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Bob Dylan: 50 Years After His Debut, Have Things Changed?

Today, April 11, is the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan's first professional show, an opening slot for John Lee Hooker at Gerde's Folk City in Greenwich Village. It's also the golden anniversary of Nazi military Adolf Eichmann's war crimes trial beginning in Israel, but that's not really that sunny of an event. He - Eichmann, not Dylan - was hung the next year for being party to the Holocaust.

So it's been half a century since Dylan began his march into history in earnest, spinning out lines before one of the biggest names in blues. A year later Dylan would write a song partly about his first night onstage in front of a paying crowd, instead of an open-mike throng. Kinda reminds us of a stoned Hayes Carll, in a very good way.

Less than five years later, Dylan would record "Like A Rolling Stone," with that opening snare pop echoing across the world. Thirty years after his 1961 shows, a set of recordings from that time, The Bootleg Series, Vols 1-3, Rare and Unreleased 1961-1989, shed light on those shadows of his career.

We asked the Rocks Off News Team what their impressions are of Dylan, his career, and his influence on music and pop culture in general. The reactions were mixed, to say the least, proving that 50 years since he first stood before the world, he is still stirring up a ruckus. Craig Hlavaty

Neph Basedow: Bob Dylan is not overrated. But what's irritating about Dylan's widespread influence is just that, his influence itself. His style, while genius at times, is attainable and quite simple. Meaning, annoyingly easy to imitate. Obviously, there can be only one "Bob Dylan," but by golly, it seems not every aspiring songwriter agrees.

My favorite Dylan songs include "Fourth Time Around" because of its sweet sincerity and the way its lyrics always paint a picture and storyline in my mind upon hearing it, and "Love Sick" because I wish I'd have written the line, "I'm sick of love/ I wish I'd never met you." Who doesn't?

I don't have any specific least favorite Dylan songs, but they'd likely be from either Under a Red Sky or Self Portrait.

Jeff Balke: There are few things I regret in this life. One of them is not pawning everything I owned to buy a beautiful, stack-knob Fender Jazz bass in the early 90s. The other involved Bob Dylan.

In 1986, I was still in high school, filled with bright ideas and covered in long hair. Rising from the smoke of hair bands and prog-rock that out of my car stereo was a decidedly more mature playlist of American musicians including Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. That summer, Dylan came to Houston on the second leg of his True Confessions tour that included Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as his backing band. I was thrilled. I was excited. I would not be going.

I bought tickets to the show - a mere $17.50, as I recall - but was told the week of the show that I had to go to a family dinner that night, no exceptions. I sold the tickets off to someone at school, who didn't care about them nearly as much as I did. Late in the evening, after dinner, I drove my truck around the 610 Loop, past the Southern Star Amphitheater, where the show was happening, and sighed.

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