The theater, a grand birthday cake of architectural exuberance from the Twenties, whose Moorish Rococo witnessed vaudeville, only to be replaced by moving pictures, only to be replaced by Rev. Ike’s campaign to fleece the poor, only to be replaced by rock n roll.
And Bob Dylan.
There he was, still there, still skinny, still rocking, still His Bobness all these decades later.
This is not the space to explain Bob Dylan. I could write a book about it. Actually, I did. (Oh, My Name It Is Nothing. The unsung words of Bob Dylan)
This is a place of short, pithy observation. So what shall we observe of the man who is the foundation upon which rock is built? The man who is the oxygen within which rock n roll has breathed since 1964?
He brought intellect, poetry, hipness, bohemian culture, ferocity and surrealism to the great American jukebox. He made an art form out of a bubblegum genre manufactured for adolescents. He could have left us in the Woody Guthrie folkie phase, walking the streets of Greenwich Village in boots and ragged jeans. He could have left us as the towering icon who, as one critic described it, “berserked himself into genius” and produced Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Re-visited and Blonde on Blonde all within 16 months, an upheaval of creativity that changed how we write, sing and hear music forever. He could have left us in the country-gentleman family-man phase he retreated into after the drug-addled fame that could and should have destroyed him. He could have left us as the born-again Christian only a nice Jewish boy in a lot of trouble could have become. He could have left us as the preternaturally weird, forgotten, mocked former Sixties icon in the Eighties, worshipped now only by a few in the US and more in England. He could have left us after his final resurrection into his greatest phase of commercial success.
But he didn’t. He just stood there swaying fifteen rows from my son and me on the stage of the United Palace Theater, growling happily, banging on the organ, fronting “the best band in the land.”
He had even outlived Rev. Ike, whose final justification sits on a sign in the opulence of the lobby. “I am not the opinions of others.”
I wrote an inscription in a book for my son when he was born: “When’s he’s sixteen, may a Bob Dylan come along for him too.”
It did. It just turned out to be Bob Dylan.