Did I mention that 1991, the Dylan week that we’re doing right now, happens to have included his fiftieth birthday? Well, it did!
How did Dylan celebrate that occasion? I have no idea. Not with a public event of any kind. He didn’t play a concert – his second 1991 tour ended on May 12, and his third tour of the year opened in Rome on June 6. Maybe he was on a tropical island somewhere?
Dylan did release a song that would allow writers to piggy-back onto his half-century birthday though, and it was a good one! He contributed a version of “This Old Man” to the For Our Children benefit album in support of the Pediatric AIDS Foundation (others lending a hand included Sting, Paul McCartney (“Mary Had a Little Lamb”!), Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler, Elton John, and Barbra Streisand). Despite its all-star cast of artists, I have absolutely no memory of this album being released, probably because it is a collection of songs for children, and I didn’t have any at that point.
Here’s the Dylan song:
This is a good version of this, and makes good use of middle-aged Dylan. The harmonica playing is nice, and musically it is quite minimal. I wish he would do more things along these lines (I am currently listening to a compilation of acoustic songs from his 1991 London concerts and loving it in all the ways that I am hating his current live work when he is backed by a full band).
One other video worth sharing at lunch is this one by Loudon Wainwright III, which celebrates Dylan’s fiftieth by noting the large shadow that he cast on singer-songwriters like Wainwright and Springsteen. I went a little Wainwright nuts a couple of years back when I was building a deck – just put him on endless repeat until I couldn’t take him any longer. This is a cute song, as many of his are: