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How Bob Dylan Saved My Life
by Frances Perkins
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(Dear editor/editors: as a published writer, I respectfully ask you to either use the following true story exactly as written or else set it gently down. Thanks. Frances "BluesBaby")

In a minute I'll tell you how my beloved Bob Dylan saved my life even though he never knew it, mostly because we never met. Not likely to on this side, either. But to appreciate that story you first need some idea of what music has meant in my life.

For now just forget all that nonsense about anyone "proving" some kind of music that glorifies any aspect of the Holy Trinity is so-called Devil Music. Throw those silly formulas out the window and into the trash where they belong. People have bashed each other over the head with such pseudo-intellectualism since the dawn of time without proving a single thing except perhaps a predelection towards idolatry. Read The Screwtape Letters until you see what I mean.

But the minister's just trying to save souls? A certain infamous road to hell is paved with good intentions. Somebody somewhere has probably cooked up a formula proving they're a monkey's uncle. Wait a minute, I might have to agree with that one...

Anyway, people have been trying to consign me to hell one way or another ever since I was just a tiny little anklebiter and started appearing on the neighbors' doorsteps singing "Rubber Dolly" at the top of my lungs until they'd come out and run me off. The nicer ones would give me money so I'd leave and go on to the next house. One woman never spoke to me at all. She'd just start sweeping those steps until she crowded me off. No respect.

So yes, a seriously stubborn love of most music showed up real early with me. Many of the greatest epiphanies of my life have arrived on musical wings, including the first time I heard Mozart, whose music is the easiest to play badly (as it often is) yet the hardest to play well.

And please don't let me start on the first time I heard Elvis. Jackie Files' ears are probably still ringing from the boxing I gave them when she tried to snatch the empty soda cup he set down on the counter backstage and clearly meant for me. That was the day I learned the definition of pyhric victory.

As you might suspect by now, my life's had its bumps and bruises along the way. How many of those situations I contributed to just a little is anybody's guess. Yours as good as mine. Most of the time I've been the merriest little mischievous elf you could imagine, which I suspect is the main thing that drove some folks to distraction. I grew up thinking that was a place on a map. But there's the Irish for you. Most of us talk by the age of 6 weeks or so and are adamant that we have the world by the tail before we're two years old.

But I digress, as all great Irish-American storytellers love to do. Come with me now to late last century when the world had apparently mistaken me for Job's longlost twin sister. In my agonies I wished for nothing more than death and begged God to just kill me and get it over with. When He showed no sign of cooperating, it began to look as if I might have to... well, help Him out. That's where enough grief and pain can drive almost anyone, so don't bother denying it.

But I couldn't possibly leave without first saying goodbye to Zimmie the only way available to me, so every night I'd put all his gospel music on multi cd repeat with the absolute intention of doing myself in one way or another the minute "repeat" wore out. Cd's only went around a few times in those days.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum, as it's wont to do if given a chance. Every night I'd go from the blackest, foulest depths of despair to looking forward just a little bit to the next round of "I Believe In You" at first, then "Slow Train Comin'" and "Saved" and so on. If any human being understands pain and redemption, it's Dylan. Nobody else understood me or gave a hoot if they did, I believed at least, but I knew he certainly did.

So I'd cry my heart out and shut up just long enough to hear "Shot of Love", "Heart of Mine," Property of Jesus", "The Groom's Still Waiting At the Altar", or "Trouble" etc just one more time, then suddenly wake up next morning having to tend to what shreds of my life remained. Tonight I'd try again, not drop off to sleep at some point in absolute exhaustion. (Did I mention this was also the fiercest time of menopause? Just be glad I wasn't homicidal!)

Somehow I never managed to break that routine of put all the Dylan gospel cd's on max repeat, go to bed bawling and try to concentrate on the most effective means of self disposal, then wake up alive the next morning with too much unfinished business to tend to until tonight when I'll really figure out how at last. This went on for a couple of weeks, each night starting out as horribly as the others and winding up the same way. Still alive and kicking, go figure. What a baaad influence Mr. Dylan was!

Eventually even I woke up and smelled the coffee. Since I couldn't seem to do myself in and God wouldn't help me out there, could it be? Altogether now, folks! Could it be He meant for me to live?? That there would ever be a speck of joy in my life again? Talk about miracles.... Well, maybe so.

"...'cause I believe in You. I believe in You, even through the tears and the laughter. I believe in You, even though we be apart. I believe in You even on the morning after.. Don't let me stray too far. Keep me where You are, 'cause I believe in You." (lyrics by Bob Dylan, of course)

That's devil music? No, I don't believe THAT for one second, and neither should anyone else. Now don't even think of arguing the point, or I'll come to your house and bellow "Rubber Dolly" on your front steps if you have any. At the top of my lungs. Really. And you'd deserve it, too.

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Member Comments
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lauren finchum 08 Dec 2006
This is cute. I never understood why they called it "devil music". Go figure, LOL! My brother likes Bob Dylan, so he'll like this, too, I'll have to show him. (Oh, and just to let you know, Third Day does one of Dylan's song called "saved" it's good) good job! :)
lauren finchum 08 Dec 2006
I forgot to say, that this is cute, and very meaty,too. I have felt your musical frustration. :) Right on, and write on!


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