Robert Allen Zimmerman aka Bob Dylan
Eternal Legend of the Village
By Bruce Poli
Yes, it’s him again…at 80.
And it’s always about him…and us:
Einstein disguised as Robin Hood
with his memories in a trunk
passed this way an hour ago
with his friend a jealous monk
He looked so immaculately frightful
as he bummed a cigarette
and he went off sniffing drainpipes
and reciting the alphabet
You would not think to look at him
but he was famous long ago
for playing the electric violin
on Desolation Row
He wandered, lived, breathed, spoke, sang and played Greenwich Village. There is no Village without Dylan. To paraphrase Antonio Salieri (played by F. Murray Abraham) at the end of the film Amadeus: “They are my audience, and I am their patron saint.”
Few people who know the music of Bob Dylan know that verse from Desolation Row. But here in the Village, it’s what we do.
Because we are the source of so much of what’s creative in America.
I start my Village Tours in Sheridan Square with the civil rights theme and then pivot to music walking down to West 4th Street where the iconic picture of both Dylan AND Greenwich Village appears:
We all repeat stories of Dylan at the Lion’s Head, the Sazerac House, the White Horse Tavern, Gerde’s Folk City, and at …hold your breath…Café Wha?
The stories are etched into our memory of the 1960s like “We Shall Overcome” and “I Have a Dream” are etched into our memories of the civil rights movement.
And if 1963 isn’t your Village year of greatest resource, I don’t know what is.
In ‘63, Dylan lived with Suze Rotolo at 161 W. 4th, top floor in the back…five footsteps for his boot heels to be wandering to the Music Inn.
I celebrate him at 80 years old (May 24, 1941) as a tribute, as well as to celebrate my 50th high school reunion this month— the quote in my yearbook was “Yes, to Dance Beneath the Diamond Sky with One Hand Waving’ Free…”
Congratulations West Village…you’ve given us 60 years of the greatest leap of consciousness that music has ever produced. It injected our brains with a force we’ve never let go of.
As Bruce Springsteen said, when he heard Like a Rolling Stone while riding in the car with his mother, “It kicked open the doors of my mind…” and thus ignited another great rocker of our time.
If there were two verses with which we can advise the younger generations, they would be:
“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth”
“No reason to get excited, the thief, he kindly spoke
There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke”
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”
As the inspiration for the Beatles and Rolling Stones through Leonard Cohen, Phil Ochs, Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Peter, Paul and Mary, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Nina Simone, Sam Cooke, and all the greats of folk and rock ‘n’ roll, Dylan was the touchstone of the ’60s revolution—changed us and made us reach to a higher order of awareness…a higher intelligence.
In the recent Martin Scorsese film Rolling Thunder Revue, Robert Allen Zimmerman from Duluth, MN says, “People talk about finding themselves…they don’t understand, you have to CREATE yourself.” Sounds like the theme of Greenwich Village.
Thank you Bob Dylan, you are the legend among legends.
You have left the Village glowing for decades!