Garfunkel and The Beatles, of course.

Through my window I could see passers-by on the street glancing up to my apartment; startled, I guess, to hear this artist’s signature nasal strains floating out on a quiet Sunday morning.

Dylan’s songs encapsulated not only an era, but his humanity. Listen to the song below, nearly 8 million hits. Turn it up loud and read the lyrics. I initially thought that the lyrics were in reference to the Vietnam war, but not so apparently. In any case, they’re still eerily relevant today.

“It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see,”  In 2021, this is what I feel for our future. Now 80 years old, I wonder what the great man himself thinks about all this.

From WikiBob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman; May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, author and visual artist. Often regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Dylan has been a major figure in popular culture during a career spanning nearly 60 years. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1963) and “The Times They Are a-Changin” (1964) became anthems for the civil rights and anti-war movements. His lyrics during this period incorporated a range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defying pop music conventions and appealing to the burgeoning counterculture.