Why Bob Dylan’s Newest Album is Cathartic
With the release of Bob Dylan’s 39th studio album, “Rough and Rowdy Ways,” one is left wondering how anyone could arouse such anticipation and excitement in the music world after all this time in the business. Bob Dylan is now 79 years old, and he has shown us more sides of himself than any musical artist in history. He has touched numerous generations, and each of us think of a distinct era with which we associate Dylan. We like to try and capture him in time, put him in a picture frame on our wall, and preserve whatever it is that we consider ‘true’ Bob Dylan. For some of us it is only one era. For me it is multiple decades, though only up to a point. Only the hard-core Dylan fans have listened to it all and celebrate his entire catalogue.
My mother was a folky. In her mind, Bob Dylan is still playing with Joan Baez at the Newport Folk Festival in the 1960s. He is still writing political protest songs. I graduated in 1999, but for whatever reason, “Blood on the Tracks” was originally where I drew my line. It is not that I don’t appreciate later works, especially “Time Out of Mind,” it is just that I had trouble considering other albums worthy of the Bob Dylan monument that I had constructed in my mind.
I was busy listening to a man from the past, even though Dylan had not walked away from the present. Everyone is full of advice when it comes to ‘walking away.’ You see this in sports all of the time. Why not go out with a Superbowl? And, at more than one point in my life, I would have been okay with Bob Dylan walking away.
I saw Dylan for the last time in 2001. I will never forget it because I was in charge of ordering 4 front row tickets, 100 dollars apiece, and I was a poor undergrad. After consuming a few beers, I ordered tickets for Charleston, WV instead of Charlotte, NC. I panicked thinking that my friends would not attend, and I would lose all of the money. In retrospect, I guess I could have called and exchanged the tickets, but it somehow did not occur to me. But we were young and just rolled with it. We drove up to West Virginia and home to Chapel Hill, NC in one night.
I mention it simply because later, when Bob Dylan decided to stop playing guitar in concert, I drew another line. “It is not truly…