by: Mike Hynes
Guess it was around 1972. The Vietnam War was still ongoing, protests were raging, Tricky Dick Nixon was in the White House, and I was wearing a polka dot shirt and purple bell bottom jeans with 2 front zippers. The early 70’s was a confusing time. One night when my older brother Johnny was out, I snuck into his basement room to browse through his record collection.
I had often heard Johnny blasting his music that would cause the whole house to shake. I knew some of the artists that were represented on the shelf. There was The Rolling Stones, The Who, Van Morrison and the Beatles. This was a serious collection of music. Glancing around Johnny’s dark but clean room, I noticed a lone album that was laying on his bed. The front album cover was a shadowy profile of some dude with the wildest hair I’d ever seen. The album was called “Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits.” I was hypnotized by the photo on this album cover. Who was Bob Dylan? What was his music like?
Turns out the album was on the turntable. I dropped the needle onto the album, the needle making that beautiful scratching sound right before the song starts. The song that started was one of the worst songs and sounds I had ever heard in my life. It was called ‘Rainy Day Women.’ After about 30 seconds I pulled the needle up and I was very disappointed by Dylan’s music. I was about to get up and leave but I decided to try one more song.
I am so glad that I made that decision.
The second song on the album was ‘Blowing in the Wind.’ I did not know it at the time, but ‘Blowing in the Wind’ may have been the most important civil rights song from the 1960’s. As I listened to it in my youthful ignorance it struck a chord with me. I liked his voice and the harmonica, but the words of the song I loved.
Most songs from 1972 were about love and about a lion that slept at night. When else would a lion sleep? But ‘Blowing in the Wind’ had lines like this:
“Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they are forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.”
“Yes, and how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
How many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?”
“Yes, and how many deaths will it take ‘til he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.”
While I loved what I was hearing, I was only 12 so there was no way that I could fully comprehend what I was listening to. Other songs on the album that greatly impacted me were ‘The Times, They Are a-Changin',’ ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ and ‘Like A Rolling Stone.’ Even though I did not understand it, I knew what I was listening to sure was different, and it made me think. So that was my first exposure to Bob Dylan, and his music has stuck with me for the last 47 years.
As I got older my love of Dylan got stronger and stronger. Back then, there were release dates when the “albums” were going to go on sale at the local Sam Goody’s. I would get there before the store opened then run to the Dylan rack to make sure I’d be the first one to get the new album. Then I’d sprint home and put that record on and listen to the new songs of my hero.
Not all of my friends shared my love of Dylan. There were a few parties I attended where I’d put on a Dylan album and all conversation would stop as the crowd looked over at me with a look of anger and pity. People would complain and say, “I can’t take his voice. He sounds like a cat in a dishwasher,” and other gems like that.
It did not matter at all to me. My love for Dylan never did die. I knew that you either got Dylan, or you didn’t. You either loved him or hated him. There was no middle ground.
His music would always soothe me after I got dumped by a girlfriend. Looking back, I think they all dumped me BECAUSE of my love for Bob Dylan! I mean, how many times can a girl hear ‘It’s Alright Ma, (I’m Only Bleeding)’ before you’d want to slice both ears off.
I’d spend many hours locked in my room playing songs with Dylan singing lyrics like, “I’m going out of my mind / With a pain that stops and starts / Like a corkscrew to my heart / Ever since we’ve been apart.” In fact, to this day if someone asks me to open a bottle of wine with a corkscrew I run and hide.
Fast forward some years and I got married to Denise, the most amazing woman in the world. Not sure how I was so blessed. On our first date, being the crazy romantic that I am, I took her to see the awful horror movie Cujo. I was a huge Steven King fan, and Cujo was basically about a St. Bernard with rabies. Might be the worst movie I’ve ever seen.
While we were sitting in awkward silence waiting for the movie to begin, ‘Blowing ‘n the Wind,’ came over the sound system. Denise said, “Bob Dylan. I love Bob Dylan.” I was in a state of joyful shock. My first thought was, “This is the woman I am going to marry!” While walking back to the car after the dreadful Cujo my first thought was, “Forget about marrying this woman. She’ll never go out with me again! Cujo! You moron!” Thank God there was a second date. And a third date...
For our wedding song, I chose the beautiful Dylan song, ‘Forever Young.’ Many years later Denise told me that she did not like that song at all for our first song. I asked her why she did not tell m