My earliest recollection of Bob Dylan was when ‘Lay Lady Lay’, from his country flavored ‘Nashville Skyline’ album, went into rotation on AM “Top-40” radio in 1969. The first Dylan album I paid attention to was ‘Blood On The Tracks’ during my freshman year of college. (I later collected and now better appreciate his earlier albums) Joan Baez, apart from her magnificent voice, wrote just one song I very much like; ‘Diamonds and Rust’ which interestingly enough describes her relationship with Dylan. Richard Farina I wasn’t aware of until I noticed how often the titles of his only novel (Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me) and one posthumous collection(Long Time Coming And A Long Time Gone) were frequently used in pop culture. (read them both last year) At that point I discovered Joan had a sister, Mimi, married to Richard.
‘Positively 4th Street’ (The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina) by David Hajdu, was an eye opening book about the four people mentioned and their earliest association with the “folk music” movement. Other than eventual success as “artists”, their lives contained everything ranging from ambition to petty behavior just like every other young person trying to come to grips with their identity. Not that it was a big surprise but I was taken with how very early on Dylan tried to avoid or shun the title placed on him as some sort of spokesperson for his generation. He strove to be taken seriously as an artist without claiming to understand the “movements” often associated with him.