It’s hard to believe it was 36 years ago yesterday that I attended my first Bob Dylan concert. It’s hard to believe Bob turns 71 today. Yes, it’s hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard rain . . .
It was on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Fort Collins, CO, the next to the last concert of the Rolling Thunder Review tour. The show featured the Alpha Band (with T. Bone Burnett), Mick Ronson, Kinky Friedman, Roger McGuinn, Joan Baez, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, and Bob Dylan. The Rolling Thunder Revue band included violinist Scarlette Rivera, whom I met at a Dylan concert in 2002, and Bob Neuwirth, whom I’ve never met.
It was a great afternoon. Since it was the day before Bob’s birthday, the crowd sang to him, but he kept his back to us the entire time and didn’t acknowledge our birthday greetings. Iconoclast to the core.
Dylan will be awarded the country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Obama on May 29th. Not a bad birthday present, although that’s not the reason he’s getting it.
12 others will also receive the Medal, including novelist Toni Morrison; former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; John Doar, a key figure in the Justice Department during the civil rights era; William Foege, who helped spread smallpox immunizations around the world; Gordon Hirabayashi, who fought Japanese-American World War Two internment; civil rights campaigner Dolores Huerta; and Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low.
That first Dylan concert (the first of many) so long ago was in a football field. We got there early, driving all the way from Omaha. They already had the stage set up and we sat in the stands for a couple of hours while they played nearly every song the Beatles ever recorded on the sound system. As soon as the curtain went up, we moved down in front of the stage where we ending up standing not far from Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, though we didn’t know it at the time. After the Alpha Band’s first song, T. Bone Burnett pulled Ramblin’ Jack up onto the stage, but Jack was too drunk that day to perform.
The concert later became an album, Hard Rain, and a ABC television special. Here’s Bob and Joan singing “Railroad Boy (She Died of Love)” on that fateful day:
As an extra added attraction, so that you can get a glimpse of T. Bone Burnett and Scarlet Rivera, along with Bob’s paintings that served as back drop for the show (one of which I’ve always felt was of Bruce Springsteen), here is “One Too Many Mornings”: