I saw Bob Dylan outside of Van Pelt the other day. Ok, he wasn’t actually Bob Dylan, but he looked just like him circa Blonde on Blonde: The unruly curls, the brown coat, the long, somber face, lean but not particularly tall. He was even smoking a cigarette. I did what any millennial would do and sneakily added him to my Snap Story. It is with a heavy heart that I did not save the picture to share with you, but it may have violated privacy laws anyway. The point I’m trying to make here is that it got me thinking: What if Bob Dylan went here?
I think he may like it. Seemingly every type of woman he ever loved would go to Penn. There’s Suze Rotolo, the liberal, fun loving activist, and Joan Baez, the massively successful woman who throws her man a bone and of course the Edie Sedgwick type: heiress–y, blonde, all “amphetamine and pearls.” He wouldn’t be in Beta, necessarily, but he’d thrive like so many Penn hot shots who probably didn’t do too well in high school. We’ve all met a guy here who can’t shoot a lay up but is suave and cultured, polished in tight pants and confidence. He'd run the school anyway.
I can picture Bob writing his poem songs from Bringing it All Back Home, my favorite album, in a Kelly Writer’s House Nook or rallying with one of our thousand political groups over global injustice. That being said, he’d fit snugly at one of those hole–in–the–wall speakeasies up near Honest Tom’s or at Smokes' in a corner booth. Maybe he’d have been a smug bouncer there, crushing your dreams. He has one song from Desire, called "Black Diamond Bay" with that great fiddle sound which pervades the album, and the opening line, “her passport shows her face from / another time and place / she looks nothing like that” paraphrases a devastating observation I’ve heard about my ID many a Thursday there. Ken Kweder just may find himself out of a job with Bob’s playful, “everybody must get stoned” lyric from "Rainy Day Women #12 and 35" replacing his beloved “Heroin.” (Ed. note: Heroin is, in fact, the only way.)
Come to think of it, there’s probably a Bob Dylan song for just about every Penn encounter you may find yourself intertwined, because as Bono once noted, “there is a voice for every Dylan you can meet, and the reason I'm never bored of Bob Dylan is because there are so many of them.” An in depth Penn-centric playlist might include:
- “Boots of Spanish Leather” from The Times They Are A-Changin’
- A freshman year song to be played for the high school relationship sighing its last lovely breath
- Key lines: "Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled / from across that lonesome ocean"
- “Shelter from The Storm” from Blood on The Tracks
- A homecoming song to be played after a night of frat hopping that ends at Allegro’s
- Key lines: "Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm / 'come in,' she said, 'I’ll give ya shelter from the storm'"
- “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” from Bringing It All Back Home
- A finals song to be played in Van Pelt chronicling the melodramatic agony of fifteen page papers and three hundred question exams
- Key lines: "You feel to moan but unlike before / You discover that you'd just be one more person crying"
- “Subterranean Homesick Blues” from Bringing It All Back Home
- An NSO song to be played while feeling yourself at the pool party; even though you’ll have strep throat in less than five minutes, the memories will keep you well all year.
- Key lines: "Get sick, get well, hang around the inkwell"
- “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” from Nashville Skyline
- A sophomore slump song to be played when Netflix sounds so much better than mixers or downtowns.
- Key lines: "You cast your spell and I went under / I find it so difficult to leave"
- “Idiot Wind” from Blood on the Tracks
- A junior year song to be played when “idiots” ask about employment prospects after college; after all, only one year to go!
- Key lines: "Idiot wind blowing every time you move your teeth / you’re an idiot babe, it’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe"
- “I Want You” from Blonde on Blonde
- A senior year song to be played for the love confessions four years and seven beers in the making (refer to “It Ain’t Me, Babe” for sophomore year sensibilities)
- Key lines: "I wasn’t born to lose you / I want you"
- “Abandoned Love” from Biograph
- The insanely prolific Dylan wrote so many hits that some of his greatest lyrical trumps were featured on outtake albums only. Not even Spotify knows about this hidden gem. Not that it should stop you from jamming.
- A graduation song to be played at dawn on a nostalgic stroll by the Quad when the sky is all purple and you wonder as to how you got so lucky to spend four whole years here.
- Key lines: "I see you in the streets, I begin to swoon / Won’t you let me in your room one time before I finally disappear?"