What can you say about Bob Dylan that he hasn’t already told you? Every other musician has added to that glorious racket too. In fact, his profound effect on artistry is perhaps best summed up by none other than Paul McCartney, who poignantly proclaimed: “I could feel myself climbing a spiral walkway as I was talking to Dylan. I felt like I was figuring it all out, the meaning of life.”
In fact, McCartney even put down his mystic message in writing: “‘I’ve got it!’ and wrote down the key to it all on this piece of paper,” it all, on this occasion, being absolutely everything. “I told [Beatles roadie Mal Evans] ‘You keep this piece of paper, make sure you don’t lose it because the meaning of life is on there. Mal gave me the piece of paper the next day, and on it was written ‘There are seven levels.’ Well, there you go, the meaning of life…”
What does that mean? Nobody exactly knows, perhaps the marijuana had something to do with this spiralled assailing epiphany, but what is known for certain is that no matter how understated the equivalent rush may have been for the original vagabond, his mind was also being blown by McCartney. We have Dylan’s trusted word for that.
“I’m in awe of Paul McCartney. He’s about the only one that I am in awe of. But I’m in awe of him,” the usually reticent Dylan told Rolling Stone in 2007. “He can do it all and he’s never let up, you know,” that much is true as ‘Macca’ reaches his 80th Birthday (a year behind Bob) and he continues to inspire legions of fans. As Andrew Bird told us: “There are very few who are continuously obviously pushing themselves. Paul Simon can still pull out an amazing song and Paul McCartney is no different. There aren’t many people who make it that far and are still pushing themselves.”
McCartney continues to push the progressive envelope like a postman of hits, and as Dylan adds, there is nothing but amazing musicianship behind it. “He’s got the gift for melody; he’s got the rhythm,” Dylan continued. “He can play any instrument. He can scream and shout as good as anybody and he can sing the ballad as good as anybody, you know so… And his melodies are, you know, effortless.”
The folk troubadour concluded: “That’s what you have to be in awe… I’m in awe of him maybe just because he’s just so damn effortless. I mean I just wish he’d quit, you know? [Laughs] Just everything and anything that comes out of his mouth is just framed in a melody.”
That envy is mutual and no doubt a healthy driving force, as ‘Macca’ said of Dylan way back in 1966: “Dylan is a fantastic composer. At first, I didn’t understand. I used to lose his songs in the middle but then I realized it didn’t matter. You can get hung up on just two words of a Dylan lyric. ‘Jealous monk’ or ‘magic swirling ship’ are examples of the fantastic word combinations he uses. I could never write like that, and I envy him. He is a poet.”