Joe Henry on Dylan’s 80th Birthday

Dylan is 80, Part 3:
The great songwriter/producer on the terrifying ecstatic, abandoned-in-a-dark-quarry impact of Dylan on his life

Long Ago & Far Away
By JOE HENRY

His songs were not the first to which I was devoted; but it was Bob Dylan’s who made me believe I would spend my life writing my own. It’s like the difference between admiring a passing car, and waking up in the trunk of one ––hooded and bound by rope; straining and ecstatic at the sound of the lonesome gravel road just beneath, no doubt headed for the abandoned and dark quarry.

I can still remember where I was standing at age ten, in Bath, Ohio, when I first heard Bob singing from my brother Dave’s room across the hall about all he really wanted to do, and all he didn’t. And it changed not only how I would perceive all music going forward: it radically reframed all the music I’d loved retroactively. Like getting new glasses at 40 and finding they changed not only the letter chart, but as well the way I’d read The Black Stallion in the third grade; like seeing the shadow that lay prone behind me also waiting upright and whistling at the next corner.

Joe Henry.

“It’s like the difference between admiring a passing car, and waking up in the trunk of one ––hooded and bound by rope; straining and ecstatic at the sound of the lonesome gravel road just beneath, no doubt headed for the abandoned and dark quarry.”

I don’t need to go on and on (though you know I could) for there are so many who owe a debt to the same loan shark; and he still rules the neighborhood ––even though he’s old now, and smelling of damp horses, Aqua Velva, and baby powder.

You’ll have to go to him personally if you need more time this week to come up with the vig, and he may or may not be kindly. He has, after all, been hearing the same story all day long. And it’s getting late. And he has somewhere else to be.

But as it turns out, this rheumy-eyed man, he owes the same debt as you to the wiry young freak with the jimmy leg and Cuban heels, the vaudevillian’s guitar and the gypsy hymns, that once upon a time stormed the feeder like a blue jay, chasing off all comers and casting its seeds to the wind and the sea.

This old man…he’s here like you with his hat in his hands, asking for a little more time. Yes, god, please: just a day or two more to get square, to get whole.

-Joe Henry
Bath, Maine

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