THAT GOOD MAN
Dear Mr. Dylan,
It seems presumptive and on the verge of rude to call you Bob, although I feel I’ve known you for years. For the last 30 years I have called you Bob, upper case B, no last name needed. Like Janis is always Joplin and Jimmy is always Hendrix. Sure, some folks might then wonder which Bob I am referring to, after all there have been many. Bob Marley and Robert Plant are also held in great esteem of course, but they are “bob” and “Bobby,” respectively and respectfully. Only you hold the title of Bob, and are so frequently mentioned amongst friends and fellow music afficianados.
I admit I’m not very good at being a fan. I’ve not heard every song you’ve ever sung, not read every word you’ve written. I can’t quote you, aside from the song lyrics I know like the back of my own heart. Never before today have I written a fan letter, unless you count letters to my Mama. This is feeling more like an old-fashioned thank you note to me, though. I come from the Deep South and I’ve written a whole heap of thank you notes in my life. Yes, this is one wildly lengthy thank you note. That suits me better anyway.
For years there have been moments when my thankfulness for you swells to such an intensity of unbounded gratitude. That is the purpose of this letter really, to share with you my appreciation and to be able to know that I shared it. Being a mere mortal I am unfamiliar with how your fame must affect you. Maybe fame itself has become drudgery. It must make living life outside of your own walls impossible. Maybe you are tired of fans. With luck, you will never tire of the praise you so richly and powerfully deserve. Revel in it! Lay down in it and roll around in it. Kick off your shoes in it. So, here goes my unrestrained, inept attempt to convey with words alone how grateful I am to you. I hope it isn’t excessively effusive. If only I could string together words with your nimble perception and perspective, then maybe this thank you note would be worthy. As it is, well…we can’t all be you.
I owe my first encounter with you to my first serious boyfriend, and will be ever grateful to him for the introduction. He turned me on to so many of the greatest musicians of all time, yet it is you for whom I most grateful. We saw you in South Carolina in the late 80’s and that’s the only time I’ve seen you live. I must admit that it wasn’t the best live show I’ve ever seen. I was put off by your reticence and distance and what I perceived to be lack of interest. But you can believe I wore the t-shirt I got there slap out! Eventually, I even forgave you. It must be draining to perform live, especially repeatedly, and you are entitled to a mood like the rest of us.
Music could be considered another of our senses, a sixth one, different than the sense of hearing. They say babies can hear music while still in the womb, which makes music one of our earliest senses. It’s a soul sense. It is the pathway to our feelings, our beliefs, fears, dreams, and memories. It can be cathartic and sustaining and it brings vast numbers of people together in a One Love kind of way. It makes us whole. It makes us human. It connects us. Through music we are able to access emotions that are too frightening if examined alone. We hear in music jubilant and unbridled expressions of joy. We find commonalities that touch us deeply and make us think, “Wow, that’s exactly how I feel.” Music therapy must be very helpful to those who use it because I’ve been using it myself for my entire life without knowing it. For over a year in the early 80’s I listened to Blood on the Tracks every morning while getting ready for work. Then I read somewhere years later that it is referred to as The Divorce Album. (I did leave that boyfriend of 3 years mentioned earlier, at the end of that year listening to it every day. Hmmmm…)
Your storytelling is unequaled. Your stories are unmatched. Your songs so often call to mind relationships, of every possible kind. Relationships between lovers, and families, political parties and mankind itself. You have shaped history and the way it is viewed. You have shaped our times, Mr. Dylan. Your music is for all times. The hard times and the good. Modern times. The times of change and times out of our minds. You have given the majority of your time on earth to enlighten, engage and entertain. The essential fabric of society has your voice woven into the cloth, and the strands that you weave are the strongest, most resilient and natural fibers of us all.
Where in the world could be found a person who has never heard of you? While that must, at times, be incredibly frustrating and tedious, let it also bring you a healthy sense of satisfaction. You have made such an impact on the masses. As you mentioned in a recent interview, your fans are of every color and stripe. We are as varied as your songs. Therein lies the proof of your unparalleled musicianship, the capacity to be heard by such numbers and to manage to touch each one in a profound manner. You cross all kinds of lines and you are welcomed with open arms by all sorts of souls. You unify. Thank you.
