Not only is Jeff Bridges one of America’s finest actors, but he’s also an established singer and composer. Before he started getting decent film roles, his career could have gone one of two ways: “I dug what an actor did, but it took me a while to feel it, to truly appreciate the craft and the preparation,” Bridges recalled during an interview with Guitar Aficionado Magazine. “Plus, I was still playing music a lot, and I guess I had a hard time choosing: was I an actor or a musician, or could I be both?” Thankfully, in 1998, these two passions collided with The Big Lebowski, the theme song of which – Bob Dylan’s ‘Man In Me’ – Bridge’s performed on stage at the 2005 Lebowski Fest in Los Angeles.
By that time, Bridges and Dylan were already close friends. During a notable interview, in which Bridges’ described his love of ‘Man In Me’, the actor recalled jamming with Dylan on numerous occasions: “We worked together on [the 2003 movie] Masked and Anonymous. He’d knock on my trailer door and go, ‘Hey, you wanna pick?’ We would play the version of ‘You Belong to Me’ that he did on the Natural Born Killers soundtrack.”
Bridges’ relationship with the pioneering songwriter was founded on a deep affection for his early records. The Big Lebowski actor once sat down to describe the impact of one of those early records: “Bob Dylan’s a lot to take in,” he began. “Man, I just love Blonde On Blonde. What an amazing album all the way through. Of course, I’m into a lot all of his records, really. I’ve been following Dylan from the beginning, all the folk stuff and then on to the electric stuff, Highway 61 Revisited, and everything else. It’s kind of mind-boggling.”
With Blonde on Blonde, Dylan completed the trilogy of rock albums that he recorded between 1965 and 1966, of which the first two instalments were Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited. Frequently cited as one of the most impressive Dylan albums of all time, Blonde on Blonde saw the pioneering singer-songwriter blend the musical expertise of Nashville session musicians with the distinctly literary tone that had come to define his output. This combination of contrasting forms of expression has cemented the album as one of Dylan’s most mesmeric musical ventures. It is full of juxtapositions both musically and lyrically, with Dylan jumping between bold literary allusions and everyday colloquialisms at a moments notice.
Blonde on Blonde opened Bridges’ eyes to the meticulous craftsmanship behind Dylan’s records, a multi-layered complexity that has allowed listeners to return to them time and time again. Like so many Dylan fans, much of Bridges’ passion for Dylan stems from a fascination with that mysterious period in the early ’60s, when Dylan was still developing as an artist: “I’m really excited about the new Basement Tapes that are coming up soon,” he said. “I was just getting my picture taken by Sam Jones, who is making a documentary about it. So it’ll be a film about the new album, but it’ll give us some info on the original Basement Tapes, as well. Can’t wait for that.” It would seem Bridges’ love of Dylan shows no sign of waning.