Dylan – by Ken White


“Dylan”

In honor of his 74th birthday.

You like potato and I like potahto,
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto,
Let’s call the whole thing off
“Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”
George and Ira Gershwin

Boys and girls together. Hormones erupting. We had gathered in the living room of Cathy’s house to listen to the Womenfolk, a trio of high school classmates who wanted to be folksingers. Janis was the ring-leader, the passionate one. Julia was the one I was passionate about. Sherry was there for the harmony. The Wild Men, another trio of guy classmates and friends, were there to listen and wait their turn.
We talked about Friday’s football game against Downey, the obligatory post-game gathering at Hob Nob Pizza, and the float our two “Y” groups were collaborating on for homecoming. I eyed Julia as they sang. She smiled a sweet, crooked smile. I could still smell her perfume on my sweater. The song ended. We applauded.
“That was ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’,” Janis said. “By Bob Dylan.” She pronounced it like Matt Dillon.
“No, it’s Dylan,” I corrected, pronouncing it like Dialin’ for Dollars and pointing at his name on the album cover. I was always a bit of a contrarian. It was fun. Sort of like punching the girl we liked when we were in kindergarten. Flirtatious taps.
“It’s Dylan,” Janis countered, getting frustrated. “Like the poet Dylan Thomas.”
“Better buy an amp,” I said. “The times they are a-changin’.”
“Man, those folkies were pissed off,” said Alan, the front Wild Man. “Newport never sounded so radical.”
“It sounded cool,” Warren added, the tallest and oldest of the Wild Men. “‘Like a Rolling Stone’ all shot up with electric guitars and drums. Truly awesome.”
“He sold out,” Janis said. “That’s why those people were so upset.”
“They don’t like change, I guess,” said sweet, sweet Julia.
Dylan had altered the course of music. Yet again. He shocked the 1965 Newport Folk Festival by plugging in with Al Kooper and Michael Bloomfield and the music scene would never be the same. The Folkies were about to enter Sunburst Stratland. And they weren’t happy about it.
Dylan truly was our troubadour. Our canary in the coal mine. He spoke the Truth, with a capital “T.” I was not that big a fan. I was into old time rock ‘n roll, like the Everly Brothers. And the new stuff by the Killer Bs – the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield. I hated Dylan’s voice, but his lyrics were pure poetry. They inspired me. They inspired the nation. They inspired the world. They inspired a generation to sing, to write, to act, to get involved. We did. And we changed some things. Some.
I listen to Highway 61 Revisited and am still blown away. I watch the movie I’m Not There and realize he was, and is, a true Force of Destiny. I attend a concert at the Stockton Arena where he plays some of his old stuff rapped in a new package. It still works. He can still bring it. And it’s great to see all those old Folkies come out of the Woodstock to worship their God.
I pop “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” into the CD player and I see all those fresh-faced kids standing around the piano in the Spanish-style home on Magnolia Avenue on a fall Saturday in Modesto circa 1965. They were thinking about music. I wasn’t. They were in love with the music. I was in love with Julia.
Janis never felt the same about Dylan or me again.

You say yes, I say no
You say stop and I say go, go, go
Oh, no
You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello, hello
“Hello Goodbye”
The Beatles

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