8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. 20 minutes from my hometown of Yonkers, an hour from my new home of Yale. The lights go down as the first movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony plays from the PA system. The audience of 1800 erupts in rapturous applause. As I am frantically clapping, screaming and crying, the man of the evening waltzes onto the stage. The 82-year old Nobel Prize winner, philosopher of modern song, voice for the outcasts and skeptics of the American spirit, the man I have revered for nearly a decade has arrived. Seeing Bob Dylan in the flesh for the second time in my life is the surreal, out-of-body experience I need, especially in my first semester of university.

So, how did I get here? Where did my love for a man born in 1941 begin? Well, as many of my obsessions and interests begin, it all started with the Beatles. At the age of six, I discovered the band that would shape the trajectory of my musical landscape. By the time I was eight, I had memorized the members’ birthdays, the release dates of their albums and a good portion of the lyrics to their songs. Around the fifth grade, in the depths of my Beatlemania, I started exploring the life and career of Bob Dylan. I knew Bob Dylan as the poetic protest singer who introduced the Beatles to marijuana, possibly single-handedly changing the course of their career. When “Positively 4th Street” came on the oldies station on the radio, I would perk up in excitement to hear the twangy, reedy voice of Dylan, much to the chagrin of my father who would much rather hear Motown classics.

Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016. After finishing my homework and practicing the piano, I had dinner and watched the evening news with my parents. After stories about the foreign and domestic happenings of the time, a striking segment peaked my attention: Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first songwriter to do so. The segment talked about his journey from being a Woody Guthrie protégé in Greenwich Village, to being hailed the folk messiah of his generation, to being called “Judas!” for daring to play rock n’ roll and to becoming a love-sick hopeless romantic. I voraciously read and listened to people debate if Dylan’s lyrics should be considered literature, especially on the level of American Nobel-winners such as William Faulkner or Ernest Hemingway.

Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. By this point in my life, I had plunged into the ocean of Dylan’s career and listened to much of his music from the 1960s. I was enamored with the album “John Wesley Harding,” a record seldom upheld by fans in the current age but lauded by critics in 1967. I started venturing into his 1970s albums, mostly his seminal 1975 release, “Blood on the Tracks.” I was struck by the beauty of songs like “You’re a Big Girl Now”, which made me cry the first time I listened. On that cold December night, I found myself in the mezzanine of Manhattan’s Beacon Theatre sitting next to my mother. At 8 p.m., the lights went down. Onstage appeared Bob Dylan and his band, as he was showered in applause by the audience. As was completely typical for the folk rebel, it was very hard to recognize what song Dylan was performing until he arrived at the chorus. Some of the songs, especially those from the latter part of his career, I didn’t even know. However, when he launched into the classic “Like a Rolling Stone”, I along with the audience erupted in cheers, shocked to see that Dylan would perform the song at all. I left the concert very satisfied, but I obviously still needed to dive deeper into his career.

Friday, June 19, 2020. The pandemic and high school on Zoom gave me plenty of time to broaden my musical landscape. Artists like the Who, Kate Bush and Pink Floyd were in heavy rotation during this time, but I still found myself listening to Bob Dylan. Early in lockdown, Dylan released “Murder Most Foul”, a nearly 17-minute epic on the ramifications of the Kennedy assassination, steeped in allusions to artists before and during his seminal period of the 1960s. By June, it was known that a new Dylan album was to be released, entitled “Rough and Rowdy Ways”, his first album of new material since winning the Nobel Prize. I stayed up for its midnight release — sorry, Mom — and was absolutely gobsmacked by the power Dylan still had in his ability to tell poignant, transcendent tales about mortality, aging and existential dread. Afterwards, I plunged headfirst into the open waters of his expansive career. Songs like “Desolation Row”, “Isis” and “Highlands” in their Homeric grandeur helped inspire much of my own songwriting and poetry.

Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023. It’s a cosmic coincidence that I would be celebrating my 18th birthday in a first-year seminar called “Bob Dylan as a Way of Life,” led by Humanities lecturer Benjamin Barasch ’09. On the surface, the class uses Dylan’s songs as a way to teach first-years how to close-read literary works. However, as I went through his discography, I began to ponder why I, a member of Gen Z, am so attracted to Dylan’s words.

As a prospective history major, I am fascinated with the past, especially Dylan’s past. However, Dylan is the prophet for those who wish to explore the inner-workings of the personal and impersonal qualities of life. Whether it be the acerbic lambasting of fame’s futility by a 24-year old or the wisdom-soaked existential musings of an old man, every time I listen to Dylan I learn something new about myself and how I view the world. That, at the core, is what it means to analyze Bob Dylan and his career as a way of life.

9:40 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. The lights come up in the Capitol Theatre. Bob Dylan and his band leave the stage. I exit the Capitol Theatre with the rest of my classmates. Dylan did not perform any of the “greatest hits” he had performed a million times, but it was the perfect concert for a diehard fan like myself. Almost all of Rough and Rowdy Ways was performed, albeit with completely new yet incredibly moving arrangements. Riding on MetroNorth back to Yale, I cannot believe the journey I have been on tonight. It was the closest to a religious experience I ever had, especially because I was a stone’s throw away from a man whose words have enchanted me for so long. My life may change as much as my favorite Bob Dylan album, but I know that my reverence for the great American poet and orator will never be diminished with the passage of time. Godspeed, Mr. Dylan.