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Opinion >  Column

Front Porch: Bob Dylan’s music crosses generational barriers

The sold-out crowd at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle erupted into cheers Sunday night when a small figure in a white hat strode onto the darkened stage.

“This is the best day of my life!” my son Zach said.

At 73, Bob Dylan can still pack a house.

When Zach heard that Dylan would be playing in Seattle, he quickly bought tickets for himself, his younger brother and his parents.

“It’s my birthday present to me,” he said. Zach turned 20 on Oct. 9.

He owns 33 Dylan CDs and frequently plays the iconic folk musician’s tunes at his own shows. In fact, Dylan’s music is responsible for Zach’s harmonica prowess, too.

I’m delighted that my son enjoys the music of someone old enough to be his grandfather. It proves music can cross all barriers, including generational ones.

His fascination with folk music runs in the family. When I was 6, my oldest brother came home from college for a visit sporting a beard, shoulder length hair and a guitar. He filled our house with the music of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and of course, Bob Dylan.

It wasn’t long before I had “Blowin’ in the Wind” memorized, along with a host of other folk tunes like “The Times, They Are a-Changin’,” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

I was far too young to understand any political or societal messages behind the songs my brother played; I just knew I liked them.

Flash forward 20 years and I’m rocking my first baby to sleep – my lullaby repertoire replete with folk songs.

And when they got too big to rock to sleep, I sang to my sons at night after bedtime prayers. Each child got to pick a song and we’d sing in the quiet at the end of the day.

As they grew, their talents and preferences emerged. For Ethan it was writing and drama, for Alex sports and drawing, Sam’s talents are broad and encompass a host of possibilities, but for Zach, music has always been his thing.

At 10, he got a guitar for Christmas, and that gift sparked a passion for composing and performing that continues to grow. He’s already released one CD and is working on his second.

When Dylan appeared in Seattle in 2012, Derek bought him and Zach tickets for Zach’s birthday. This time, Zach wanted Sam and me to share the experience with them.

As a parent, there’s nothing better than when your child wants to include you in the things they love. From Legos to video games to soccer scrimmages, I’ve gamely tried any activity my sons wanted to share with me.

But I have a confession to make: Though I love Dylan’s music and lyrics, I’m not a fan of his voice. Still, I was excited to see this musical legend live and in concert, with one of his biggest fans.

And Dylan didn’t disappoint. His once rather reedy voice has deepened over time into a growly, gravelly baritone-ish/bass. His more recent albums have a more blues/jazz sound than folk and that’s just fine with me.

When he growled out sexy versions of “Things Have Changed” and “Love Sick,” I realized there was far more to this current Dylan than the vintage tracks I’d grown up with.

Sam, 15, enjoyed the show, as well. “The only concert I’ve been to was when Weird Al came to the fair,” he reminded us.

He got a kick out of Dylan’s dance moves. “He does the old man dance!” he said, when Dylan shimmy-shuffled across the stage.

The performer’s seventy-plus years didn’t stop him from giving a two-hour concert that had the crowd on its feet screaming for more.

In fact, the encore led to my only real disappointment with the show. Though Dylan rocked the crowd with a stunning performance of “All Along the Watchtower,” his closing rendition of “Blowin’ in the Wind” left me feeling cheated. A piano version sung in a deeper pitch with odd phrasing is not the song my musical memories are made of.

Thankfully, new memories were made that night. Memories made by possible by a hardworking son who wanted to share the experience of a lifetime with his parents and younger brother.

Contact Cindy Hval at Her previous columns are available online at /columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

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