Bob Dylan’s debut album was released on this day in 1962. Fifty years ago. A couple of years later, my cool older cousin Joanne dragged me to her room and played a Dylan album for me. A couple of years after that, my really cool older cousin Mitchell took me to see Dylan perform live at what was then called the Mosque Theater in Newark, NJ.

My first Dylan concert found him smack dab in the middle of the famous acoustic to electric changeover. Newport and Forest Hills had happened a few months earlier. He was still playing the first half of his show solo acoustic in those days. When he came on with a band after the intermission, the audience was unsettled. No one yelled “Judas,” but someone did yell “rock and roll sucks!”.

Dylan didn’t bother saying much from the stage in those days. Why bother? Maybe that’s why I still recall so clearly the one thing he did say during the show, “you’ll have to excuse my voice, I just got over a bad case of leprosy.” After that he sat down at the piano and played a stirring, stunning version of “Ballad of a Thin Man.”

I love the Beatles. They inspired me, and countless others, to pick up a guitar in the first place. I love the Beach Boys, and the Stones, and so many more artists. But it was Dylan who kept me playing, and Dylan who made me see that it was possible to write and sing my own songs. Since that night in Newark I’ve seen him many times in many places. I’m long past the point where I care what he’s playing, or even how it sounds. Simply being in the same room as the man remains a nearly transcendental experience for me.

That first Dylan album was recorded in six hours spread over two days. It cost all of about $400 to make. It was full of covers of well worn blues and folk songs, with only two original Dylan compositions. It didn’t sell very well, but John Hammond, who had the foresight to sign Dylan in the first place, wouldn’t give up on him. A month after the release of the first album, Hammond got Dylan back into the studio to record another one. Dylan had become more political, and he was writing songs. One of those, “Blowin’ In The Wind,” would change the course of popular music forever.

I’ve expressed my appreciation for Bob Dylan, here and elsewhere. If I wrote about him every day for years I don’t think I could ever express it enough. So on this, the 50th anniversary of the day that the world at large got its first opportunity to hear the music of Bob Dylan, the music that has meant so much to generations of singers, songwriters, and music fans, I want to add one more appreciation. Thanks Bob.

[youtube id=”B_ehzjmFlOM” width=”600″ height=”350″]