Bob Dylan - Like a Rolling Stone at 75

One of the most influential poet-singers of the last century, Bob Dylan celebrated his diamond jubilee (75 years) birthday on May 24, 2016.  From 1961, Dylan has been singing and writing 'chimes of freedom'. These songs keep 'blowing in the wind' transcending boundaries.  Dylan's music has inspired anti-war and freedom-loving people all over the world. Bangladesh has a special reason to wish him well.  

The human price of independence for Bangladesh in 1971 was three million lives in just 266 days, at 7.83 lives per minute. Fortunately, Bangladesh was not alone because the war was a 'just war' as Rumi described to his Pasha Mama in a letter. Friends of Bangladesh came from everywhere to join Bangladeshis in freeing their country. By 1971, rock had come of age. 'The Concert for Bangladesh' was the first, but not the last time music would be used to fight just wars on an international platform. 

At the request of Ravi Shankar, George Harrison organised 'The Concert for Bangladesh' at Madison Square Garden, New York on August 1, 1971. With the support of the freedom-loving people of USA, the concert was instrumental in creating awareness in an age when there was no social media. 

Organising a benefit concert is always easier said than done. For the first time, George Harrison was doing something on his own after the break-up of the Beatles. It was equally challenging for Dylan. Since his motorcycle accident in 1966, Dylan had made only one public appearance at the Isle of Wight in the UK in 1969. 'The Concert for Bangladesh' would be his second live appearance since then, but to a wider audience towards a much larger cause – the Liberation War of Bangladesh. Dylan was so nervous that everyone was doubtful he would perform.

After performing 'Here Comes The Sun', Harrison introduced Dylan: "I'd like to bring you all a friend of us all, Mr. Bob Dylan." That was it. The stage was set. There was no point of return. With Harrison on his right and Leon Russell on his left, Dylan sang 'A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall'; 'It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry'; 'Blowing In The Wind'; 'Mr. Tambourine Man'; and 'Just Like A Woman'.  Dylan's performance at The Concert for Bangladesh ranks as one his best live performances ever, because Dylan sang like a man submitting to fate, waiting for an outlet for his soul to cry just like the people of Bangladesh had been waiting for 214 years since 1757 and 24 years since 1947 to the let world know of their souls in 1971. 

Bangladesh was very lucky to have had friends during the Liberation War. Bob Dylan was one such Friend. He's kept moving on 'like a rolling stone'. His music has made him like his song, 'Mr. Tambourine Man' carrying people 'upon his magic swirling ship through the smoke rings of our mind'. Good health and happiness, Bob. 'Tonight, I'll be staying here, with you' and your music.

Asrar Chowdhury teaches economic theory and game theory in the classroom. Outside he listens to music and BBC Radio; follows Test Cricket; and plays the flute. He can be reached at: [email protected] 


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