For those of you who know me over the years you are aware that I am a big fan of Bob Dylan. His music, poetry and artistry have had –and will continue to have—a tremendous impact and influence on our culture and on global consciousness as well.
This week marks an important anniversary for Bob, for it was way back in January of 1961, shortly after the famous inaugural speech of President John F. Kennedy, that Bob made his way to New York City to make his mark at the young age of 19. He came east to see his inspiring role model, Woody Guthrie, who at that time was languishing in Greystone State Hospital in Morris Plains, NJ. Bob had read Woody’s book, Bound for Glory and his life was changed forever. He began to see himself as a player in the long line of American folk musicians—authentic interpretators of the spirit that defines our country in so many ways. But back in January of 1961, Bob was not just making a trip east to discover his voice, he was making a pilgrimage to Morris Plains to meet Woody Guthrie, too. It was very cold back then—just as it is today. There were a string of snow storms and bitter cold during the winter of 1961 in the northeast; not so different to what we are experiencing at the present time here in the northeast. So, I would like offer Bob congratulations on his 50th anniversary of making that long ago journey because he has enriched so many lives from that moment on. It took a lot of courage, intelligence and curiousity to sally forth from the safety of his native midwest. How many of us would have done the same thing? I doubt that many of us would…and that is in part what makes his early accomplishments so incredible and inspiring.
On the very next day after arriving in NYC and performing at an open mike session at the famous CAFE WHA? in New York’s Greenwich Village, Bob made traveled into “deepest NJ” to visit Woody in his hospital room in Greystone State Hospital in Morris Plain, NJ. It was a very brave and amazing thing he did. Visiting any hospital is never easy—but this one was famous for its incredible scale ( over 7000 patients) and that fact that it housed a great many people who suffered from mental illnesses; scary to think about that fact, even today. But, despite any fears Bob may have had about going to see Woody at Greystone—he went ahead, not once but many times. He would talk with Woody and play for him, too. in his hospital room; most often his interpretations of Woody’s songs. Later, Bob would bring his new found friends along with him when he would travel to Morris Plains to see Woody, Joan Baez, among them.
I became so interested in this story that I decided to write a film script about Bob’s first weeks in New York City and NJ. I embarked on this project because I think the story deserves to be more widely known, since it is so rich with character and historical interest, too. It is part of the universal story of “becoming” that every person experiences as they make the transition into adulthood; but with a backdrop of Greenwich Village, Greystone Hospital during a nascent period that preceeds the tumult of the ’60s. If you are interested in learning more about the script, please drop me a line.
So, in closing today……
Happy Anniversary, Bob—and thanks for all you have done! Thanks too, to Woody Guthrie who was Bob’s inspiration—-both of them are great Americans who deserve our gratitude and admiration.