Many A Year Has Passed And Gone

Many A Year Has Passed And Gone


 That Will Be The Year That Was

 by Martin Stein

So, as John reminds us all, the best is yet to come. That was the thought crossing my mind when he asked me to contribute to this little Freewheelin’ feature. And to take more advice, Bob tells us “don’t look back”. So here is my favourite Dylan year – 2007! 

I’m writing this just a few days after Bob turned 65 – pensioner age – wondering just what his future plans are. I mean how many shows can one man play? I know he probably doesn’t have to worry about a Pensions Gap and has the option of retirement from paid employ, but we all know he isn’t going to do that. 

But what may be inevitable is his retirement from touring and here I believe he has been making plans. We’ve heard the rumours of arthritis prompting the move to keyboards but there are other clues that suggest a change is gonna come. Take the very obviously retrospective projects of Chronicles (and the 20/20 TV interview), Masked & Anonymous and No Direction Home. Then there’s his tacit involvement with the forthcoming I’m Not There film. It seems to me that he’s setting some records straight here, clearing the decks – a timely tidy-up of odds and ends. Should we be surprised that a man who has mostly controlled his own career should want to officially make his case?  Adding Archives to Chronicles. 

Despite his public comments I think that the 1960s – his formative decade – do matter to him. They were his Wonder Years, his Golden Yesterday so beloved of OAPs of all ages. 

Chronicles has shown a potentially new career as author, but I for one doubt that we will ever see Volume 2. Such a book would only fuel demand and expectation for Volumes 3, 4, 5 and on and on. His story is so rich and fascinating that we would never be satisfied.  One thing’s for sure; Dylan does not paint himself into such corners. 

In 2006 people doubted the stories of Dylan showing an interest in being a Pop Idol judge. Well what better way to pass on the legacy of the serious songwriting craft than offering constructive criticism and encouragement to a new generation of artists? Admit it,it would make some kind of sense. 

And what of Dylan’s recent venture into DJ-dome? Many have commented on how well he has taken to the medium, how relaxed he seems. Hell, he’s actually enjoying himself. Why?  Because he wants others to discover the treasures of ‘real’ music.  Music was his first love and it will be his last!  He can’t be deaf to the commercial crap (not that there’s anything new in that) seemingly pumped out of every ipod and soft-top convertible nowadays. 

Like any good history teacher Dylan presents his lessons in a contemporary context. He isn’t playing the music just from the 1930s – 1950s in his broadcasts, the music that shaped his informative years. He is intelligently showing the links, relationships and legacies that bind real music. Ironically, rather than deflecting attention away from his own output, such an exercise actually presents Dylan’s work in a meaningful way. His contribution to the art form now becomes apparent, understandable, inevitable. Better get up close to the teacher if you want to learn anything. 

If “Love And Theft” was American music’s “greatest hits, but without the hits” and Dylan’s radio shows are constructed along similar lines, can we not predict that his next album will follow a similar retrospective vein and theme? Dylan has often claimed himself to be a conduit or pipe through which his music flows, to join up connections. His live interpretations increasingly rely on a blues derivation – a direct link to the ‘type’ of music with which he is most comfortable and effective. One thing’s for sure, the blues format fits Dylan’s older age as comfortably as a favourite cardigan or well-worn slippers. He is a Grand Master. 

Will Dylan retire gracefully? No. I don’t believe that there will be a Restless Farewell Tour with special guest nights featuring Robbie Robertson, G. E. Smith, Clapton, Petty et al.  Dylan’s retirement from the stage will be abrupt and his move onto a different stage has already begun. 

So there you have it. I predict that Dylan will enjoy due respect through the continued renaissance of his back catalogue, receive critical acclaim for his radio shows and commercial success through a tour-de-force of a new ‘old’ album.  Indeed, 2007 will be the best Dylan year – ever! 

Note: This article was written by Martin Stein in June 2006.