“You have to believe what the words are saying and the words are as important as the melody” — Bob Dylan
In all my 70 years, I would never have dreamed I’d be reading a piece in AARP’s magazine featuring an interview with Bob Dylan, one of the most iconic musical artists of our time, and a musician who’s been a personal inspiration to me for my entire life. In some ways, I grew up with Bob Dylan and his music. We are contemporaries, even though he’ll always somehow remain an angry young man from the 1960s in my mind’s eye.
Placing this inspirational musician who made “Blowin’ in the Wind” such an important anti-war anthem within the same context as Depends, high blood pressure medication, cataract surgery and hearing aids was a bit jolting to me. Nonetheless, there he was. It was like failing to immediately recognize your minister at the gym because he or she appears out of context decked out in his or her Lululemon workout clothes.
In the article, Dylan talks about how many of his songs are inspired by spiritual and metaphysical connections. He describes listening to the Staple Singers at age 14 and how it impacted him, especially the line from “Amazing Grace” about saving “a wretch like me,” a description that each of us has probably related to at one time or another in life.
I’ve had the privilege of seeing Dylan in concert twice. Once, with Willie Nelson in Madison, Wisconsin, when my daughter Laura surprised me with concert tickets for the two of us in celebration of my 60th birthday, and later when he performed at the Chicago Theatre.
Willie Nelson recorded “Angels Flying Too Close to the Ground” in 1981, the same year I became sober with the help of my support group. Two years later, Bob Dylan also recorded the song. Seeing these two titans of music perform it together was a major life moment for me, since this was the song that ran through my mind when I ultimately determined to stop drinking, a decade after my husband Larry was killed in Vietnam.
The song has always connected with me at many levels. Perhaps I loved it because it reminded me of Larry, flying his forward air controller plane too close to the ground in Vietnam. It also reminds me of how my own alcoholism nearly crashed my life.
Since that time, my higher power, music, the serenity prayer and my support group have given me the strength to embrace each day. This July, I’ll celebrate 37 years of sobriety, and I’ve learned to take the blessings and challenges I encounter and apply them in telling my personal story, and perhaps inspire others who may be in their own life’s journey.
© Tyra Manning 2018