The singer and songwriter was recognized for “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
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14 October 2016
Fifty years ago, December 5, 1965 to be exact, Bob Dylan changed my life forever. Actually, the credit should go to Mr. Ferdie Kay, my senior English teacher at James Logan High School in Union City, CA. It was Mr. Kay who decided to begin his poetry unit by taking the class on a field trip to Berkeley California to see Bob Dylan in concert.
Dylan was a bit of an odd duck in the current music scene. He wasn't rock 'n roll, wasn't exactly folk, had what was considered a terrible singing voice, and sang songs with nearly unintelligible lyrics. At least they seemed unintelligible to this late bloomer who never surfed, but was more attracted to the Beach Boys nevertheless.
Yet, I had a peripheral interest in Peter Paul and Mary as well as Joan Baez. Mostly because of their "pleasant" voices and accessible and meaningful lyrics.
Dylan on the other hand seemed to pander to no one. His audience needed to ponder his words and forgive his voice.
The concert was on a Sunday night, the next day in class Mr. Kay had a life changing lesson plan. We dissected one of Dylan's songs and it was the first time I remember ever feeling as though I actually began to see the "writing between the lines" that so many previous English teachers had expected me to see. He didn't tell us what to see, but rather guided us to discover what was there to consider and to begin to see the bridge between Dylan's lyrics and our own life experiences. It was exhilarating.
By the end of the week Mr. Kay challenged us to find that exhilaration while exploring T. S. Eliot. And, we did. Mr. Kay had brought Dylan to us instead of the traditional approach of attempting to bring us to the authors who often lived in different times, different cultures, and who wrote in a version of English that just didn't quite generate a sense that their work was worth the effort. But, again, I was a "late bloomer." I was still in the cocoon of self centered "me-ness." But, Mr. Kay and Bob Dylan mark the moment when I began the long process of escaping that cocoon.
By June 1966 I'd made up my mind to become an English teacher just like Mr. Kay. I even grew a beard just like Mr. Kay's that I've worn ever since. My own career as an English teacher spanned 4 decades; a career dedicated to being the kind of teacher for my students that Mr. Kay had been for his.
Congratulations Bob Dylan. You've made millions differences to millions of people.