I vividly remember driving down the Autobahn in Germany, hurtling toward the Black Forest. I was 5 years old, sitting in the back seat of our Volkswagen with my brothers as my parents played Bob Dylan for the first time
We were living in Germany at the time and would travel by car as we explored many parts of Europe.
After playing Fat Albert games through the back window at several cars passing by and growing tired of the game, my dad thought it was time to illuminate us about one of his favorite artists.
“Sit back and listen to this one, guys. It’ll blow your mind,” he said as he looked at me in the rear-view mirror and squeezed my mother’s hand. It’s as though he had been waiting for this moment for some time.
He played “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” and “Highway 61 Revisited.” I listened with rapt attention.
I had been exposed to Carole King and Leonard Cohen through listening to my parents’ big record collection. But this Bob Dylan man was new to me, haunting, powerful and storytelling-drenched.
He was someone I might just follow into a towering inferno, if I had only known what those were at that age.
The song stopped, and my dad waited for feedback.
“A real poet, dad.”
“It’s like he’s pulling the words down from the sky.”
“Yes, they do course through him, sweetheart.”
“I like him. And I like his eyes.”
“I hope you listen to all his songs, Alanis. There is no one else in the world like him.”
“Yes, he is very special, dad.”
Years later when I was admonished in my teens for writing lyrics that were deemed “a little too stream-of-consciousness” or were “sacrilege for their lack of rhyming,” I remembered that car ride and my dad’s giddiness – and Bob Dylan’s voice and his face on the cover, whom I imagined, in the face of these attempts to shut down my style of writing, saying, “Sounds good to me, Alanis.”