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The Bob Dylan Cheat Sheet: 25 Things To Know About Bob Dylan

List Of The Day

OK, you're at a party. Someone mentions Bob Dylan is turning 70. You don't want to be that person who says, "I like his songs. I just can't stand his voice." No, you want to keep your job, your social standing and future invites to parties because otherwise you'll be spending a lot of time at home.

The topic is bound to come up! His birthday is May 24th.  We here at Y! Music are here to help!

25) Bob Dylan's Real Name is Robert Zimmerman: Some people will refer to him as "Zimmy." Just chuckle quietly to yourself to show you get it.

24) Bob Dylan's Idol Was Woody Guthrie: Here you should know Woody Guthrie wrote "This Machine Kills Fascists" on his guitar. I inscribed it on my iPod but it doesn't carry the same effect. Dylan visited Guthrie before he died and one of his first songs was called "Song to Woody." You like it.

23) Bob Dylan Left Hibbing, Minnesota and Eventually Landed in Greenwich Village: Greenwich Village is pronounced Gren-nidge. Mumble it. Drop the names Dave Van Ronk and 'Ric Von Schmidt and walk away.

22) Bob Dylan Wrote "Blowin' In The Wind": His manager, Albert Grossman (an important name to remember), made sure his other artists (Peter, Paul and Mary, not that important to remember) covered Dylan's songs so people who hated his voice--not you--could get into him.

21) Bob Dylan Wrote Protest Songs: Don't bother with all the songs with people's names in them. Just tell people you dig "Masters of War." They'll get the idea.

20) Bob Dylan Stopped Writing Protest Songs: Pretty quickly, Dylan got bored with writing from the newspaper and put his creative writing skills into writing songs that sounded like he'd taken many drugs. Because he had. He would later write topically ("George Jackson," "Joey") but never with the enthusiasm of his early years.

19) The Byrds Cover of "Mr. Tambourine Man" Is Very Cool, But Bob Dylan Was NEVER Folk-Rock!: Perish the thought. Don't even bring up the term folk-rock unless you want your nickname to be "Folk-Rocker."

18) Bringing It All Back Home Is Dylan's First Electric Album: This is true, since it has "Subterranean Homesick Blues" (you know, the rap song with "Johnny's in the basement mixing up the medicine") and "Maggie's Farm." But the second side is acoustic.

17) Highway 61 Revisited is Your Favorite Dylan Album: It has "Like A Rolling Stone," "Ballad of a Thin Man" (the "something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones" song) and "Desolation Row" where Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot are fighting in the captain's towers. If you don't know who they are, don't sweat, most people don't either.

16) Blonde On Blonde Is Your Favorite Dylan Album: Even though nobody remembers half the album--meet someone who can hum "Obviously Five Believers" and run!--people will insist it's his best because Dylan says it has "That thin, that wild, mercury sound." That said, it has "Aw, Mama, is this really the end?" which is actually called "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again," "Visions of Johanna" and "Everybody Must Get Stoned," which is called "Rainy Day Women #12 & #35," but nobody calls it that except for critics and DJs.

15) Bob Dylan Had a "Motorcycle Accident": Experiencing "exhaustion," Bobby had an "accident" with his motorcycle up in Woodstock, NY that took him off the road for a few years. His music subsequently changed. He likely did have an accident, just not as terrible as some claims.

14) Bob Dylan Recorded With The Band at Big Pink: Pink house in upstate NY. They jammed in the basement and sent the tapes out to other people to get the songs covered. Tons of bootlegs exist. You own them.

13) John Wesley Harding is a Mystery: This quiet album with that song Jimi Hendrix covered, "All Along the Watchtower," is very quiet. But you love it. Because it's quiet.

12) Dylan Going Country Was A Cool Thing For Him To Do: While others thought Dylan was a little nuts for going country, you always knew he knew what he was doing. (If you're in your twenties, just say "your parents" always knew...)

11) Self-Portrait is a Fascinating, Misunderstood Album: When people roll their eyes at the mention of this album, just nod your head and mumble, "misunderstood. So misunderstood."

10) Either You or Someone In Your Family Saw Dylan and the Band on the 1974 Tour: It was great, in case anyone asks. You still can't get over the idea that Dylan yelled at the end of every line. That kills  you.

9) Blood On The Tracks is The Story of Your Life!: I don't care if you're 12. This album speaks to you about all of life's vagaries. Being divorced is tough!

8) Street Legal Is So Much Better Than People Say: Don't be one of those lame semi-fans. Stick your neck out for the one album in Dylan's catalog that is always being reinterpreted! You think this rock 'n' roll stuff is easy?

7) Dylan's Born-Again Period Was OK With You: "Gotta Serve Somebody" was decent. It won him a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male. See, you do like his voice. It's respected!

6) "Jokerman" Said A Lot About the World Situation: Who the heck knows what that means? No one's going to call you on it because nobody knows either. Unless you're in the presence of a Dylan scholar. If that's the case, go home. The party's terrible.

5) No One Will Ask Any Band of the Hand Questions: If you see any mention of this anywhere, skip it. It's not on the test.

4) You Saw Dylan and the Dead: You were there. No one else remembers what happened, either. But you were there.

3) You Like the Daniel Lanois Albums, Maybe: Lanois produced Oh Mercy and Time Out of Mind, albums that were both given highly favorable reviews and now are considered only OK. You're not sure why.

2) Love and Theft Might Be Greater Than Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan does not have any declining abilities in any skill set. It's not possible. He can still bring it.

1) Dylan Is Never Impenetrable: There are no small Dylan ideas, only small listeners who can't figure out what he's telling us. When he yawned in a song, it wasn't because he was tired. It was his way of communicating the lethargy of the moment. You loved his book, Chronicles, because it was an intriguing puzzle, even if you could live without all those notes on the making of Oh Mercy. And the film, I'm Not There, was a great "allegorical" tale.

There you have it. Memorize these 25 points and people will assume you've been a Dylan fan your entire life. If someone asks you about A.J. Weberman, just answer "trash" and smile knowingly.

You're in the club.

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