I’m 25, and I have a tattoo of Bob Dylan. People mostly look and ask me who it is, but a few of the bolder ones (and almost without exception, people who I judge to be over age 40) will ask, “Hey, is that Dylan on your arm?” And this is almost always followed by: “Why him? How do you even know who he is?”
I’m a dreaded Millennial, and so (I assume) people who are older than me assume I’m clueless about culture before 1991, a lazy forever-teenager who loves rap and Britney Spears. I’m not a Britney fan, but I do love Drake.
But Dylan to me is more than just a singer, just a musician, just a voice of generation I’m not a part of – my parents are. I first really heard him in high school, although I suspect he was played in my home growing up, along with Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Loudon Wainwright, Joni Mitchell and Pink Floyd.
I love his music. I love his lyrics, poetry, whatever you want to call it. But what I really love about Dylan is his ability to change. To go from folk to electric to country and back again, as many times and ways as he wants. I love his protest songs and his universally-panned Christian period and “Blood on the Tracks” and “Street-Legal” and his Frank Sinatra covers. And to do everything without regard for the critics, whether they’re paid to write about music or not. It’s a freeing thought, knowing that you can really do what you want to, and be good at it. As someone who’s starting her career, it’s a freeing thought.
I saw Dylan won the Nobel for literature right after I woke up, checking my social media. People were sending me articles, because they know I like him. More than one person came up to me in the office to discuss the honor. And I already had tickets to his Comerica Theatre show that Sunday. I was thrilled. But as soon as I saw the first article questioning his win – from the New York Times – I knew I couldn’t read them. In a world that seems determined to descend into madness, can’t just one thing be sacred?
I had also seen him once before at Comerica Theatre. I’ve heard about some of his other Arizona concerts – at the State Fair, at the Sundome before it was demolished, during his leather-and-earrings period. I know his voice is weathered, and he doesn’t really play guitar anymore, but I had the distinct feeling on Sunday I was seeing an American icon both times. He played a better, tighter set at 75 than a lot of bands I’ve seen who are in their 20s. And I genuinely had a lot of fun.
So while I was in college, I went to a tattoo shop my friend was working at, and got a portrait of Dylan. And every day since then, I think I’ve grown to like it more.