Duluth, Minnesota's favorite son, Robert Allen Zimmerman, turns 70 today, and looks back on an unparalleled career as songwriter, performer, and provocateur. One of the greats of American songwriting (and, fittingly enough, of American jurisprudence), he remains without question the defining poetic voice of the '60s and what followed, whether he wanted to assume the mantle or not, whether or not he meant what he said, said what he meant, or had anything to say at all (and he's certainly not telling).
After a chameleonic '80s and '90s, Dylan's sharpened his focus on performance over the past decade or so, playing 100-plus dates each year on the Never Ending Tour, but hasn't really ever settled into a comfortable elder statesmanship — it may never be possible for him. His Asian tour this past month found him embroiled in controversy, attacked by The New York Times' Maureen Dowd as a sellout to the Chinese government, for agreeing not to perform his classic protest material at the Worker's Stadium in Beijing. Dylan, in response, wrote last week that he was never censored; that he and his band "played all the songs that we intended to play."
Celebrations today are many and varied. Rolling Stone has posted an massive tribute this week; also check out the Guardian's Dylan archives; LAist has a nice video retrospective. Or look back a couple of decades.
— Michael Berk
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