Bob Dylan has been called many things over the years. Poet. Voice of his generation (a label he despised). He's even been called a plagiarist. No matter what label you try to stick to Hibbing, Minnesota's favorite son, one thing we can all agree on is that he is complicated and hard to nail down. He's been a folk singer (maybe he's always been one), rock 'n roll pioneer, country artist, born again evangelical, delta blues singer, pop standard singer and the composer of an untold number of unreleased songs.

The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: Bob Dylan The Basement Tapes Complete is available and gives a look at the 1967-1968 sessions recorded by Dylan and The Band at a house called Big Pink in Saugerties, NY (The Band's debut album is titled Music From Big Pink). The recordings are legendary and were widely sought after as bootlegs before selected songs were officially released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes.

The upcoming issue of Rolling Stone is featuring this release as the subject of their cover story and they took The Band's organist Garth Hudson back to Big Pink for a tour of the house and to show where the songs were written and performed in the basement. Unbelievably, the house is still pink. Very few of us ever get the gift of revisiting old residences that remained so unchanged. You can see how happy this makes Garth.

On a personal note, this past Halloween marked the anniversaries of two of the best and most memorable concert experiences for me. I saw Dylan with my best friend/brother from another mother, Dave at the Arie Crown Theater on October 31, 1989. I remember looking for a parking spot as a Chicago radio station played "I Put a Spell on You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins for the revelers who were out and about that night. We talked about what songs we hoped he would do. We both agreed that hearing him sing "Gates of Eden" would be about as good as it could get. The song is a knockout piece that summons "motorcycle black Madonna's" and "two-wheeled gypsy kings." from his classic album Bringing It All Back Home. Dylan hurls horses off of lyrical cliffs throughout the album. Dave left during the show to use the bathroom and when he returned, I had to break it to him that he had just performed "Gates of Eden." I have seen Dylan at least twenty more times since then and have never seen him sing that song again. Dave, God rest his soul, was very bummed.

Dylan brought his show to the NIU Convocation Center on Halloween 2004. I was living in Dekalb County at the time and was thrilled to have him so close to home. Dad flew in from Colorado and we went to the show together. The only Dylan show we both attended. It was general admission seating and we got there pretty early. All of the college kids were grouped at center stage, but I knew something they didn't. Bob was playing keyboard on this tour and was set up stage right. Nobody was there, so me and Dad grabbed the best spot in the building. When he came out on stage, we were closer to him than his guitar player. Musically, it was the best damn Dylan show I've ever seen. The band ripped through classics like "Highway 61", "Like a Rolling Stone", and "Positively 4th Street." When he performed "Forever Young," I knew it couldn't get any better. Dylan is said to have written that song about his son, Jacob (from The Wallflowers). Bob even looked at us as he sang some of the song. I've always assumed that he knew we were father and son. It was a gift, whether he knew it or not. Bob also gave us the 'thumbs up' several time during the concert. Another highlight was when they tore through the 1966 classic "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again." At the time when that song was released that year, Dad had gotten into some trouble. You see, he had rode a freight train trying to get to California and ended up in Mobile, Alabama. He was picked up by some of the railroad men and tossed in the clink. He truly was stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues. Me, Bob Dylan and my two best friends. Thanks for the memories, guys.

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