Like Mizel Arts Center curator (and baby-boomer) Simon Zalkind, who's put together a multidisciplinary series in celebration of Dylan's sixtieth year on the planet, many oldsters still get Dylan's appeal. Check out some or all of the many parts of Zalkind's ambitious and unusual Bob Dylan at 60: A Tribute -- which includes a photography exhibit, symposium, film festival and concert -- and maybe you will, too.
And why should you? It's not so important, say the experts, that Dylan's hit the unfathomably moldy milestone of sixty. What really counts is his legacy as a living element of cultural change. Boulder Dylanologist Leland Rucker notes that Dylan, "the icon of a generation," is still a vital performer whose concerts in recent years have been marked by a rejuvenated incandescence that reaches across forty years of material.
Zalkind, for one, remains under Bob's spell. "A lot of impulses went into the idea for the project," he says, "but the thing I remember most was listening to Another Side of Bob Dylana few years ago and being floored by how gorgeous it still was, how accurately it spoke to my adult condition, just as it had spoken to my adolescent condition. I was amazed at how prescient and relevant and authentic it still was."
From there, he adds, the project emerged "nourished purely by serendipity." The photographic aspect, which includes nostalgic shots from the early '60s by shutterbugs Jim Marshall and Barry Feinstein as well as acclaimed Dylan imagist Daniel Kramer, was inspired by a book Zalkind picked up. The rest fell together: Also included are Gotta Serve Somebody: Bob and God, a symposium with Rucker, poet Randy Roark and singing rabbi Jack Gabriel, as well as two more obvious components: a concert with local musicians celebrating Dylan's music and a one-day film festival.
Zalkind says he chose a more serious theme -- Dylan's notorious early-'80s forays into born-again religion -- for Thursday evening's symposium portion of the tribute as a way of tempering its overall content: "The imagery and themes inherent in the Bible are there in Dylan's work, also. And in the context of where we are now, it's the perfect subtext of Dylan's music: redemption, betrayal, righteousness, deceit. His songs all have a prophetic resonance." But despite the dry subject matter, the message remains somehow celebratory. Dylan, true to form, has never looked back, anyway: He's given it all, Christianity included, the once-over before pushing forward. "He moved on a lot quicker than the media ever did in covering him," Rucker says. "That was twenty years ago! Some get stuck in one thing; Dylan never has."
In the face of all this adulatory partying, one wonders just how well the famous Dylan mystique -- that indelible image of the sharp-witted, shy troubadour/ chameleon behind dark glasses -- holds up. "I think it's greater than ever," Zalkind says. "He doesn't really need to do anything. He's one of those native American geniuses, like Robert Johnson or Walt Whitman. He's a grand old man: the touchstone, the summation of an art and a time." Amen. Or whatever.