Dylan's Face

Since that afternoon in 1963 when I first picked up and looked at his Freewheelin' album, I've had a love affair with Bob Dylan's face. He was considerably younger then22 to be exactand despite the soft innocence his face possessed, I had a feeling there was a whole lot more going on. I don't mean that I was attracted like a teen girl, or a fan, I mean that I was drawn to its aesthetic beauty...

I bought the album because I'd heard Don't Think Twice, It's All Right at a friend's house and was blown away. I was new to folk music and it was Dylan who popped that cherry for me. I'd been playing on a guitar, although I didn't know chords or anything else about it, but when I heard Dylan play, I knew I had to learn. I still haven't mastered that rolling "Travis" picking pattern though. I can play a lot of others, though, and I've even invented a few of my own, but that one still evades me. But then, I've never had anyone just sit down and show it to me. Any volunteers? Anyway, back to Dylan's face, because, well, this entry isn't supposed to be about his music.

Through the years Dylan's face has changed for a number of different reasons. Age is the most obvious, but cultural trends played a fair role (hair, sunglasses, facial hair, etc.), as well as his fascinating ability to invent and re-invent himself. Regardless of the changes, his face has qualities that mesmerize me: the smooth, heart-shaped jawline, the long, slightly hooked nose, the impish mouth, and his shocking blue eyes. When I first discovered that his eyes were blue, I was a bit taken aback. I mean, he just didn't fit the blue-eyed man image. I'd assumed they were brown.

My favorite look was that 1965-66 Ray-Bans, black turtleneck look. He's not a big guy anyway, but his thinness and his head full of JFed curls gave him a Chaplinesque quality that worked for him at the time. Do you remember the impact that look had on you the first time you saw a picture of him?

"You know something is happenin', but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?"

After his motorcycle accident (or drug rehab, depending on which story you believe), he came back looking more like he did at the beginning, except with a bit of a beard. His hair had been tamed, he'd put on a little weight, and he'd taken to wearing wire-rimmed glasses in private. He looked more approachable and less intimidating. By his own account, he was busy raising a family and music was the only way he knew how to put food on the table and make the house payment. It seemed to me that he took an emotional break from the fame he'd attained so quickly, and his face reflected the peace he'd found in upstate New York.

It wouldn't last though. With Dylan nothing ever lasts, except perpetual motion and constant change. The next time I noticed his looks was in Renaldo and Clara. He haphazardly slapped some clown white on his face, lined his eyes with kohl and peered out menacingly at the audience from under a wide-brimmed hat. And I loved it! The music from this time was especially good: I can't name one bad song on his Blood On The Tracks album. It's still my favorite of his. Yes, I know the LP came out in 1975 and the movie in 1978, but I'm talking about eras here, not a concise timeline.

Even as Dylan has aged I still loved his face. There's so much character, so much history. Every wrinkle has a story to tell. Those blue eyes have seen so much and that mouth has told us about some of it.

We all age, we all get older. If you can't face that, then you seriously need to grow up. I mean, unless you're still a kid. It's faces like Dylan's that help me to accept and even love my own aging every time I look in the mirror. When I think about it, I'm damned proud to be aging right alongside Dylan!