ed. note: This post was originally written for WNCX.com and published on 5.24.11.
Bob Dylan , 70 years old today, has had a storied career spanning over five decades. The 1988 Rock Hall inductee was back in the headlines this week after the BBC revealed a lost interview from 1966 in that he admitted to a heroin addiction.“I kicked a heroin habit in New York City,” Dylan confesses, “I got very, very strung out for a while, I mean really, very strung out. And I kicked the habit. I had about a $25-a-day habit and I kicked it.” (Check out the full story here.)
That portion of the interview detailed a particularly broken-hearted time in Dylan’s life (describing the days following a breakup with his girlfriend in 1965, Suzie Rotolo). The Telegraph‘s Neil McCormick makes some interesting points about the drug headline. To sum up McCormick’s take, “All we have learned from the sensationalist reporting of remarks from 45 years ago, is that a young beatnik influenced musician in New York in the 1960s, recovering from a broken heart, briefly dabbled in a widely prevalent narcotic substance, then moved on.”
Naturally, a heroin addiction is nothing to scoff at, since the highly addictive drug has been credited with the decline of many a musician over the years. (Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, to name a couple.) The fact that Dylan battled an addiction with heroin and lived to tell about it says something about his character – to refuse to let an addiction completely engulf him, and to move on with his career, and his life.
Some of Dylan’s widely-known performances and recordings may have been fueled by his drug use. In this video from 1975, Dylan performs “Tangled Up In Blue” wearing white face paint. Now, although KISS was also wearing face paint during those days, Dylan’s painted face was not about bringing more attention upon himself. He wished to force people to listen to his words instead of look at his face.
Dylan has also proven controversial (and influential) for his religious beliefs. Born and raised Jewish, the singer embraced evangelical Christianity in 1979. According to Ron Csillig of the Religion News Service, “When rock’s best-known Jew famously declared Jesus to be the answer, many fans turned on him.” Some of the songs recorded during this period included 1979′s “Gotta Serve Somebody” and “I Believe in You”. The first of those two songs was very well received, winning Dylan the Best Rock Performance at the 1980 Grammy Awards. Dylan has since seemed to move back to his roots in the Jewish faith, judging by his support of the “ultra-Orthodox” Chabad Lubavitch movement.
Despite his status as a rock and folk icon, Dylan has for years been known as highly critical of his own work, perpetually downplaying the impact of his music. As long ago as that 1966 interview, Dylan was dismissive of his own work to that point. “I take it less seriously than anybody,” he said, “I know that it’s not going to get me to heaven one little bit, man. It’s not going to get me out of that fiery furnace. It’s certainly not going to extend my life, and it’s not going to make me happy.”
Bob Dylan is 70 years old today, and it can safely be said that millions of fans have experienced great joy as a result of Dylan’s musical brilliance. So please, join all of us at 98.5 WNCX in wishing this legend a happy birthday!