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Christa Lawler column: Celebrate the casual Dylan fan

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Duluth News Tribune
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’Tis the season for folk musicians to bust out their harmonica neck holders — so orthodontic looking! — to cover and re-cover “Rainy Day Women.”

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Bob Dylan’s birthday is coming up. He will be 73 on Saturday.

In the meantime, there will be Dylan-themed events here and in Hibbing and probably in the pockets of the Internet where the Dylanites connect.

It can feel, especially in Duluth at this time of year, like there are two kinds of people in the world: those who have spent life da Vinci-decoding their way through Dylan’s discography and those who don’t get the hype and believe he ruined “We are the World.”

The Dylan Dumpster divers and trivia masters get a lot of attention, regardless of whether they want it. And the haters really turn it up, too, with their “blah, blah, his voice sounds like a moped attacking a gravel road.” It’s easy to forget that Dylan has a casual fan. In fact, it’s likely the casual Dylan fan is in the majority.

There are people who own “Blood on the Tracks” and “Blonde on Blonde” and perhaps a handpicked playlist that gets cranked during the right weather or mood.

They have read his memoir-shaped book “Chronicles,” but, honestly, prefer Patti Smith’s “Just Kids.”

There are people who never affix “Duluth-born” to sentences about Bob Dylan. They just say he’s from Hibbing.

Some people will drop everything to jig to “I Want You,” but they will also drop everything to sing along to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,’ ” so their taste cannot be trusted. These people aren’t necessarily immune to a mystical Dylan moment.

Maybe the casual Dylan fan has toured Dylan’s childhood home in the Central Hillside, now restored to resemble its 1940s-era look, and felt a little electric jolt when considering the chubby Zimmerman fingers that probably fiddled with the push-button light switches in the home.

Maybe, while in Hibbing, the casual fan has hit the bullet points of the town’s Dylan walking tour. And, while spending a quiet moment studying the home at 2425 Seventh Ave. E., that casual fan might have felt more curiosity about the current owners than its most famous resident.

What would it be like to live in a house where the doorbell was always ringing and the front lawn was a sanctuary for dusty pilgrims?

Maybe the casual Dylan fan had a ticket to see the musician play his birthplace but missed the show because of an epic migraine. The casual fan was a healthy level of bummed but got over it quickly.

There is nothing wrong with a casual fan — though they cannot be counted on to match lyrics to songs and they certainly won’t be packing a rare bootleg. Likewise, the casual fan is never going to sneer and say: “I’d call the cops if he wandered into my front yard, too. Especially if I knew it was him.”

The casual Dylan fan also is a casual fan of other things: “Broad City,” Amy’s Bean and Cheese Burritos, long walks on the beach.

This weekend the casual fan might stop into a bar and hope that someone is paying homage on a local stage.

Or, the casual fan might just assume a position of leisure, close her eyes and spin some vinyl —  and then put it all away until Dylan’s 74th birthday.

Christa Lawler is the News Tribune’s Arts & Entertainment reporter.

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Christa Lawler
(218) 279-5536
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