Michael Jackson has fans. Bob Dylan has lyrics.
You don’t just listen to Dylan’s lyrics-you feel them. They are announcements of conviction and rascally celebration, reviewing the past and foretelling the future. They are restless and audacious, daring the listener to participate. They’re all there, whimsical romps to wise ballads.
There is a Dylan lyric for every mood, day, fool or relationship, from the ultimate kiss-off Like A Rolling Stone to the frank indictment Masters Of War to the unsentimental rumination Not Dark Yet.
Dylan succeeds in expressing himself lyrically from topical and self-revelatory to evangelical Christian and straight-ahead rock and fucking roll.
Electric words never burn out.
As with love or mathematics, they seem to work even when translated into another language, as heard on the recent soundtrack to Masked and Anonymous. Turkish, Jamaican patois or Italian rap, they clock in.
They jive because his lyrics adapt, like Shakespeare’s sonnets or Whitman’s verse, to the mode and situation. Electric words never burn out.
They twist and dive through history, myth and religion, human longing, deceit and conceit, the need for more love and sometimes less. They suck the vanity from our blood and the starch from our shirts.
We listen and live forever.
This story first appeared in San Diego City Beat on October 20th, 2004. Bob shook the house two nights later at Cox Arena on the campus of San Diego State University.