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 me that when I chose it. She replied, “Well, I made every other decision about the wedding. I thought it only fair that you got to pick something.” Not sure how to take that answer.
5 years after our marriage Denise gave birth to our first daughter, Liz. When Liz was just a baby, I’d pick up my guitar and sing ‘Forever Young’ to her. I played that song for Liz many, many nights. Not well, but I did play it. As Liz got older she heard me playing Bob Dylan songs everywhere. In the car, in the house. All over. In Forest Gump, Tom Hanks, as Forrest, said, “Everywhere I went, I was running!” My motto was “Everywhere I went I was playing Bob Dylan!” Very lame. But that was my motto.
As Liz grew up, our Dylan bond quietly grew stronger and stronger, but I never knew how strong it would grow. For Christmas and birthdays, Liz and I would always give each other Dylan themed gifts. Books, shirts, guitar songbooks. While Liz was studying abroad in London for junior year she’d often send me videos of street performers playing Dylan tunes. Each time she’d send me one I thought, “Liz is so incredible. I love her almost as much as I love Bob Dylan.”
Obviously, that’s a joke.
I could never love anyone as much as I love Bob Dylan.
Many years ago, I started texting Liz Dylan songs each Tuesday. I call it Tuesday With Dylan. After sending Liz hundreds of Dylan songs, Tuesday With Dylan still continues.
Liz attended Notre Dame University and had a life changing experience there. She made many life-long friends there and got heavily involved in politics. I’d like to somehow think that listening to Dylan all those years may have contributed to her passion for doing the right thing, even though it may be uncomfortable.
Liz also will not watch anyone be mistreated without stepping in to assist. A few years ago, in NYC she was in a diner getting her morning coffee. She witnessed some white guy in a business suit berating a young Russian waitress. When he said something to the frightened waitress along the lines of, “If you can’t speak English why don’t you go back to your country!”
Well, that was a mistake.
I can’t remember exactly what Liz said to him, but let’s just say that man regretted picking on that waitress who could not defend herself. The poor girl was probably afraid to open her mouth because this pathetic bully probably would have called ICE on her. Liz did very well in school and I was always proud of her. But not as proud as I’d be when she’d tell me stories like the waitress event, working at women’s shelters or going down to South Carolina to campaign for Bernie Sanders. Liz walks the walk. Or talks the talk or walks the talk. I could never quite figure out how that saying went.
Dylan often wrote about calling out bullies, whether it was an individual or the government. He always wrote about standing up for the oppressed, refugees, victims of racial discrimination, the outcasts. He wrote about them and Liz lives it. I am truly amazed at how she helps others and how hard she works at helping all oppressed people, no matter who they are or where they are.
On graduation day at Notre Dame, her passion and that of her friends was on full display. Mike Pence was the commencement speaker. Liz and many of her friends are not big fans of Mr. Pence. Pence has a reputation for being anti-LGBTQ+ and for supporting funding that he believes helps people “change their sexual behavior.”
As such, Liz and several of her friends organized a peaceful protest. As soon as Pence took to the podium, Liz and her friends stood quietly and then respectfully walked through the crowd and out of Notre Dame Stadium, to the edge of campus.
At first, I was aware of the proposed walkout and I was not sure how I felt about it, but once I saw the students walking out to a chorus of boos, I knew exactly how I felt. I grabbed my 9-year-old daughter Katie’s hand and said “Let’s go!” She asked me where we were going. I told her “We are leaving to go find Liz and her friends. After exiting the stadium, it took us a few minutes to find them, but when Liz saw us she ran up to Katie and me to hug us and then thanked us for joining the group.
Also, joining the protest was a handful of Notre Dame faculty which was great to see. However, after milling about for a few minutes, there was a sense of “Okay, what do we do next?” which is when someone suggested that the group walk off campus up to the main road.
Thus, as the committed, merry band of protestors made their way across campus I played ‘Blowing in the Wind’ on my iPhone, volume turned up as loud as it would play. Which was not very loud. I don’t know if anyone else heard it except Katie and I but it did not matter.
While listening to Dylan, holding Katie’s hand, and watching Liz and her brave friends marching, I was overcome with a sense of joy that I had not felt in far too long. My oldest daughter was with her friends, standing up for what she believed in, and her little sister Katie was witnessing the best role model a girl could ever have.
Out by the road there was a group of about 50 people protesting Mike Pence’s appearance on campus. They cheered the students as soon as they saw them marching their way. Someone asked the students if anybody wanted to say a few words. Of course, Liz grabbed the bullhorn and started speaking. I can’t remember a word of what she said that day, but I do remember feeling as proud of Liz as I’ve ever felt. She was speaking out about injustice, calling it out for what it was, just like Dylan had in the 60’s and 70’s.
I felt so lucky to be her dad at that point and it was a magical moment that I hope Katie will never forget.
I also recall one young woman in the front row who was also graduating but did not join the group that respectfully walked out. Instead, when Pence began speaking she stood up, turned her back on him, and stared out at the faces of her fellow graduates and their families. I could not hear what was being yelled her way, but I am sure it was for the most part not kind. She also reminded me of a Dylan story, believe it or not.
In May of 1963, a still relatively unknown Bob Dylan, aged 21, was due to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. The Sullivan show was probably the biggest show in America at that time. Appearing on this show usually launched the career of many an artist and Dylan was just about to go on and sing a song called “John Birch Society Blues.” John Birch Society was a group that basically went around searching for communists in America. Dylan’s song hilariously poked fun at the society.
At the last second, some CBS executives informed Dylan that he would not be allowed to perform a potentially controversial song over CBS airwaves. They assured Dylan that he could pick any other song to play and he’d still be able to perform on the show and possibly catapult his career into the big time. Dylan got pissed off, said if I can’t play that song then I am not going to play at all. And he walked off the set. Imagine a young, unknown musician having the convictions to walk off the set of the biggest show in America rather than be censored.
His nonconformity and refusal to give in are 2 of the reasons I’ve always admired him. Liz has similar qualities. Sometimes her views are not always popular. There are times when I don’t agree with or understand where she’s coming from. That’s fine with me. Like Dylan she does not care what others think of her. She only cares about being true to herself and doing the right thing.
Rewind to November 28, 2018.
Liz and I attend our first Dylan concert together at the Beacon Theatre in NYC.
It’s a night we’ve been looking forward to for the longest time. I was a bit worried about whether Liz would enjoy the show, because after all Dylan was 77 at this point. There was no telling what his voice would be like.
A friend of mine was kind enough to get some seats for me and Liz. We were 3 rows from the stage, right in front of Dylan. Any fears of Liz not enjoying the show were put to rest a few songs in.
Dylan was playing this incredible, moving version of ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,’ and about halfway into the song I glanced over at Liz. She had tears streaming down her face from the beauty and heartbreak of this Dylan classic. I did not say a word, but just soaked in the moment:
Sitting to my right was my beautiful, talented, passionate, and loving daughter, and about 70 feet directly in front of me was Bob Dylan, a man whose music I have enjoyed and listened to for 45 years and who has had a huge impact on my view of life.
And in that moment, I realized that no matter how much the ‘Times are a-Changin,’ my love for Liz and my admiration for Dylan never will.
Mike Hynes is a very blessed husband and father. He has worked in guest services in NYC hotels for the past 25 years. A lifetime ago he was an actor and playwright in NYC. He would also like it to be known that the Hynes' family power ranking goes like this:
Layla (the dog)
Mike (meaning he's the FOUNDATION)