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Jazz in the Key of Bob: Jazz & Bob Dylan

On Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday, Tom Wilmeth muses on the legacy of his music in the world of jazz musicians

Ben Sidran by Roch Armando
Keith Jarrett

Bob Dylan turned 70 today. That statement alone is a mind-bender. That he is still on the road more than 100 nights of the year is amazing. Yet it’s true. I noted with interest Rolling Stone magazine’s new issue, which celebrates Bob’s 70th birthday with a list of his best 70 songs, as chosen by their editors. The issue also contains lists of Bob’s most inscrutable lyrics (“Gates of Eden”) and what they consider overlooked jewels (“Dark Eyes”). These lists put me in mind of a tape I compiled ten years ago, for Bob’s 60th birthday. Inspired by the famous bootleg Elvis Presley’s Greatest Sh*t, my idea was to create a set-list of Dylan recordings that would make a hilariously bad collection.

It sounded like a fun plan, an inverted exercise in fan devotion, and so I set to work. I drew, of course, from the notorious 1970 double album Self Portrait and from various back-roads of the Dylan canon. My final list included such original jewels as “Wigwam,” “Billy 4,” “Handy Dandy,” and “New Pony.” The tape also featured Bob’s covers of “Let It Be Me,” “Froggy Went a-Courting,” “You Belong to Me,” and “This Old Man.” All officially released tracks.

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