Todd Snider wrote a piece for The Village Voice where he asks, “What would you do if you met Bob Dylan?” Snider details different stories he has heard of friends who have met the man. The piece is filled with Snider’s classic witty ramblings that usually make his live performances so memorable. In the end, he details a hypothetical conversation where he tries to express how much he truly loves everything Dylan has ever done. And he realizes, “that's how most true bob dylan fans sound when they start trying to explain him. that poor fucking bob dylan shouldn't have to meet anybody.”
Every serious Dylan fan has given time to this question. What would you say? Would you even say anything? You’ve seen Don’t Look Back, when he rips people apart for bestowing generic praise. His retorts, throughout his career, have cracked me up and made me glad I wasn’t the person asking the stupid question. One of my favorite interview responses he ever gave was in 1966 with Playboy.
PLAYBOY: Mistake or not, what made you decide to go the rock-n-roll route?
DYLAN: Carelessness. I lost my one true love. I started drinking. The first thing I know, I'm in a card game. Then I'm in a crap game. I wake up in a pool hall. Then this big Mexican lady drags me off the table, takes me to Philadelphia. She leaves me alone in her house, and it burns down. I wind up in Phoenix. I get a job as a Chinaman. I start working in a dime store, and move in with a 13-year-old girl. Then this big Mexican lady from Philadelphia comes in and burns the house down. I go down to Dallas. I get a job as a "before" in a Charles Atlas "before and after" ad. I move in with a delivery boy who can cook fantastic chili and hot dogs. Then this 13-year-old girl from Phoenix comes and burns the house down. The delivery boy - he ain't so mild: He gives her the knife, and the next thing I know I'm in Omaha. It's so cold there, by this time I'm robbing my own bicycles and frying my own fish. I stumble onto some luck and get a job as a carburetor out at the hot-rod races every Thursday night. I move in with a high school teacher who also does a little plumbing on the side, who ain't much to look at, but who's built a special kind of refrigerator that can turn newspaper into lettuce. Everything's going good until that delivery boy shows up and tries to knife me. Needless to say, he burned the house down, and I hit the road. The first guy that picked me up asked me if I wanted to be a star. What could I say?
PLAYBOY: And that’s how you became a rock’n’roll singer?
DYLAN: No, that’s how I got tuberculosis.
This all reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend sometime in 2005. Jeremy and I were in a band together called The Minni-Thins. I had just finished work and stopped by his house to find him in the attack room that doubled as his brother’s bedroom. He had just finished watching Fearless Freaks, the documentary of The Flaming Lips by Bradley Beesley. A year later, during our time in Austin, TX, for SXSW, The Minni-Thins would play at a private party to celebrate Beesley’s film Summercamp!
Jeremy had a six pack of Guinness Draught bottles (or maybe I picked them up on my way over, I can’t remember). Either way we were talking, like we often did, about some of our favorite musicians and music in general. This was right after No Direction Home had played on PBS. Somehow I mentioned that I would never want to meet Bob Dylan. Jeremy, knowing Dylan’s been my favorite musician since I discovered the power of music, asked, “Why not?”
It has nothing to do with Dylan; it has everything to do with me. What would I say? I can’t imagine any situation where the outcome would compare to feelings I have for him. I could never meet him as a fan or even mention how much of a fan I am. I would just sound like the rambling, babbling person that he seems to despise. I could never talk to him about his music, but I don’t know how I could talk to him and not mention his music or how much it has meant to me.
“That’s probably the best praise you can give any musician,” Jeremy acknowledged.
I laughed. “Yeah, I like his music so much, he’s the only musician I would never want to meet.”
The reality sounds too simple. Bob Dylan just wants to be treating like a normal person. What’s new? Seen any good movies, read any good books lately? For nearly fifty years, people have been telling him he’s a genius or the voice of a generation or the greatest songwriter ever. It’s all true, but it can’t mean much to him anymore. The best thing anyone could ever do, the most sincere thing any true Dylan fan could ever do, is act like you were seeing you an old family friend that you haven’t seen in ten years or so. He’s somebody you’re familiar with, you know the main details of his life, but it’s been so long since you’ve talked to him that the best thing you can do is maybe catch up on some brief anecdotes, hopefully share a few laughs, and wonder if you’ll run into him again.