Bob Dylan’s new album, “Tempest” drops today. According to the publicity surrounding the release, the timing was scheduled to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of his first studio album, back in 1962.
September 11, 1962.
As everyone’s thoughts are filled with 9/11 memories today, mine keep heading to a weird place: Bob Dylan.
In 2001 I was 23 years old and my interest in Bob Dylan was blooming. I’d been reading all of the hype leading up to the release of “Love and Theft”, set to drop that September 11th. I was excited to check out the new record.
Then 9/11 happened.
I worked for a local country music radio station at the time. My home county’s Relay for Life event was coming up and the radio station was hosting our Annual Celebrity Pie Auction. Locally well-known folks (the police chief, ministers, businessmen, etc.) would bake a homemade pie, bring it into the studio, be an on-air guest for a half hour, and listeners would call in and place bids for the pie, with the proceeds benefiting a local Relay for Life team of the “celebrity’s” choice. That year, they even had a video camera running and were streaming the footage to the local access cable channel.
This was maybe the second year of the auction, but the first one since I was working at the station. I was curious to see it, so I flipped on Channel 3 to watch. The president of the college in our town was on the air, auctioning his pie.
Except, he and the DJ weren’t talking about pie. They were watching the TV in the studio. They weren’t talking much at all.
As usual, I was cutting my schedule close, so I didn’t have time to investigate. I hustled in to work and when I got to the studio, I learned what was wrong.
Everyone thought it was an accident at that point.
A plane had somehow crashed into the World Trade Center.
Then the Pentagon.
United Flight 93.
One building fell.
Then the other.
The entire day, we broadcast our satellite national news service instead of our usual programming. We had all of the local ministers come in for a “multi-denominational prayer service” on the air.
What a heavy day.
Like everyone else, I made my way home that evening and watched more of it on the news. I was living at home at the time. When my mom got home from work, she said she needed to go to Wal-Mart.
We lived in a small rural town and the nearest Wal-Mart is twenty miles away. So we drove in silence. I followed her around the store while she got whatever it was she needed.
I remember how quiet the store was. It wasn’t that there weren’t people there. There were shoppers…they were just silent.
I passed a kiosk in an aisle and something caught my eye; “Love and Theft”, the new Bob Dylan album. In all the commotion of the day, I’d completely forgotten that it was coming out that day.
Let me point out that I’m very conscious of supporting independent record shops and I do so every chance I get. I don’t buy music from Wal-Mart. But I made an exception on September 11, 2001. In a different situation, I would have made the additional 40-mile trek to the nearest indie record shop (remember…small town), and bought it there. But I needed something that day.
It felt weird. This was still in that point of “Is it OK to enjoy anything anymore?” Remember that phase? TV shows, concerts, and sporting events were all cancelled. Movie premiers were rescheduled. It was all news. Sad, heavy news.
No one wanted to laugh. No one knew if it was OK to be entertained. Or to entertain people.
No one knew how to handle it.
Eventually, the late-night TV shows returned. Jon Stewart and David Letterman gently eased us all back into laughing again. Paul McCartney organized a big benefit concert for New York.
But that first day...The evening of 9/11, we weren’t sure.
I bought “Love and Theft” that day. I don’t remember if I even listened to it that night. If I did, I don’t recall my response. I love the album now, but I don’t remember the first time I heard it.
I just remember it being there. I remember the feeling on the worst day anyone had experienced…when nothing made sense….when nothing at all felt safe…when there didn’t seem to be a point to anything anymore…
I remember there being that Bob Dylan album. New music that provided me some small measure of relief. Comfort. Just by merely existing.