Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I've really been a neglectful blogger lately, I know. (Somehow, one's third year on the tenure track is not fraught with the level of drama that the job search was, or even the first year. And that is probably just as well.)

But! It is Bob Dylan's 70th birthday today, so that seems a fine occasion for a gratuitous music-spam post. (And this IS SO related to the ostensible subject matter of this blog; you see, the thing that blows me away about Dylan is the same thing that blows me away about Shakespeare. It's the sheer variety, and versatility, and the ability to twist a phrase that is both unexpected and just right.) So: eight favorite songs, in no particular order.

1) Love Minus Zero / No Limit. Bringing It All Back Home was the first album I ever bought. (On cassette tape, for $4.99, from the bargain bin at Sam Goody's. And God, I'm starting to feel old.) I loved it all, but especially this track, which seemed to speak of this whole grown-up world (out in New York City or somewhere, before I was born) that I wanted so much to have been a part of.

2) One Too Many Mornings. Another song that takes me straight back to high school: a snow day this time, flakes drifting slowly down over the concrete-block buildings of a suburb built in the '70s, and cigarette smoke curling upward.

3) Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts. (Can't find the original version from Blood on the Tracks, but this cover by Joan Baez is nice.) Love the surreal Old West feel of this one, as well as the fact that it seems to be a sort of revenge tragedy.

4) Shooting Star. This song always makes me think of a boy named Caleb who I knew in high school. He was one of those kids who had that certain air of cool about them, so I don't think he and I exchanged more than a dozen words, but I noticed him because he loved Dylan and the Dead, and went about in tie-dyes and dreadlocks, and was reassuring proof that you could be cool and still be your own person.

He died a few years after we graduated. Suicide, apparently triggered by schizophrenia. I wish I had told him that I admired him, that he was one of the people who gave me hope that adult life would be better.

5) Chimes of Freedom. (Again, a cover version since I couldn't find the original, but the Byrds' version absolutely soars, for all that I regret the loss of the middle verses.) Possibly one of the most gorgeous songs ever written.

6) Jokerman. Because no list like this is complete without one full-on apocalypse song.

7) Every Grain of Sand. Emmylou Harris's version, which was the one I fell in love with first. (Godless, secular humanist that I am, I'm not sure why I love this one so much, but there's something about the idea of taking stock, of weighing what one's life has been and meant, that always gets to me.)

8) Mississippi. This is rapidly becoming the theme song to my life. Which is probably not so good, as I think it's a song about getting older and realizing how many choices you've closed off for yourself; but it is also a song about making the best of the ones you've got left, and that's something.

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