Tag Archives: inspiration

In Defense of Dylan



There’s nothing I can say about Bob Dylan that hasn’t already been said.  Analyzed, categorized, finalized or advertised. I’ve defended the man for most of my life against the accusation: “He can’t sing.” Whether you agree or disagree is not important. Whether you agree or not that he deserves a Nobel Prize (adding another weighty honor to his collection that includes a trifecta of Grammy, Oscar, Pulitzer) is not important.  What matters is that it is important to me.

It’s personal.

I’ve been listening to Dylan since 1971. I was 11, collecting UNICEF money for children starving in war-torn Bangladesh.  A Beatles fan like everyone else, I continued to favor George Harrison’s music after the Fab Four split.  So when he organized The Concert for Bangladesh – an event that set the precedent for rock charity – I could not wait to listen to the album, which I’m sure cost me a lot of babysitting money. And there was Bob Dylan, buried on Side E, singing A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. I was instantly hooked, inspired by the poetry, the imagery and the simplicity of the ballad. I went back to discover nearly a decade of Bob Dylan’s music that I had missed, simply because I was born too late.

I might have been described as obsessed. I started taking guitar lessons – a budding folk singer in my own mind. I read Rolling Stone magazine, seeking out any reference no matter how insignificant about Dylan. I read Dylan’s own prose, Tarantula, and Anthony Scaduto’s An Intimate Biography.  I wrote my 8th grade term paper about Bob Dylan: his life, his music, his impact on society. I quoted him like some people quote movie lines. He inspired me to make music my hobby, write poetry, become politically active, major in Political Science and writing and build a career in public affairs. He was the mentor I would never meet, but who was always there for me, growing, changing and maturing with the times.

I was fortunate to see Bob Dylan perform for the first time at Madison Square Garden in New York City during his Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975 and most recently at the Mann Center in Philadelphia, 2016. I was able to share that occasion with my middle son, Alex, another Dylan fan who had some catching up to do, but ultimately surpassed me in his knowledge of Dylan’s later works.

The day Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, I was ecstatic. The news propelled me out of a bad mood.  I felt vindicated. Yet, 45 years later, I found myself defending the man to anyone who questioned his right to win.

Read Dylan’s lyrics as poetry. Listen to A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Masters of War, Shelter from the Storm, The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll in Dylan’s own voice, delivering his songs like no one else can, complete with gravel, grit, spit and strum. In my mind, no one else does them justice. Whether insightful (Blowing in the Wind), inspirational (The Times They Are A-Changing), harsh (It’s Alright, Ma), spiritual (Not Dark Yet), or loving (Forever Young), it’s raw Dylan.

It’s personal.

I’m sure I’ll be defending Dylan until I die, and when that day comes, someone will respect my wishes and play a recording of Dylan singing the five-and-a-half-minute version of Mr. Tambourine Man. With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves, I’ll be following still.



A New Meaning to Pounding the Pavement

Picture_47 I wrote about this last year, and he’s doing it again. This time, Adam O’Neal has cast a wider net, walking from Belhaven, NC, to Washington, DC, to raise awareness and protect rural healthcare not just in Beaufort County but across the country: THEWALKNCTODC.com

His first step was a journey that, like the old folk song, would take him 500 miles away from home. When Adam O’Neal, the mayor of the small – no tiny – town of Belhaven, NC, told me that he was going to walk to Washington, DC, to keep his town’s rural hospital from closing its door, I didn’t think it was possible. On Monday, he will have fulfilled his promise, walking 273 miles to the nation’s capitol to support the people who elected him and then some – all the people within an 80 mile radius of the Pungo District Rural Hospital that closed its doors in July. His walk has been for the senior citizens and rural poor of eastern Carolina living in Beaufort and Hyde counties. At least one person has died an untimely death at 48 years old due to this closure. Adam O’Neal does not want this to happen a second time on his watch. Adam’s trek is like a Buddhist walking meditation – mindfulness in action. Every step – lift, kick, drop – is a mantra, or prayer, for every child playing sports, every fisherman or farmer at work, every pregnant woman worried about her unborn child, every ailing senior citizen, every person who deserves better healthcare. Without a local hospital, people living in two rural counties in NC will be denied access to the miracles of modern medicine. Every step Adam takes is a triumph for his mindfulness, and he has been rewarded with kindness from strangers he encountered along the way. He said the walk was grueling.  Through blisters and rain, his trek took him through back roads and beautiful countryside to highways where fast-moving trucks splattered him with mud. He met with locals and governors, media and mayors to further the cause for critical access hospitals. He formed unlikely alliances with leaders from the NAACP and so-called “radicals” – all united by a common cause in what he describes as a “new style” for getting things done. He has fewer than 60 miles left to go. He has asked for donations for the cause as well as prayers to keep blisters off his feet.  MSNBC, ABC, the WSJ, Al Jazeera and many other media outlets have covered Adam’s journey. Residents of Beaufort and Hyde counties will be taking busses to greet him when he arrives in Washington, likely dead on his feet, but alive with passion. Each measured step has been an inspiration for the average citizen who thinks they can’t make a difference. Think again. Everyone has a journey. Where will your next step take you?