I was fortunate to grow up in an incredibly rich era for popular music – the 1960s – and to witness the emergence in real time of the two most influential actors of the last fifty-odd years. One was The Beatles, of course, who effectively defined popular music for the modern era, and continue to do so. The other was Dylan.
Now of course there were many others, at a time of almost embarrassing musical fertility: The Doors, naturally, and that guy with the frizzy hair who set fire to his guitar on stage. But, if the Beatles effectively invented the modern rock ensemble, Dylan invented the modern singer-songwriter, at least in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. I remember at school, when I was about thirteen, hearing some of the older children with guitars singing “Mr Tambourine Man” and going into a kind of shock. It had simply never occurred to me that anyone could actually write music like that. So of course I saved every penny I could find and eventually bought myself a guitar. And I little later I watched Dylan’s famous 1965 BBC concerts on black and white television in a kind of stunned admiration.
The Beatles split up, Morrison and others died, and, frankly, little that Dylan has done for the last thirty-five years has interested me very much. But happy 75th birthday anyway, Mr Zimmerman.