It was in a Miami Beach High School classroom in 1974 that I first heard the name Bob Dylan. The teacher thought that Dylan's “Like A Rolling Stone,” written some 10 years before, was important enough in the evolution of pop culture to share with a bunch of 15-year-olds.
Bruce Springsteen also heard “Like a Rolling Stone” at age 15 and remembers: “I knew I was listening to the toughest voice that I had ever heard. It was lean and it sounded somehow simultaneously young and adult…It make me feel kind of irresponsibly innocent. It freed your mind the way Elvis freed your body”
“Like a Rolling Stone” was Dylan first song to break into the Top Ten in the music charts . It also introduced him to a teen-age audience not familiar with folk music, but whose rock-and-roll experience did not go beyond dating and cars. Not only did “Like a Rolling Stone” introduce angst and other dark elements of literature to a whole new audience, but it also turned “ Rock-and-Roll” into a legitimate form of self-expression and shaped its future .
Because of that high school class, I became a Dylan fan (although fanatic is a more accurate term). I bought all of Dylan’s albums ($3.99 at Vibrations in North Miami). I discovered a treasure trove of bootleg albums at the Magic Minstrel by the University of Miami. The notion of a bootleg album was non-existent until people clamored for more Dylan. Fans sold recording of his concerts and radio interviews underground till Sony records began releasing “official Bootleg Albums” in 1991. They are up to 11 volumes with obviously more to come.
He had other hits, but they were sung by other artists. In fact, Dylan broke the mold of songwriting, virtually destroying the established Centralized Brill Building style of distributing new songs .
There were a lot of elements that led to Dylan’s initial success in New York: It was in the midst of a folk music revival, the Vietnam war and the opposition to it, the civil rights movement , the John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations.
It was Dylan’s writings that united the youth as he unexpectedly became a voice for a new generation . Dylan’s Nobel Prize for Literature is well deserved.
Michael Stock is the host of WLRN's Folk and Acoustic Music Show, on air every Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m.