So the legendary Bob Dylan played to more than 3,000 admirers – young and old – at the CFSB Center last Saturday evening, and he did not disappoint. His cracked 71-year-old vocal chords made it hard to decipher some of the lyrics to songs that may not have been familiar unless fans had purchased or downloaded his latest “Tempest” CD, but here was Dylan, nonetheless, and when he sang “Tangled Up in Blue,” or “All Along the Watchtower” he carried it off as only Dylan can.
I thought his voice was finer than when Wesley and I heard him last year with Jeff Finley at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., but maybe it was because Jeff had gotten Evelyn and me second row seats this time and we could see up close and personal as well as hear. For an older woman sitting several seats down from us, this was her 161st Dylan concert; she planned to attend his concert the next night at the Louisville Palace as well.
We heard that every hotel room in Murray was taken Saturday night.
In light of the fact that Mitch McConnell is speaking at the Murray State commencement this Saturday, I had hoped that Dylan would sing, “The Times They Are A’Changin’,” but even though he has performed the song 633 times in all, he has not sung it in concert since 2009. I also would like to give a nod to Bob Dylan for helping me to realize through his music what a debt I owe to my children – Wesley and Cammie Jo – and to my students for all that you have taught me this semester. For me, the unforgettable moment in the Murray concert was when Dylan sang “What Good Am I?” Here is a man who has influenced not one generation, but generations of people, around the world.
His performances have inspired, his songwriting will endure, his genius is transcendent. Yet, last Saturday night he sang with a strong sense of humility the following lines:
“What good am I if I’m like all the rest
If I just turn away, when I see how you’re dressed
If I shut myself off so I can’t hear you cry
What good am I?
What good am I if I know and don’t do
If I see and don’t say, if I look right through you
If I turn a deaf ear to the thunderin’ sky
What good am I?
What good am I if I say foolish things
And I laugh in the face of what sorrow brings
And I just turn my back while you silently die
What good am I?”
This is the Bob Dylan I will always remember. This is the Bob Dylan I will always cherish. And I will never forget the night that Evelyn and I sat on the second row in the CFSB Center on the campus at Murray State to hear and see a true legend perform. I don’t care if he didn’t sing “Blowin’ in the Wind.” He is still an inspiration to generations of Americans. I just wish Murray State would give Dylan an honorary doctorate instead of an obstructionist politician who has voted against aid for students again and again.
Column by Duane Bolin, professor of history.