Subject: Why Bob Dylan is worth noticing

In a nutshell, because:

1. He's no genius, he's a piece of work.

2. He left a mark on your parents' generation right up there with JFK and Muhammad Ali.

3. He's smart, fun and has got fascinating rhythm.

4. There's a great Dylan book, a Dylan movie and an ongoing exhibit at EMP.

"Democracy doesn't rule the world - violence does." Dylan said that. And: "I'll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours."

Dylan was born in an American hideout the Swedes called Hib Bings, Min Ne Sota way back in 1941 when Hitler looked unstoppable. Hibbing was a mining town colder than Alaska. Robert Zimmerman wore his clothes to bed. His father peddled TVs. And his uncle owned the movie theater where he saw James Dean and Brigitte Bardot for free.

He was a serious student. Wrote papers on John Steinbeck. Was in the Latin Club. Had good penmanship. When he started falling in love with girls - as only little guys can - it brought the poet out in him. And he got a guitar. Wrote first song for Brigitte Bardot. "Thought I might get to sing it to her someday."

He was quite the dreamer. Told pop star Bobby Vee his name was Elston Gunn and he could play the piano.

Went to the University of Minnesota, but they couldn't teach him what he wanted to learn: people's music that had fallen through the cracks.

He could listen to a record twice and it was his. If not, he just stole the albums.

Hitchhiked to New York's Greenwich Village. Focused? He could sing, play guitar, blow harmonica and drag on a cigarette all at the same time. Saw things clearly. Made smart choices.

Gathered what he needed to be what he wanted.

Allen Ginsberg heard him and knew the torch had been passed.

America was waking up.

And Dylan would surf that big '60s wave until a careless ride on a Triumph motorcycle brought him back down to earth.

My words don't do the story justice. See the footage and hear the music in Scorsese's movie.

Our friends like Ed and Mully got together and watched it together. Had a hootenanny. They hooted for hours.

Dylan asks Joan Baez who wrote her new good song. "You did, ya dope," she replies. Who knew she was funny and soft?

Al Kooper sneaks into the recording session of "Like a Rolling Stone" because the organ is empty. Bob hears the playback and says: "Turn up the organ."

Kooper declines to go on tour because Bob wants to go to Dallas. "They killed Kennedy," Kooper explains, "what would they think of us? I didn't want to be John Connally, the guy next to the target."

Dylan's girlfriend, Suze Rottolo, the one from the cover of "Free-wheeling," is beguiling.

Scorsese didn't screw this up, perhaps because Dylan himself was an invisible hand on it.

The best parts of the movie are the interviews Jeff Rosen conducted with Baez, Rotolo, Dave Von Ronk, a man named Izzy and Bob himself.

Dylan was always doing the Floyd Patterson peek a boo, bob and weave.

Here it's like a deposition on truth serum. He looks good - still got the long hair, the teeth are white, the eyes are blue and he talks real straight to great effect. It's like the century's other big mystery, Lawrence of Arabia, explaining himself.

I hope there's more coming. After Dylan's accident, he found his house with a white picket fence, married an earthy Playboy bunny and had four kids - but rarely stopped touring, even after his voice was almost destroyed.

Hand in glove with the film is an exhibit at EMP, where the phys-ical artifacts are tacked up on the wall.

Nobody has taken the torch from his hand since.

His high-school yearbook, the Hematite (iron ore), inscribed. A letter he typed to Joan Baez's mother: "Mummy, he even takes baths." A story in Melody Maker where the Beatles say they spent three weeks in Paris and never took Dylan off the record player. John Lennon credits Dylan inspired his writing of "I'm a Loser."

It is especially striking to see the humble faded type on browning paper of Dylan's original lyrics and understand what they would grow up to become.

The exhibit put together by a young Oregon duck named Jason Emmons makes only one big mistake. It suggests "Like a Rolling Stone" might be rock's or Dylan's best song.

I was hip to Dylan early only because I had a hip friend who gave me the Dylan bug. We'd seen his first Seattle concert and memorized three albums when nobody knew how to pronounce Dylan's name and wouldn't listen to him for longer than a few seconds. Then one sum-mer day I'm walking down to the beach and see the biggest dork in high school, the poor bastard with a harelip who was always getting his zipper glued in gym class. Ronnie had his transistor on his shoulder pressed into his ear. And Bob was wailing, "LIKE A ROLLING STONE, THERE'S NO DIRECTION HOME...." It had taken us a lot of effort to know Bob, and here he was just raining out of the sky. This was upsetting until we realized the vein was deep enough for all of us. Dylan's written hundreds of songs waaaaaay better than that.

Since the movie, I've been listening to them in my head.

"Masters of War"; "Don't Think Twice"; "Corinna, Corinna"; "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"...

Dylan's still worth a stop, look and listen.

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