In the years after college, I was trying to find my place still. I had graduated with an engineering degree and was working in the field, but I probably had a major case of FOMO. I wanted to seize every possible opportunity that came across my path.
Having played guitar since I was about fourteen, I decided to try my hand at the coffeehouse scene. I could be brooding when I needed to be and when I began to focus on music, it seemed like the most melancholic part of my personality came out.
I had a key to my dad’s church and would go there late at night to play, practice, and write. It’s amazing how peaceful a church sanctuary is when no one else is around. That place literally became my sanctuary as I found myself coming of age in my 20s and dealing with all the bumps and turns of life. I guess, if I’m honest, the biggest bumps and turns were relational ones at the time, primarily with the opposite sex.
I had become close with a girl whose brother was a rising musician. He was just starting to get some exposure in the professional scene. During that time, he got connected with Vanessa Williams and he worked on her Christmas album. My friend and I even got to go to New York City for the taping of her Christmas show as my friend’s brother was the musical director for the show.
I grew to appreciate my friend’s brother and his music and it coincided with my efforts to write more music. One day, while talking with my friend, I asked her whether or not she could arrange a meeting with her brother. I wanted to learn from someone who had experience. So, he carved out time in his busy schedule and one weekend afternoon, I went over to his house.
I had been playing around with open tuning on my guitar although everything I did was mostly by ear rather than because I actually knew what I was doing. While I knew my way around a piano keyboard, the guitar was still foreign to me (kind of still is to this day). My friend’s brother wanted to hear some of the songs that I had written.
I remember playing a Christmas song that I had written that was from the shepherd’s perspective of the birth of Jesus. At the time, my friend’s brother would do an annual Christmas concert as the two albums that he had done at the time were really focused on Christmas music. He would eventually garner the moniker “Mr. Christmas” as his annual concert and his fame grew.
It was a little nerve wracking playing my pedestrian songs for this guy. Pretty sure that he even used that word “pedestrian” when he described my songs. He saw my Christmas song as an homage to him, which was probably more true than I wanted to admit at the time. He also did his best to steer me in the right direction, throwing out a few musical suggestions to me.
Having heard his suggestions, I quickly immersed myself in them. One name was suggested for his lyrical abilities. The other two names were suggested for their chord stylings and alternate tunings. The last two were women: Joni Mitchell and Shawn Colvin. I hadn’t heart Colvin before but Mitchell was familiar only in name to me. The first name he gave me, the one known for his lyrical abilities, was Bob Dylan. The album he suggested was “Blood on the Tracks.”
These three names took me down various rabbit holes, but none as much as the rabbit hole of Bob Dylan. Up to that point, he had been a joke because of his less than stellar voice. I had never really listened to him, I mean really listened. I had heard only a gravelly and whiney voice without uncovering the magic behind it.
That would be the beginning of my love and appreciation for Bob Dylan. “Blood on the Tracks” remains one of my favorite albums of Dylan’s. The stories he would weave with simple melodies and chord structures seemed almost too easy. He seemed to do it effortlessly, playing, singing, blowing on the harmonica.
As the years went by, my collection of his music expanded. I had the chance to see him with Paul Simon in Connecticut. I named my son after him. I saw him the night before my father died (which is a whole other story that I may or may not have already written about somewhere). I even got to take that saw son to see him this year.
So I guess that Bob Dylan has become a part of me. My discovery of him was really after most of his major musical stages, but unearthing all of the gems along the way after the fact was just as rewarding and satisfying for me.