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“How I Came to Love Bob Dylan”

WARNING: This post will probably not be very funny. In fact, this post will not be funny at all. If you want funny, go to Yahoo News. They’re terrible reporters. It’s a hoot.

For those of you who have read this blog before, you have probably detected my slight obsession with Bob Dylan. By slight obsession I mean borderline psychotic feelings of love for him, comparable to that which a mother feels for her child or Hugh Hefner feels for implants.

He’s so cool

 

But as a 23 year old woman who admittedly listened to complete and utter garbage until the age of 18, you may be asking yourself “How Lena did you get from Dashboard Confessional suicide tracks and Nelly remixes to Bob Dylan”? I know. The anticipation is ruining you.

So I thought to myself, what better day to answer this question than Bob Dylan’s 71st birthday.

 

Here is the true, very unfunny story:

 

In the fall of 2007 I was a sophomore at a mid-sized college in Pennsylvania; a rural setting settled between two small, somewhat ghetto fabulous cities. Despite this, the college town and campus were relatively safe places for clueless, lightweight 19 year olds such as me to roam alone at all hours of the night and even for the occasional tryst to class.

 

But just two weeks into the fall semester things drastically changed.  On the streets of our small town a student was brutally murdered by a group of non-students visiting a downtown bar. The story went that the student was leaving his brother’s house in town and walking back to the campus, alone, around 2:30am when a group of men he did not know attacked him in a completely random act of violence, beating him to death and leaving him to die on the street.

 

The crime shook the campus. What always felt like a safe place suddenly felt extremely unsafe. Charges were filed and the men in custody were rung through the legal system with too much leniency in my opinion. In the week following his death, those who chose to pay attention learned a great deal about the student through University newspaper articles and press releases. Apparently he was a cute, 19 year old history major, who wrote poetry, hated pop culture, and loved Bob Dylan.

 

Reading about this boy, reading his poetry in a book the school published in his memory, made me feel extremely connected to him, despite the fact that we had never met. Every day following his death I read his Facebook wall; the heartbroken posts from friends, family members, his girlfriend, all asking the same questions and mourning the same loss of one person who was victimized by brutality that had nothing to do with him.

 

On the one week anniversary of his death, word got around that the school was organizing a candlelight vigil for him at the time and site of his death. I was determined to attend and after talking to my roommate she agreed to go along. We left around 2:00 am to walk downtown to the site, after gathering a few more reluctant girls from our dorm reminding them that if this was their brother or sister or friend, they would want as many people as possible to show.

 

Small groups of students filtered out of their dorms and off campus apartments, dressed in hoodies and pajama bottoms, some holding candles, others only holding back tears. Most of us didn’t know the boy who was killed, but that didn’t seem to matter. At the site there were police barricades, hundreds of students, and soft pools of candlelight filtering through the night air, as we encircled the spot of pavement, still stained with his blood and freshly blotted with tears.

 

I took a candle from someone passing them out and stood quietly in place. For the distance of the street, students continued in crowds in an act of solidarity I didn’t expect to exist. Some representatives of the University spoke, thanking us for our attendance and offering emotional condolences to the family and friends of the boy.

 

His brother stepped up and thanked us all saying he never imagined so many people would come. He said his brother was one of a kind, a free-spirit, a loving, creative, energetic force, who believed in the powers of love and imagination. He said a few days earlier, at his brother’s funeral, as they lowered him into the ground they heard a train whistle in the distance and all collectively felt that this was his way of saying goodbye. He said that if there was anything his brother would want it would be for all of us to be kinder to one another, to stop watching TV, to step outside and enjoy the wind and the rain, and read a book, and fall asleep under a tree. And then he said, after a few seconds of silence, “just listen to Bob Dylan.”

 

I’m not sure why, but I heard this in a very real way. After his sister and his girlfriend cried together, they announced that they were going to play his favorite Bob Dylan song and they asked anyone who knew the song to sing along.

 

I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back I think it was either “Girl From the North Country” or “Boots of Spanish Leather.” Either way it was the first time I ever heard the song. After it ended, we all returned to our rooms and the warmth of our beds. Days passed and conversations resumed to topics discussed before this tragedy, but I couldn’t forget about the boy who died and I couldn’t forget about his brother’s words to “just listen to Bob Dylan.”

 

After a few months of Dylan discovery I began to understand and five years later as a passionately enlightened fan I fully do.

 

Bob Dylan is more than just a musician or Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee. He is more than the songs played on classic rock stations and the influence for every singer-songwriter with untraditional singing voices. Bob Dylan is a human being who has been able to transcend generations, genders, races, religions, and political ideologies with his unique ability to capture the collective feelings of failure and success in the human experience. His words inspire in his fans to live and to be a certain way that has nothing to do with fulfilling expectations of others or herding with the masses, but rather to be true deep down in the soul of our individualism, to who we are and what we believe in separate from societal pressures. He captures the raw ugliness of human emotion and flaw and makes it something beautiful. Bob Dylan manages through his words and his music to connect so deeply with his fans that at a candlelight vigil to honor an untimely death of a young man, his music is that which is played and his influence is that which is mentioned.

So I’d like to take a moment to wish Bob Dylan a Happy 71st Birthday and remind him that I would still pay to have his babies. Anytime, Bob. Anytime.

 

Love,

 

The girl who will be funny again tomorrow. Or not. Whatever.

One of the best versions of one of the best Bob Dylan songs EVER