My wife and I saw Bob Dylan in concert this past November in Chicago. It was probably our twentieth time of seeing him perform over the last thirty-five years and we were thrilled with his performance. In fact, at age 73, we found his singing to be as clear and soulful as we had ever heard him. He is always finding something new to add to his concerts, and so now he only plays the grand piano and no longer plays the guitar–either acoustic or electric–that he is well known for playing.
After Dylan completed his performance, he left the stage, and to no one’s surprise, he received a rousing, standing ovation. Upon returning to the stage Mr. Dylan sang two songs as his encore for the night. The first song was no surprise as it is one of his most well known songs, Blowing in the Wind. The second, and closing song of the evening, was a complete surprise to all. Seated at the grand piano Dylan enchanted us with the song, Stay With Me. Stay With Me, it turns out, is a song that is actually a prayer for guidance, and was written in 1963 for the film The Vatican. The song was recorded by Frank Sinatra the following year. I must say the surprise encore of Stay With Me was one of the most pleasant and delightful moments of the evening and one we will not soon forget.
This week, Bob Dylan released his 64th album that, based on early reviews, is also being received as a pleasant surprise to listeners. The Album entitled Shadows in the Night, includes ten classic songs from what Dylan calls the “The Great American Songbook,” including the song he surprised us with at the Chicago concert, Stay With Me. Several of the songs on this album date back to the 1940’s and I am guessing that Bob Dylan, born in 1941, grew up in a home where his parents listened to many of these songs.
I am inspired by Dylan’s new album in several ways. First, I am inspired that at age 73 he is still creating new music, and is still out there touring and enchanting audiences. I am also inspired by fact that Bob Dylan, one of the greatest song writers of all time, is humble enough to record an album on which he lifts up and sings the songs of other great song writers. Finally I am inspired that in this album I see the wisdom that comes with age, that bows to acknowledge and honor the wisdom in the songs that formed and shaped him as a young child.
Dylan models for me an essential lesson in wellness. To live well means to be able to do two things. It means to be able to find your own voice and “sing your own song” and, at the same time, it means to be able to honor the voices and sing the songs that come from a collective history and wisdom that are bigger than one’s self.
I can only now imagine the young, twenty-three year old, Bob Dylan writing and singing The Times They Are A Changing, thinking all the while that his parents didn’t know much about life and that their music was old and irrelevant. And now, I can also imagine a much older Dylan recording the album he released this week and thinking to himself, “Wow, my parents knew actually did now something about fine music and perhaps about life, too, and I am grateful to be able to honor that music with this album.”
So in honor of Bob Dylan’s new album this week, may we all continue making our own music, and at the same time, may we remember to honor the collective wisdom, and the collective soul, of the voices and music that have come before us.
Here are the lyrics to Stay With Me. If you would like to listen to the song, you can do so at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tt1BBubMHzM
Should my heart not be humble
Should my eyes fail to see
Should my feet sometimes stumble
On the way, stay with me
Like the lamb that in springtime
Wanders far from the fold
Comes the darkness and the frost
I get lost
I grow cold
I grow cold, I grow weary
And I know I have sinned
And I go, seeking shelter
And I cry in the wind
Though I grope and I blunder
And I’m weak and I’m wrong
Though the road buckles under
Where I walk, walk along
Till I find to my wonder
Every path leads to Thee
All that I can do is pray
Stay with me
Stay with me