The Man, The Myth, The Legend
When he’s not sculpting iron and winning Nobel Prizes, Bob Dylan has been known to put on a pretty great show, captivating audiences with his virtuosic guitar playing and one-of-a-kind lyrics. And even when he is winning Nobel Prizes, well, he takes his time and does it his way, just like he has throughout all of his 55-year music career.
We were honored to welcome the Nobel Laureate to the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT this past Tuesday. Dylan kept his audience on their toes, performing new and distinctive versions of his classic songs along with covers from Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and other classic crooners. His raspy voice rang out over the hills of Shelburne, eliciting some swaying and dancing from some in the audience, and quiet contemplation from others. The show was a sold-out hit with the lawn full of folk fans a full hour before Bob was set to take the stage. Maintaining his quintessential shroud of mystery, the musician didn't speak to the crowd between songs, letting the stage go dark between tunes as the audience tried to guess which track would come next.
And since kids under 12 can come to all Concerts on the Green shows free of charge, we saw a whole lot of families introducing their youngsters to Bob Dylan for the first time. The evening was a hit for all generations, ending with a stunning sunset behind the stage.
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man
Dylan’s single-minded focus on music over the years has served him well, making him one of the best-selling recording artists of all time, as well as winner of no less than eleven Grammy awards, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award. (Rolling Stone even called “Like a Rolling Stone” the best rock ‘n roll song of all time.) But what really makes this troubadour special is his sound: it’s honest and heartfelt with just the right amount of unrefined grit. Inspired early on by the music of Woody Guthrie, Dylan’s lyrics about the politics of love and life ring out over smart guitar solos and that inimitable harmonica.
If you weren’t captivated by entire Dylan albums like Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blood on the Tracks, you are definitely familiar with the hits that have had radio stations buzzing for decades — hits like “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “The Times They Are A-Changin’”, and “Mr. Tambourine Man”. For lots of fans, Dylan’s works defined their generation with subverted traditional ideas about materialism and conformity. Today, many of his songs are still as relevant as ever as we face a chaotic and divided political world.
The Quiet Philanthropist
As a younger man, Dylan was an active member of the Civil Rights movement, using his music to speak out for a more just world. Today, he doesn’t cultivate an image of himself as a philanthropist or political activist, but prefers to do good works quietly and without fanfare. He donates generously to Amnesty International and Feeding America, and performs the odd benefit concert here and there.
Since subverting expectations and making his own rules has always been his style, we can’t say we’re surprised.