Letter to the Editor: Why relevant Bob should never retire

(Editor, Meath Chronicle)

Dear sir - Bob Dylan turned 80 on Monday 24th May. Those lucky enough to grab his sublime concert at Slane in July 1984 when he was just a kid at 43 realise how time passes quickly and unnoticed and in the blink of an eye Dylan will also have "checked out", so the opportunity to sing his praises while he is still among us is one to relish.

I remember as a young man growing up in Old Johnstown in the 1970s and '80s with a guitar slung over my shoulder, heading for The Ramparts, as I visualised myself as the next Bob Dylan. I'd sit for hours playing his songs as Karen my girlfriend at the time looked on giving words of encouraging and praise, just as I'd imagine a young Joan Biaz did for Bob.

Being Dylan was easy I thought to myself, all I need to do was let my hair grow, don't wash and get a pair of Levis jeans and a jacket, send of my four-track cassette and I'd be hearing from Colombia Records within days.

Then I started seriously listening closely to Dylan's records, 'Blood On The Tracks', 'Desire', 'Street Legal' and it was then the "penny" dropped, there was far more to this 'dude' then I had ever imagined. This was my era's very own Shakespeare, so metaphorically I grabbed hold of Bob Dylan and refused to let go of him even to this day!

What appealed to me most about Dylan then and now was his "I don't care" attitude, an art which Patrick Kavanagh the poet once described as a "most difficult of difficult arts to achieve" - that philosophy didn't go down to well at home or with Mr Murphy in Saint Patrick's Classical School where I was a student at the time.

Of course, Dylan has produced some 'stinkers'. Was there a worse album in music history than the Christmas Album "'Christmas in The Heart' ? I don't think so, but as James Joyce once remarked that a great artist can always rise "beyond his handy work" and that's exactly what Dylan has done repeatedly through the 1960s, '70s, '80s and '90s, and up to the present day with masterpieces like 'World Gone Wrong', 'Live At Budokan', and 'Good As I've Been to You'.

I for one would be saddened if Dylan was to call it a day and retire. Why? Because like back in the early 1960s up till the present day, Bob Dylan's songs are still relevant. If you don't believe me, go listen to 'The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll' from 1964 or 'John Brown' from 1962, both still relevant in today's world when we speak of social classes, racism and war.

Happy birthday Bob, and long may you run and keep on rockin' in the free world.


Mel Devlin

Old Johnstown,