I’m a huge music fan and I love all kinds of different genres, but I’m not a big Bob Dylan fan.
That sentence will lead to calls for my cancelation (and my mom will probably yell at me), but the truth is that aside from a few of his mainstream hits, which I tend to find pleasing to the ear at first but eventually grow tired of by the two-minute mark - and Jimi Hendrix’s version of the Dylan penned “All Along the Watchtower” - I’ve never really been all that impressed with his arrangements or his lyrics.
I don’t find deep meaning in his words and his poetry doesn’t do anything for me.
“Johnny’s in the basement, mixin’ up the medicine, I’m on the pavement thinkin’ bout the government?”
Maybe it’s a time and a place thing. Maybe I needed to be alive or in my formative years when Dylan put his stamp on the folk and rock worlds. Perhaps if I had been front and center at Newport in 1965, I’d get the significance of him “plugging in.”
But alas, I fail to see what all the fuss is about.
I get that some people love him, and I would never judge anyone’s taste in music because it – like so many things pop culture related – is so subjective. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as they say.
And that’s the beauty of music, which moves the world, and for some Dylan is an Earth-shaking force of nature.
There is also no denying the mark he has left on society in general. He is an icon to some, an influence on others, and a man who will forever be revered and celebrated for his contributions.
But I still don’t like him because it’s not the music that turns me off, it’s Dylan himself and how little he has acknowledged his northern Minnesota roots in a positive light over the years. That and the fact that he has never – as far as I know - ever given anything back to area.
The few times he has mentioned the Iron Range, or Duluth (where he was born), it has been less than flattering. I know he referenced the area once in a poem from the 1960s where he described running away from the area multiple times and that a few times in interviews he has described “way up north” as eight months of winter and a couple of hot, sticky summers.
There are also plenty of stories, myths, and legends about the man and why he doesn’t care to dwell on his time in Hibbing, where it is said he was once booed off the high school stage during a talent contest.
That tale usually sets up his backstory of him not liking it here, or, at very least, not fitting in, and why he has been so hush-hush about the place since leaving.
Yet we long for his attention despite his indifference.
Honestly, I don’t understand that at all. I’ve never been able to figure out why, some folks love him so much when he could care less about them. While the times since young Bob took to Highway 61 might be constantly changing, one thing that has remained the same over the past 60 plus years is Mr. Dylan doesn’t seem to want much to do with the city where he spent his youth - Hibbing.
He lived there for 11 years – from 1948 to 1959 – and once he left for the University of Minnesota, he never returned.
That should be the end of his Iron Range story, yet over the years various groups, individuals and business owners have consistently looked for ways to honor, remember, and put Dylan on a pedestal as if he represents the hopes and dreams and aspirations of all Iron Rangers.
Just this week for example, officials from “The Dylan Project,” broke ground on what will eventually be a six-foot monument of the man outside of the Hibbing High School.
Mr. Zimmerman wasn’t at the event and probably won’t ever see or acknowledge the statue, but thousands of people potentially will, and some will walk away feeling good about visiting the hallowed ground where the former resident once roamed.
This isn’t a slight against the people who make up “The Dylan Project.” I’m sure they feel this is a worthy tribute, and perhaps it is. I just think it would mean a whole lot more if Dylan took a moment to finally, after all these years, talk about his time in Hibbing and what it meant to him growing up there.
Better yet, make a positive contribution to the area like helping some of the small school districts afford better musical equipment, or art supplies, or some other tool students could use to tap into their inner creative selves.
Instead, it’s been radio silence aside from a couple of gigs in Duluth, a brief mention here and there and the above-mentioned backstory about that infamous talent show and inference that the cruelness of his school mates might have been the moment Robert Zimmerman turned into Bob Dylan.