´He changed my world.' Tributes to Bob Dylan at 80, led by Richard and Linda Thompson, Simon Nicol and Bob Fox
On the eve of Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday, Salut! Live is in humble mode. I asked around the folk and folk-rock world for birthday greetings, hoping for the best but fearing the worst.The response has been little short of staggering. I am grateful to so many good, talented and often busy people - including those dealing with their publicity and especially the unrelated Stevie and Claire Horton whose help was crucial - for taking the trouble to act on a late request from a tinpot music site when other, grander media outlets have been planning Dylan at 80 (that link also takes you to the second part of this tribute compilation) coverage for months. Far too many, if fact, to go in a single item so I have cut it roughly in half and have run the second wave of tributes in a separate piece.At first I stipulated 80 words or fewer. Some went beyond that, or said they'd find it too restrictive, so I ended up treating it as guidance, not a rule. The longest response of all was from a friend who entertained lots of us in northern folk clubs decades ago. "I'd struggle to confine myself to 80 words," he confessed. Mick Sheehan's tribute - from a local hero to a global phenomenon - appeared yesterday.Click on any name that appears below to find out what they're up to (tours, new albums etc).Here goes with the first batch. The second will go live a little later with Ralph McTell, Martin Simpson and plenty more ....
My big sister’s boyfriend came round with the first Dylan album under his arm in 1962. I thought he was trying sound like a blues singer (I had Lightnin’ Hopkins and Brownie McGhee records), but then I’d never heard Woody Guthrie.
There were other important songwriters in the early 60s - Joni, Richard Farina, Leonard Cohen - but when Dylan went electric, that changed the landscape forever. It was thenceforward possible to have intelligent lyrics in popular music, changing the Beatles and everyone else - without Bob, no Radiohead, no Patti Smith, no Springsteen, no Fairport. That’s a pretty massive impact on cultural history. RT
Bob Dylan. What can I say? From the minute I heard him in 61/62 my world changed. I met him a couple of times decades later. Never meet your heroes is a truism. I love him tho. His songs. His singing. Happy Birthday to the bard of Hibbing.
Happy birthday Bob. You changed so many lives: mine forever. The songs you wrote, the way they resonated when you sang them, and especially the way they took flight and new life when others remade them gave me my life’s purpose as a muso. Chimes of Freedom by you is perfect. The version by the Byrds is also perfect. Even my public slaughter of Absolutely Sweet Marie aged 16 wasn’t too bad – and you can’t say fairer than that. Cheers!
I was only 10 when he released The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and 11 when he released The Times They Are a-Changing, I was also beginning to teach myself to play guitar and was very much into the Beatles who released Please Please Me, With the Beatles and A Hard Day's Nightin that same period.I wanted to be a pop singer but found the Dylan songs at that time intriguing, Blowin' In The Wind, The Times They Are a-Changing, Girl From The North Country in particular impressed me and it made me look for Woody Guthrie which, in turn, pointed me towards our own English traditional story songs and Martin Carthy.It was Martin's storytelling, singing and guitar playing that then took over and I left Dylan never to revisit him and although I did continue to be a life long devotee of the Beatles my own musical life/career moved entirely into English folk ballads/songs.When I think about it I realise that those early Dylan songs may well have shaped the way I chose what to sing later, meaningful, story songs, so I guess he did have some influence on me and for that I'm thankful. Happy Birthday from one Bob to another!
Growing up on a Bradford council estate in the 60s/70s, and not being the most worldly, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to Bob Dylan’s music. I was, of course, aware of him as I was an avid listener to radio as a kid and would drift off to sleep listening under the covers. My radio was my best companion so I heard his songs on Radio Luxembourg and other stations. But at that age, grasping the depth of his work, particularly his subject matter, would have been a bit of a stretch for me.
Before I became properly acquainted with Dylan’s music, I had always had a keen interest in the rich tones of varied vocal styles and I was intrigued by melody. As I became more exposed to Bob Dylan’s songwriting and music in my mid 20s, largely as a result of my partner John’s enthusiasm, I realised that nothing I’d ever listened to came close to his mastery of melody, lyrics, vocal style and musical approach.It was like being introduced to a whole new deep colour palette that I’d never imagined to exist. I guess when you discover something like that it’s a bit mystical and perhaps even a supernatural experience. His writing is profound. He’s got to be the greatest songwriter ever.
In the 90s I was delighted to share the cover of Q magazine with him for Issue 75 December (1992). Purely a coincidence but marvellous nonetheless. When we were in between albums with EMI we were going to record some Dylan covers for an EP but ended up doing Elvis Costello covers for the Shipbuilding EP instead. If I’m honest, at the time I didn’t feel confident enough to put my own little stamp on any of Dylan’s great songs so we went the other route. Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to take one or two on.
Dylan continues to leave a big impression here and his latest album Rough and Rowdy is always on heavy rotation in our house. Happy Birthday Bob!
It was that front page headline in Melody Maker that spread the news. “BEATLES DIG DYLAN!” Who’s Dylan, we asked? If Lennon digs him he must be something. A folk singer, they said, and the subsequent journey shaped the rest of my life. It was a short hop to to Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger; then to the whole British folk music tradition. And I still listen to Positively Fourth Street in gawping amazement.
Hey, hey Bobby Dylan I wrote you this songOf a man from Minnesota who’s inspired us so longShaping minds and opinions, your music sliced throughHappy birthday, Mr Zimmerman, I’ll always love youHey hey Bobby Dylan, you had so much fun Freewheelin’ after Woody down Highway 61Where would we be without Blonde or Desire? 80 years old and your heart’s still on fire
Dylan. I love him. The Greatest Living American? Probably. I can’t think of anyone greater now Muhammed Ali has died.
I heard his music first through Jim Millar who was in the same folk group as me in Dunfermline, The Tarriers…..as was my dear pal Jack Beck in Va., USA and still in touch after all this time.
So, Jim was a great fan of the early Dylan work and introduced this to me. I was completely overwhelmed by the music. I already knew the Kingston Trio and Peter Paul and Mary but Dylan whizzed into my life and never left. He’s a force of nature. How could this supercool Jewish boy from the sticks in the US be such a worldbeater at songwriting? I don’t know.
He’s certainly God-given and a treasure. He can write anything - political songs and the tenderest of love songs, both equally powerful. He has a string up to heaven, certainly and I love him dearly.
Happy Birthday, your Serene Bob-ness…….the world is much better since you’ve been in it.
The song I might remember in the last moments of my life when everything else is gone is Blowing in the Wind and what it opened up for me when I was six years old; the possibility of everything.
Just a small part of what we can never thank you enough for.
Happy 80th Birthday Bob Dylan.
Katherine Priddy, Birmingham-based singer whose debut EP Wolf was described by Richard Thompson as the "best thing I’ve heard all year"