Today marks the 49th anniversary of the release of one of my favorite Dylan albums, Highway 61 Revisited. It’s nine songs could pretty much be a greatest hits volume itself. Every song is a masterpiece of writing and performance and I wouldn’t be surprised if 49 years from now people are still writing about how great this album is.
From the moment “Like a Rolling Stone” kicks off until “Desolation Row” fades out, Highway 61 Revisited keeps my attention the entire way. Even b-side cuts like “From a Buick 6” are so much fun. The first line, “I got this graveyard woman, you know, she keeps my kids” is so sing worthy to me I just can’t help myself from chiming in every time.
Needless to say, Bob Dylan influenced my own songwriting quite a bit. Especially the longer songs off of this album and others like Blonde on Blonde. They inspired me to write my own long songs which lead to my epics: The Commandeer along with “l’Homme de l’Eau” and “Almost Yesterday” from Gardener Hands.
Dylan has also influenced poet and close family friend, Michael Jennings. He told me once that the song “Visions of Johanna” (off of the Blonde on Blonde album) inspired him to become a poet. So, as you might guess, we’ve had some pretty good Dylan discussions on a couple of phone calls.
Jennings recently released a collection of his poetry called Bone Songs and Sanctuaries and you can read the story behind it on the home page of his website but included in the collection is a Bob Dylan tribute that I would like to share. It’s called “Talkin’ Bob’s Blues”. In this poem, Jennings uses the Guthrie-esque talking’ blues style that Dylan also incorporated in his own songs and he also uses many allusions to Dylan lyrics throughout the entirety of the piece. It’s fun to make the connections in Jennings’ tribute to Dylan songs. I particularly like the last line, “He let the echo decide if he was right or wrong”, which to me sums up Dylan as a songwriter and performer. The message of his songs would often be debated among the people and the scholars and he would sometimes even face a little backlash from these interpretations. To me this is proof of art. Dylan’s songs had an ability to move people in some way through their interpretations of his songs. He can still do this today and Jennings captured that in his tribute. Take a listen below or read it at his website.
“Talkin’ Bob’s Blues” by Michael Jennings:
If you liked this poem, you’ll like his other poems too so consider supporting him by purchasing Bone Songs and Sanctuaries to add to your own personal library.