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Bob Dylan, American Idol

On the legendary singer's 70th birthday, a collection of famous friends pay him tribute

Bob Dylan 70th Birthday Tribute

As Bob Dylan celebrates his 70th birthday, a star-studded collection of cultural influencers reflects on his indelible impact. — Collage by Erika Simmons

Click on the names below to read more birthday tributes to Bob Dylan.

Anthony Kiedis: "A Wave"

Anthony Kiedis, Red Hot Chili Peppers — Illustration by Andy Friedman

bob dylan is a wave.

he's a moving body of energy built of melodies, words, rhythms, ideas, and attitudes that have swept over the world since the year of my birth.

like jazz music he is an American invention. one of the best representatives we've ever had.

thank goodness for every person, place, thing, or animal that ever inspired bob to write music.

if a man is measured by the amount of suffering he eases and the amount of joy he gives the world, then bob has more than done his job.

bringing the intellect and the emotion together in song that sounds like no one else is a rare form of expression.

bob dylan is a rare artist. they don't make them likehim anymore.

Marianne Faithfull: "big subjects"

Marianne Faithfull — Illustration by Andy Friedman

When we met in 1964 I was just 17, and Bob was a few years older. He had written something for me, but I was pregnant and just about to get married, so I didn't want to go to bed with him, and he got cross. There went whatever he was writing: He tore it up in front of me.

Bob had a big influence on the Rolling Stones. I got ahold of The Basement Tapes and went on holiday with Mick and took it with me, and I played it ad nauseam. When we got back, Mick gave it to Keith: I think it affected their writing and moved them into the golden period. "Gimme Shelter" and "Street Fighting Man" and "Sympathy for the Devil" — those are all about big subjects, and what Bob was writing about all during the '60s was big subjects.

So, I give Bob all my love and congratulations, and "Well done, man."

Smokey Robinson: "unique unto himself"

Smokey Robinson — Illustration by Andy Friedman

Bob is unique unto himself, a one-of-a-kind kind of artist. He's controversial and commercial and underground and all those things at the same time. Bob tells it like he feels it, and he's been like that for his entire career. He's never ever pulled any punches or tried to clean it up for the public or censored himself, and that's the thing I love about him.

I want to say "Happy Birthday" to you, Bob. I'm proud to know you.

Muhammad Ali: "Keep Rolling"

Muhammad Ali — Illustration by Andy Friedman

Happy birthday, Bob Dylan. Keep rolling and enjoying life.

Bob Weir: "a gut punch"

Bob Weir — Illustration by Andy Friedman

I was a junior in high school. Earlier, I had heard Peter, Paul and Mary doing "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are A-Changin'," and I had heard a bit about this guy who wrote them, so I was loaded and primed to hear this guy's real voice. I was thunderstruck. Compared with anything I had heard to that point, this was raw. He sang in tune and played well, but there was a notable lack of finesse to it. In its place was a gut punch. I was changed: If this guy can be so uncompromising, so direct, why can't I?

After that, I was no longer interested in being polished or accessible. I was interested only in finding something worth expressing, and doing so with clarity, animation, and color.

Dylan's a poet, at times an oracle, and a musician. The first two I won't address. As a musician, he more than gets the job done. I've played with him, and he rocked my socks. I'm gonna want to hear what Dylan has to say as long as he wants to say it.

Larry "Ratso" Sloman is the author of On the Road With Bob Dylan and The Secret Life of Houdini.

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