I have been a fan of Bob Dylan since I was 16 (he’s the only artist of whom I would actually call myself a fan), so it was gratifying for me when Sean, quite recently, started to listen to him too.
I remember that when the children were around 10, we had a cassette in the car with some tracks from one of Dylan’s ‘official’ bootleg combinations. They particularly liked an early version of ‘Tangled Up in Blue’, and a song called ‘Seven Days’ from the Rolling Thunder tour. Later, on weekend nights, the four of us would sometimes take it in turns to choose a track from a CD to play (between us we have quite a few CDs), to which we all would listen. Perhaps this influenced their musical taste.
In the past year, I noticed that Sean was starting to listen to certain Dylan tracks quite a lot. ‘Wedding Song’ was a special one for him and Clio (as it is for his mum and me); also there were ‘Hurricane’, Forever Young’, a live version of ‘Shelter from the Storm’ that he found on YouTube, ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’, and, especially, ‘Blind Willie McTell’. The last of these is one of the very few great tracks that Dylan recorded after the 1970s, in my opinion … it ranks with his best ever.
In the weeks immediately before his death, Sean often listened to ‘Blind Willie McTell’ turned up loud on the computer, and sang along. We talked about the song, and he also sang it at the top of his voice while walking around the house (Sean was not a quiet person to live with). It was a major part of his life’s soundtrack at the very end.
In the days following his death we found that if we put ‘Blind Willie McTell’ on as we were driving away from our house, it would finish at the precise moment we arrived at the graveyard. The simple, melancholy piano arrangement and Dylan’s powerful voice seemed to suit the mood well as we drove across the bog road in varying degrees of devastation.
Unfortunately, very little of Dylan’s music is available on YouTube, presumably for copyright reasons. Here are a few snippets … even the version of ‘Shelter from the Storm’ that Sean liked seems to have been taken down, sadly. We still love you, Sean.