Guess Who Just Turned 80?

Bob Dylan hits a milestone, and the coverage is expansive
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2021 9:50 AM CDT
Guess Who Just Turned 80?
Musician Bob Dylan performs with The Band at the Forum near Los Angeles on Feb. 15, 1974.   (AP Photo/Jeff Robbins, File)

Bob Dylan turned 80 years old on Monday. Got a favorite song of his? Mick Jagger picks "Desolation Row." In the Guardian, Jagger notes that the song is ostensibly about "governmental, military control," but he also calls it a "really lovely song" despite the topic. "You can listen to it all the time and still get something wonderful and new from it." The Guardian piece includes favorite Dylan picks from others, including Judy Collins ("Bob Dylan's Dream") and Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips ("It's Alright, Ma"). More Dylan coverage:

  • Reading material: The New Yorker presents a collection of Dylan profiles over the years, the earliest one dating back to 1964, when Nat Hentoff visited Dylan's studio. "Wiry, tense, and boyish, Dylan looks and acts like a fusion of Huck Finn and a young Woody Guthrie," writes Hentoff.

  • Unappreciated trait: Dylan might just be the most scrutinized musician in history. "But if there is any underexamined aspect" of his career, "it's his fertile comedy," writes Jason Zinoman in the New York Times. "While he spent six decades singing about heartache, apocalypse, and betrayal, a cockeyed humor has always informed his bleak worldview," Zinoman writes. "It can be oblique, less about jokes than jokiness, but critical enough to his art to place him in the pantheon of great Jewish funny men." One of the earliest examples is "Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues."
  • Best-ofs: Everybody has some version of a best-Dylan-song list. The Guardian ticks off 80 that everyone should know, starting with "Song to Woody." But Rolling Stone has a different take with the best covers of Dylan songs. Coming in at No. 1 is Jimi Hendrix's take on "All Along the Watchtower." For the record, William Shatner's cover of "Mr. Tambourine Man" clocks in at No. 80 on that same list. Big Issue, meanwhile, has the best 80 Dylan songs that don't typically show up on best-of lists. No. 1 is the 11-minute "Brownsville Girl."
  • Factoids: Dylan has sold more than 125 million albums, notes the BBC, which rounds up, yes, 80 facts about the singer for the big day. It notes that musicians polled a decade ago called "Like a Rolling Stone" his best song. Bruce Springsteen, for one, said the opening snare kick sounded like "somebody kicked open the door to your mind."
  • An appreciation: These, too, are all over the place today. You might start with one by Charles P. Pierce at Esquire, who marvels at "Murder Most Foul," Dylan's song about the JFK assassination. "How does he do it?" asks Pierce. "How has he done it for going on 60 years now? How does he find exactly the right words for exactly the right moment at exactly the right time? How does he always—always—wrestle the baffling and formless zeitgeist into something so familiar that it fits perfectly into both our common history and our most uncommon mythos." Pierce poses these questions and more and concludes with, "Damned if I know."
  • The photos: If you want to see more images of Dylan from his earliest days as a musician to the present, see this file at CNN.
(More Bob Dylan stories.)

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