Happy birthday! You don’t know me, but I’m among those who admire you as a fearless innovator and powerful creative force, who also has written some catchy tunes. And it’s from this place of love that I wish you a happy 80th birthday by presenting you with a one-word recommendation for your concert programs: Medleys.
Let me be frank, Bob. I love your long, rambling diatribes about visions you’ve had about that Johanna girl and the desolation you found in that row of houses on the other side of town. Those are great songs, triumphs, I would say. Unimpeachable. And yet, today’s audience is different, Bob. This is the TikTok generation. We like things “short.” It wouldn’t hurt if you wrote some shorter songs. That’s why I’m suggesting medleys. They can be your shortcut to “short.” If you made medleys of your older songs by pulling together some of the better lines—like “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” and “The whole wide world is watching,” just to mention a few—you might win over a whole new generation.
And how about your stamina, Bob? Despite your past claims, you’re not getting any “younger than that now,” and let’s face it, we all slow down with age. Do you really need to sing all six verses of “Chimes of Freedom”—not to mention all eight lines in each verse? The Byrds didn’t—and they had the hit with it! Doesn’t that suggest to you that all your audience ever really needs is a taste? And that’s what medleys give them.
The payoff for you is a less taxing night with more frequent applause! When George Jones launched into the familiar opening lines of “From the Window Up Above,” the audience cheered, and 30 seconds later they cheered again when that gave way to “Walk Through This World With Me.” And so on. What’s wrong with that? Besides, all the greats perform medleys. Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes. I mean, you can’t do medleys unless you’ve had hits. It’s an exclusive club. And Bob, you are one of its most highly regarded members. Take advantage of it!
To help get you started, I’ve embedded a brief medley of a few of your classic numbers below. Please feel free to use this as is—or as a starting point, or as an inspiration to build your own medley. Whatever you want, Bob, I’m with you!
Let me close by saying that I hope your friends and family celebrate your birthday with you by singing, “Happy Birthday,” a really short song that is still hugely popular—a good model for you! Now please, please, please, I don’t expect any thanks for my s(t)age advice. As I say, I’m offering this from a place of love. Please don’t make a fuss. All the thanks I really need is seeing you onstage performing a medley of your hits! That would be so Positively Fourth Street!
Just a Guy Who Would Love to Have Your Contact Information, Though I’m Not Sure What I Would Do With It Because I Have Enough Trouble Already Staying in Touch With Family and Friends
Photo at the top of the page shows a rearranged cake decoration package assembled by Claire Marziotti to publicize the night I led a celebration of Bob Dylan’s 50th birthday by playing his songs exclusively on what was another long night at the Landmark Pub in Brooklyn. My performance included no medleys. Go figure.