Happy 70th Birthday, Bob Dylan

On the occasion of Bob Dylan's 70th birthday, NPR's Neal Conan reads an accolade to the much-lauded musician, and plays his song, "My Back Pages." Dylan included the song on his album, Another Side Of Bob Dylan.

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Bob Dylan turns 70 years old today. Born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Minnesota, he may be the most distinctive musician of his era. In The New York Times, critic A.O. Scott wrote: The scope of his historical imagination stretches from before the flood to the end of days. And the man himself can sometime seem to dwell outside of time altogether.

In 1991, as he presented Bob Dylan with a Grammy for lifetime achievement, Jack Nicholson said, he's been called everything from the voice of his generation to the conscience of the world. He rejects both titles and any others that try to categorize him or analyze him.

He opened the doors of pop music wider than anybody else, yet returned, time an again, to the simplicity of basic chords and emotions to express himself. He has been and still is a disturber of the peace, his as well as ours. Nice, but as usual, the man himself put it better.

(Soundbite of song, "My Back Pages")

Mr. BOB DYLAN (Musician): (Singing) Crimson flames tied through my ears rollin' high and mighty traps, pounced with fire on flaming roads using ideas as my maps. We'll meet on edges soon, said I, proud beneath heated brow. Ah, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth. Rip down all hate, I screamed. Lies that life is black and white, spoke from my skull, I dreamed. Romantic facts of musketeers foundationed deep, somehow. Ah, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.

Girls' faces formed the forward path from phony jealousy to memorizing politics of ancient history, flung down by corpse evangelists unthought of, though, somehow. Ah, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.

A self-ordained professor's tongue too serious to fool spouted out that liberty is just equality in school. Equality, I spoke the word as if a wedding vow. Ah, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.

In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand at the mongrel dogs who teach. Fearing not that I'd become my enemy in the instant that I preach. My existence led by confusion boats, mutiny from stern to bow. Ah, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats too noble to neglect deceived me into thinking I had something to protect. Good and bad, I define these terms quite clear, no doubt, somehow. Ah, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.

CONAN: Bob Dylan, 70 today, "My Back Pages." Tomorrow, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News, I'm Neal Conan broadcasting from Washington.

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