80 Undeniably Truthful Factoids about Bob Dylan, Conceived and Compiled on the Occasion of His 80th Birthday
A Bob Dylan Mystical Listicle
24 May 2021
Not my usual Thursday offering
Inspired by all the tributes to Bob Dylan on this his 80th birthday, I cranked out my own tribute if you can stand it. Enjoy!
1. Many people think Bob Dylan changed his name in honor of of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Bob Dylan has both confirmed and denied that assumption. In his memoir, Chronicles, Volume One, Bob Dylan implies that, indeed, he chose his surname in honor of Dylan Thomas, which now many people accept as proof.
2. Chronicles, Volume One, is about as reliable as a source as a novel.
3. Bob Dylan has several children, and some of his children have children. The children of Dylan’s children are Bob Dylan’s grandchildren. He has multitudes.
4. Bob Dylan has a strange fondness for wearing slacks with one stripe down each leg while performing.
7. Bob Dylan has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
8. Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
9. Bob Dylan has not won the Heisman Trophy, yet.
10. Bob Dylan wrote “Blowin’ in the Wind” when he was only 21 or so, yet he still hasn’t fully answered any of the questions.
11. Bob Dylan rode a motorcycle on at least one occasion.
12. Bob Dylan’s house has many mansions, “each one of them got a fireproof floor.”
13. Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour actually ends and restarts a few times each year, which more accurately makes it Bob Dylan’s Sporadic but Persistent Tour.
14. For the first time since 1988, Bob Dylan has not toured in a year, but no one blames him because, COVID.
15. Bob Dylan is reputed to rarely smile, but he in fact smiles frequently. Or perhaps he is reacting to a gas bubble. Who cares?
16. If you ever dreamed of Bob Dylan writing a song about you, I refer you to “Positively Fourth Street” among others. You may want to reconsider.
17. Bob Dylan’s Tarantula is.
18. In “Mississippi,” Bob Dylan sings that he “stayed a day too long.” It is not clear whether he then stayed a couple days more because what the hell.
19. Bob Dylan creates metallic art by welding together disparate metal objects originally manufactured by others.
20. Bob Dylan creates paintings and drawings based on photos and film stills originally captured by others.
21. Bob Dylan creates music by using riffs, chord changes, structures, and even melodies originally composed by others.
22. Bob Dylan creates lyrics by combining phrases and clauses originally written by others.
23. Bob Dylan is not a plagiarist.
24. Bob Dylan has been married at least twice and is rumored to be currently married. If that it true, then Dylan will have had three spouses unless, of course, his third wife is actually one of the previous two.
25. Bob Dylan’s third wife is not Mavis Staples.
26. Bob Dylan’s attitude toward your need to know about his private life is, to be precise, buzz off!
27. According to Bob Dylan, “Nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell.”
28. Bob Dylan has a line of whiskey. He does not, despite my repeated pleas, have a line of fortified fruit wines.
29. Bob Dylan sometimes leaves his best songs off albums, which is about as perverse a factoid as any on this list.
30. Bob Dylan once released an album called Down in the Groove. ‘Nuff said on that subject … Well, actually, even that one has some high spots. Geez.
31. Bob Dylan is Jewish, which makes him just as unique as every single Jewish person on earth. Why is his Jewishness always mentioned?
32. Bob Dylan owns harmonicas, which he sometimes calls “harps.”
33. Bob Dylan owns guitars, which he sometimes calls “guitars.”
34. Bob Dylan is, like all of us, “busy dying.”
36. At the 1998 Grammys, while Bob Dylan and his band performed “Love Sick” accompanied by a professional dancer named Soy Bomb, a flash mob of pretty young people invaded the stage to surround the performers and sway to the music.
37. Bob Dylan had a Christian conversion, which he seems to have disavowed except when he seems to have re-avowed it. In any case, “Jokerman” explains it all.
38. The album John Wesley Harding is one of the ones Bob Dylan released.
39. Bob Dylan’s song “Gotta Serve Somebody” is grossly misunderstood. It is nothing more that a protest song aimed at the inattentive waitstaff at his local IHOP. Prove me wrong.
40. Bob Dylan saw Buddy Holly perform in Duluth just before he died in a plane crash. Bob Dylan’s possible role in that disaster has never been sufficiently investigated.
41. Bob Dylan’s movie Masked and Anonymous has an A-list cast that cannot miss. Guaranteed hit!
42. Bob Dylan recently sold his music catalog for hundreds of millions of dollars.
43. Bob Dylan has a lot of money, and his family is very very lucky.
44. Many people criticize Bob Dylan’s voice.
45. Bob Dylan doesn’t seem to give a shit what you think of his voice.
46. Bob Dylan may or may not like Gregory Peck as an actor. Or maybe its Sam Shepard who is the Peck fan. Or maybe both. Whatever. Just do yourself a favor and relax into the collaborative genius of “Brownsville Girl.”
47. Bob Dylan’s face appears on the front cover of every one of his albums except the ones it does not appear on.
49. One of Bob Dylan’s greatest lyrics is “Visions of Johanna.” The 80th word in “Visions of Johanna” is “of.”
51. According to Bob Dylan, “The world of research has gone berserk.”
52. Bob Dylan’s tenth birthday took place on 24 May 1951.
53. There were no worldwide celebrations for Bob Dylan’s tenth birthday, and no one wrote “10 Facts about Bob Dylan” listicles.
54. Bob Dylan was not called “Bob Dylan” in 1951.
56. Some have speculated that Bob Dylan was incarcerated for a time in Red Wing.
57. It is more likely that Bob Dylan wears Red Wing shoes exclusively than that he was ever incarcerated in Red Wing penitentiary.
58. People the world over love the music of Bob Dylan.
59. People the world over hate the music of Bob Dylan.
60. People the world over have never heard of Bob Dylan.
61. Many, many musicians have covered the music of Bob Dylan.
62. Bob Dylan fans argue about who does the best covers of Bob Dylan.
63. Bob Dylan fans argue about whether anyone can cover Bob Dylan well except Bob Dylan.
64. Bob Dylan could give a shit about your opinion of covers of his music, but he has enjoyed the royalties, thank you.
65. Bob Dylan once owned a beautiful sailing schooner called the Water Pearl.
66. Bob Dylan’s beautiful sailing schooner, the Water Pearl, sank.
67. Bob Dylan’s album Self Portrait (1970) features a self portrait on the cover. Yes. That is what Bob Dylan thinks he looks like. Vanity be damned. Bob Dylan should have stuck with the glasses at least while painting.
68. Bob Dylan arrived in New York City and lived on various people’s sofas for a while.
69. In other words, Bob Dylan was a wandering homeless man in NYC for a while.
70. Bob Dylan has been accosted by at least one police officer for looking like a wandering homeless man.
71. Bob Dylan has capitalized on the appetite for bootlegs of his recordings by releasing a series of his own “official bootlegs,” an oxymoron if I ever heard one.
72. Bob Dylan’s Renaldo and Clara is a film that, uh, it’s a movie about, um, Renaldo and Clara is a documentary combined with concert film combined with scripted fictional tale combined with improvised narrative that, oh no, it has, well, Renaldo and Clara is Bob Dylan’s attempt to, erm, it portrays an artistic sensibility that, eh, in Renaldo and Clara Bob Dylan presents, ugh
73. Bob Dylan’s film Renaldo and Clara is long.
74. It is entirely possible that the original concept for the cover photo on Bob Dylan’s album Bringing It All Back Home was to have his manager, Albert Grossman, pose in a sultry red dress while smoking a cigarette and that Albert was unavailable, so his wife, Sally, sat in. If this is true, it is a considerable stroke of good fortune that the dress fit Sally so well and that the cat was so cooperative.
75. The title of the Bob Dylan album Street Legal refers to a vehicle that adheres to all the laws and regulations that pertain to operating the vehicle on public roads, in other words a standard car.
76. Bob Dylan has been known to wear a top hat while in England.
77. Bob Dylan wears a gray hoodie when he is not in England.
78. Bob Dylan performs his songs incorrectly in concert on purpose. He messes them up as a way of flipping the bird to his audience for whom he has the utmost contempt. Clearly. It’s the only possible interpretation.
79. If you go to see Bob Dylan in concert, you will hear him create and recreate not reproduce. He will alter tunes, arrangements, and even lyrics. He will play songs you may not know and play songs you know well in ways that you will find unrecognizable. Dylan does not put on a nostalgia act full of loving reproductions of studio hits. If you want a nostalgia act, go catch the Monkees on tour or just about anybody else from that era and on up. If you want to hear Dylan’s studio recordings reproduced in a live setting, take your stereo to the nearest sports arena with bad acoustics and crank it up. Invite your friends to give it that live ambiance. If you want someone to say, “Hello, (fill in your town),” from stage, you will be out of luck at a Dylan concert. He barely mumbles through an introduction of his band. He is there to create musical art through performance. If you don’t like it, don’t go. Someone else wants your seat. In short, it is a wonderful experience to see Dylan live, particularly now, and it stopped being cool to pay money to boo him back in 1966.
80. Bob Dylan’s album Rough and Rowdy Ways was released when he was a mere youngster of 79, and it is as good as anything.
81. Still here? Really? Go away.