For half a century, Bob Dylan's music has sparked the creativity of generations, motivating and inspiring some of the most influential people of our time.
We asked a collection of artists and titans of various industries to share their thoughts on the man who — even as he turns 70 — continues to blaze a remarkable path.
Click on the names below and on the following pages to read each tribute.
The truth is, Bob Dylan is a great American artist. His art, his talent, is to speak to everybody, and so when I say American, I think he's a great African American artist, he's a great Jewish American artist, he's a great Muslim American artist, he's a great Asian-American artist, Spanish-speaking artist — he speaks for the American soul as much as Ray Charles did.
There was a time when Bob Dylan was the young kid on the block. We all sang at the Purple Onion and the Hungry I and at folk-music clubs. When Bob came along, everyone loved him because he was what we all had meant to be; he spoke for all of us. And he was known to be honest, which is what a great American artist is. It may not be expedient, but the audience can trust the artist who is honest, and Bob Dylan followed what he said in his lyrics by his actions. He supported the human being, the spirit of being an American — of knowing that the mountains and the rivulets and the voting booths belong to all of us, all the time.
From the man who never grew up: I would simply like to say that Bob Dylan's music has kept me forever young.
Senator Bill Bradley
I've been a fan of Bob's since the mid-'60s. His lyrics had an appealing complexity to them that spoke on many levels and allowed one's imagination to flow, in addition to the music and his distinctive voice. I was very pleased when Princeton gave him a Ph.D.; I even wrote the president when they nominated him that it was the greatest thing the university has ever done. I've followed Bob through his various permutations and I think his latest stuff is some of the best stuff he's ever done. It's his personal reflections on age and relationships and it's quite different than earlier, because he's lived a life, had a near-death experience and he's seen it all. I love that line where he says he's going down to see Alicia Keys, let me show you what I got.
His voice is pretty much gone, but that's who he is. I don't think he's ever really tried to be somebody else; that's the key. You see a lot of these musicians, they want to be actors or they want to do this or that, and then ultimately they'll come back to being who they really are. I think Bob's always been who he is. He's still out there doing it and that means that his public, in this case me, will never be deprived of hearing where he's coming from at a particular time in their lives.
Bob Dylan has lifted the spirits of millions of people in the world. He has inspired great numbers of artists, and has made those of us who have met him come to be rewarded by the encounter. I admire him, I respect him, I am honored to have this moment to express my deep appreciation for who and what he is.
About five years ago, the director Larry Charles called me up and asked me if I would be interested in being in this movie Masked and Anonymous that was starring Bob, and he was getting a bunch of people together that Bob admired to do vignettes in the movie. And I said, "Sure, I'd be honored." So I went to work and I met Bob, and immediately was struck by a few things. First, his size. I thought, somehow, he was bigger. The cowboy hat and the cigar added to his height and stature, however, and that I liked. Second, I was extremely taken by the lack of ego in his demeanor. His feeling that there's no "I" in the word team, his knowing that his movie was teamwork, and that he had to rely on those of us who he felt were really good actors, more than he relied on his own talent.
Bob is about having your heart and everything else in the right place and going for it irregardless, and that irregardlessness and throwing caution to the wind is what excited me about the man and his music and his spirit. If you want to talk about what makes stars, stars to me are people that dominate decades. I can't think of any one individual, other than Bob, who has dominated multiple decades. What can I tell you, man, he's unique.