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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.

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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.

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One thought on “Can’t Bob Dylan be the voice of more than one generation?

  1. Chelsey,
    I enjoyed your article. While I’m not a millennial, I’m younger than his generation. Like you, he is of my parent’s generation. Most people in my age group have certainly heard of him, but very few appreciate him as much as me. He is my favorite. I cannot say I’m 100% familiar with his whole body of work (although I am very well versed in all except his christian stuff, and most of his 80s stuff – with the exception of a few songs here or there), but the stuff I do know, I listen to all the time, and it moves me as nobody else does. I’m from Phoenix too, and saw him at the state fair concert in 2003. I too was at his show at Comerica. it was the third time I’ve seen him, and hands down the best. Me and my buddy were both very pleasantly surprised. Thanks,
    Jesse

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