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Bob Dylan is 80 years old!

David Kenny

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The greatest song writer of modern times (or any time) turns 80 today. A prodigious artists, he released his first record in 1962 and his last in 2020, with no noticeable fallow period. He's written countless classic songs, and released dozens of superb albums. His songs come in all forms, from simple ballads and love songs to epic musical stories, taking in blues, country, rock, folk, jazz and probably a few things I'm not even aware of. Those songs have been covered by artists from myriad musical genres and adapted into wildly differing styles. (In fact he surely must be the most covered artists of all time).


He has an image in popular culture of being unable to sing, but anyone who's listened to him will know that his voice is very musical. This, coupled with his abilities as a musician and composer has allowed him to create some truly beautiful melodies. But it's the lyrics he weaves through those melodies that really sets Dylan apart. Dylan has a gift for language that is simply unparalleled in music. He has an eye for poetic imagery worthy of Ezra Pound or T.S. Eliot (fighting in the captain's tower).


For me personally, Dylan has literally been an ever present factor in my life. I have been listening to his music since birth, grew to love it as a child when my parents played it, and if anything have grown to love it even more as I've become older. The songs have taken on new dimensions as I've aged, fallen in and out of love, got married, had kids, lost people I cared about and hopefully matured enough to know that I didn't know as much as I thought I did. As Dylan himself sang "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now".


The Guardian have asked a load of famous people for their favourite Dylan song




but I'm much more interested in the favourite Dylan song of the musical luminaries of rllmuk. So let's hear your thoughts on this colossus of popular culture at this major milestone in his life.


My offering: It's very hard to pick a favourite song when I love so many of them, and a few of the likely contenders are mentioned in that Guardian article (Desolation Row and Hard Rain's Gonna Fall are songs I listen to on an almost daily basis), so in the interests of variety I'll choose one of those epic stories I mentioned. A song that never fails to raise a smile, wherein Bob Dylan discovers America.




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As you say, there are simply far too many great songs in his catalogue to have a favourite. I once did a rllmukFM show featuring only his love songs - Bob Dylan's Sweet Sixteen - and even in that category I was so hard pushed to find my favourite 16 that I had to leave many 'favourites' out and was never truly happy with the selection.


So I'm not going to try for just one here, out of six decades' worth of material. Like you, Dylan's music has been with me throughout my life, right from my family's first pressings of the pre-electric albums whose crackly folk warmth and stark imagery strum darkly in my early childhood memories. I think if I pick any era that's my favourite, that very first one might be. Except it's almost certainly not, because it's obviously the drug-fuelled electric run-up to Blonde on Blonde, culminating in Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands, one of the most tender and hypnotic expressions of romantic obsession ever committed to vinyl, then that crash, then the austerity that followed like the aftermath of withdrawal. But I love some of that stuff too, and the gradual enriching of his sound and his arrangements leading to 70s classics like Blood on the Tracks and Desire, so they're all up there too. He falls off quite a bit after that for me, but still knocks out some real gems, and the sheer range and volume of his material is astonishing, as well as his own longevity. He's been a pretty mean DJ too - I used to listen to his Radio 1 shows regularly, and just the sound of his (unfairly derided) voice was as unique a draw on that as it is on his music. An essential element of radio.


So I'll just wish him a happy birthday instead. Happy 80th birthday, Robert Allen Zimmerman. The boy from Duluth, Minnesota done good.



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When I went to Uni I was, fairly obviously, an anxious nerd that had spent all of his time playing video games and watching movies and very little time going clubbing. I'm not even sure I'd been properly drunk before I rocked up in Southampton in 2007. So when the idea of a branded "Big Night Out" came around I was, frankly, terrified. I kept putting off buying tickets until they eventually all sold out and I was left home alone while my flatmates went out and got shitfaced with literally everyone other fresher in existence. 


Me? I went and bought Halo 3 before ending up jumping around channels on my new Laptop TV tuner. I ended up on BBC4 who were playing a Bob Dylan night (he is in the right thread!) I was vaguely aware of old Bob, my Uncle was completely obsessed with him and had always tried to get me into him, me being a big fan of acts like The Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin etc. But he'd never clicked until I happened on Bob Dylan night on BBC4 in 2007. I watched the whole thing, completely enraptured by him, while all of my housemates were partying around the streets of Southampton. The next day me and a couple of incredibly hungover mates went to Virgin Megastores and I bought a CD copy of a best of and I basically became completely obsessed with Dylan. They repeated the same BBC4 night of programming later in the week and I sat through the whole thing again, this time with a few cans and a few housemates. 


I get really emotional when I think about Bob. Just because he was such a big part of such a formative time for me, as I'm sure he has been for many at different stages over the last 60+ years. And he's sort of always been there since, once a year I'll grab an album I've not listened to and smash through it over the year, luckily there's so many that I can't see myself running out any time soon. Happy birthday Bob! Only one song I can choose really given the above;



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I'm not sure what's my favourite of his songs. Because I'm a filthy casual, I'd probably pick something like Tangled Up in Blue, The Times they are a-Changing, Like A Rolling Stone, Subterranean Homesick Blues, or All Along the Watchtower. (Yes, I like Dylan's original, not just Jimi's cover!)




I'm not really familiar with anything he's done since Desire, except for The Traveling Wilburys and his Christmas song Must Be Santa Claus.


Of his long songs, I confess that I struggle to keep my attention all the way through Desolation Row (which was hyped up to me via the extracts in Watchmen, long before I ever heard it) and Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. I love Hurricane though: more straightforward storytelling, catchier and faster paced. I like Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts too.

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Happy birthday Bob. My favourite song of his



I've recently bought his Mono vinyl box set, did not know it was his birthday soon after. 80 is a big milestone for an artist, and his last album was pretty good too

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