Music is a gift, one given by the people who are brave enough to use their talent and kind enough to share it. How many musicians don’t ever play a note? If I dwell too long on what a different world it would be without your music it makes me unsettled, for I wouldn’t want to live in that world. It would be a world without color, and lawd knows the idea of THAT scares me. You, you chose to give your gift to the world. Generations of upright, downtrodden, middle ground men and women have listened to you, listened to what you have said. Listened to how you have said it. Your music is a gift that can’t be wrested from you, because music can only be given. No one can lock you up and take your music out to hear unless you decide to play for them. You, Mr. Dylan, have given much. Thank you.
You’ve given your very soul, I imagine, in your words written and songs sung. You’re funny! You are smart, cantankerous, compassionate and you are very generous to share with so many your work. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing your mind, it’s got the freshest thoughts. Not freshest as in dopest or whatever the word is right now. Freshest as in the most mind-opening, heart-expanding, soul-stretching series of words laid together so individually and uniquely. Intelligently. Humorously. Still every now and then I hear words of your songs that I’ve listened to for 30 years and all of a sudden the words have another meaning, but maybe that shouldn’t be admitted!
Your songs have many layers and such tightly stitched tapestry. There’s a lot going on, to say the least. The words to start with are mighty, whether you intended for them to mean such things or not. They have meaning for me. You imbue old words with new meanings. You line words up in an unusual order and they become orderly under your deft direction. The music…oh, your music can cause my heart to ache. For happy sometimes, sometimes for sad. Your music is so breakingly beautiful. The way you shape the sound of your words is alluring. Your unconventional combinations of words and the music they make are examples of the absolute genius of you. Your harp playing is emotionally evocative. You breathe life itself into a harmonica. Often it’s your guitar playing that turns my ear. Sometimes though, it’s your wry and clever wit, and the fact that you make me laugh. You make me think. You make me smile and shake my head. Again, thank you.
You really got lucky, didn’t you? Look at the veritable mountain of phenomenal music you have created. It’s almost ridiculously impressive. Astounding. Staggering. You must be grateful you were granted such talent. I imagine you are. Your talent has allowed you to be heard, and not only through your music. Your music has given you a voice among the leaders of the world and among the common man too. Your prolific song writing and your strong convictions have let people hear your thoughts, and you have such wonderful thoughts. You don’t varnish them either! You lay it on the line and you do so without ill will. THAT’S the fresh I’m talking about. Most musicians are singularly talented, a fortunate few are doubly so. You though, are a master of every last element of your songs, and that is why you are the greatest musician who has ever lived, or ever will.
You have had such a strong influence on so many, and you have helped people to grow and overcome and feel and just BE. I wonder whom (besides Woody, of course) you find your soul sustenance through. I trust that there is enough poetry, that there is enough of bared hearts and mined minds to feed your glorious and magnificent soul. I sure hope so.
Happy birthday Mr. Dylan, I’m wishing all the best of life and love to you and yours. My birthday present to myself is writing this letter. My gift to you is a song. I’m not a songwriter, but a few years ago this just bubbled out of me and I wrote it down. (I own the copyright, not that anyone will ever want to use it. It’s just that I’ve heard worse!) It’s called That Good Man. I feel like I should apologize…daring to write a song for you. Should I? It was written with a thankful, if untrained, heart. (…and more nerve than a toothache, right?)
With Deepest Gratitude,
THAT GOOD MAN by Alice Bosma
That good man Bob Dylan, the one who writes songs
So powerful that they can right mighty wrongs
Or make known to a man just where he belongs.
That good man, Bob Dylan, the one who writes songs.
Bob Dylan, you’ve taught me so many things through
The gift of your words and unique point of view.
The lessons you’ve given, there’ve been quite a few,
With musical remedy I steady grew.
I’ll never grow tired of hearing you sing,
Of having you tell me about everything.
Lyrics bring new growth as if early spring,
And I had a soul in need of sowing.
Falling stars may tumble right out of the sky,
Where moments before they had power to fly.
Yet your light won’t falter, won’t flicker and die,
Your songs will live always, as God’s lullabies.