When some folks think of Bob Dylan, they think of protest music, of Joan Baez, and his early romances; but his is the music that will endure, like Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie and even Stephen Foster. That’s because he wrote of the human experience, both good and bad, and in ways that will endure. That includes one of his most beautiful songs, “Forever Young.”
Dylan was known as a songwriter as well as a performer. His songs were performed by many folk musicians of the day, often publicly, as these were the days before the copyright issues came into prominence. He appeared at a time when music infused the social conscience of the nation, when singers presented music with a multitude of verses in the story form of old. Dylan was that type of writer and that type of entertainer.
When Dylan crossed over into the world of the electrified instruments, the folk music world was shaken. When he moved into the born-again world of Christians, folks wondered what had happened to the long-haired protestor and vagabond king. When Joan Baez sang of her great love, in somewhat hidden ways, in words of her own creation, those who had followed both of these great musicians knew she wrote and sang of Bob Dylan. She too remains active in both live concerts and recording, at age 71 just a few months older than her old friend Dylan.
I heard him sing on a sunny day in Hawaii. He and I are of the same age, both of us born in 1941, the same kind of folks who move through life and all its changes. He is now an old man too, but his life will continue on with its great music in ways many of us will long remember. Perhaps he will become part of the greatest of our musicians in the mind of others, as Woody Guthrie’s music has passed through decades and continues to be “This Land is My Land” in its message to the people he wrote for and about.
Dylan continues to write and record music, although he as he is moved from boy wonder to a music sage, he has lost much of his audience as time has moved along. He continues to stay on the circuit, and as one concert site declares: “The Never Ending Tour is the popular name for Bob Dylan’s endless touring schedule since June 7, 1988.”
For those of us who remember, and those who discover him now, Dylan is, and will always be, as he wrote himself, “Forever Young.” The song is done here by this old folksinger, just as it was done by others, in its entirety because the message must remain whole, as a journalistic presentation, to honor the man and his music. The whole of the message asks us again to remember our youth and the hopes we had for every tomorrow and to remind people that Dylan is a national treasure for what he has brought to us with his music and what will likely become part of his legend long after he has gone.