Build a Goddamn Bob Dylan Statue Already

For real, I think there needs to be more serious discussion about a Duluth Bob Dylan statue. He’s the (checks notes) greatest songwriter in the world (the Nobel Prize people compared him to Homer and Blake), and Duluth is his (checks notes again) literal birthplace. Where did I read — perhaps buried in the epic comments of this PDD Facebook post — that local/regional Dylan relatives disfavor statues, as opposed to a nice plaque or something? An MPR article cites “a Dylan family member” who states a preference for educational work instead. I get it. But Dylan must have dozens of relatives, did we ask them all? Do we have to ask any of them, since Dylan belongs to the world?

I also get that statues are falling out of favor and may become problematic. The meaning of a statue can change. Maybe it would be better to just name a street, or a music center, or erect a plaque — something you can quietly change up or take down in a hurry if history reverses on you. But respectfully, I worry that plaques and manhole covers are simply too boring to honor the greatest songwriter in the world besides Taylor Swift.

You think Taylor Swift will only get some nice manhole covers? You think they won’t build a statue in her hometown by the time she’s Dylan’s current age of 82?

Shakira just got a 21-foot-tall statue in the city of her birth, Barranquilla, Colombia, and she’s only 46 years old. Her hips have not even had time to tell one lie. Granted, Barranquilla is a big city — more than twice the size of Minneapolis, so it must be very cosmopolitan — is that why Duluth can’t have nice things?

Her statue looks great! It’s dynamic and fun to look at. Does this mean Barranquilla’s city government endorses her recent tax problems? She almost went to prison, but they built her a giant statue anyway! It’s celebratory of her career, and who she is as an artist, and what she means to the community.

Obviously that sounds like poison to the average Minnesotan, where something like a statue of Bob Dylan — the locally-grown artist with unequalled achievements, who pays his taxes on time — just seems too proud. We wouldn’t want to brag. Let’s ask the family and see what they think. Ope they say nope. Well ya know Duluth ain’t Barranquilla.

Which is why this 2013 plan for a 12-and-a-half-foot Dylan statue failed. The statue would have gone in Duluth if the sculptor could have raised $150,000 to make it, but the Kickstarter only raised a tenth of that. If Duluth had been ten times more populous, we could have afforded it. So how could a statue get funded? Maybe one of our local billionaires could donate (quick calculation) a sixth of one their sportscars? But I’ll be honest: I don’t like the 2013 statue concept. The metaphorical cape “blowin’ in the wind” with song lyrics written on it was a bit much. Lose the cape and this thing might have taken off and it would have been cheaper. Also, I bet 12-and-a-half-feet tall sounded a little ostentatious for Duluth. That’s more of a Shelbyville idea.

But I would like Duluthians and Minnesotans generally to get over themselves and build a goddamned statue of Bob Dylan already. I would settle for one life-size statue. We wouldn’t want it to be bigger than the Shakira statue, or even half that size, because that would show an excess of pride. Better make it a one-inch-tall Bob Dylan statue. On a pedestal — but not a tall one.

Look. We can’t let Hibbing punk us on this. So help me, if they get a Bob Dylan statue before we do, I will freak out. We are six times their size but currently they are ahead of us, because their library has a life size papier-mâché sculpture of Duluth’s greatest former citizen, which is 100% more sculptures of Dylan (in any medium) than we have. Duluth, you wanna go out like that? We can’t do better than a papier-mâché sculpture — in Hibbing?

You don’t even have to like Bob Dylan to recognize that he’s our era’s Walt Whitman. Do you think everybody in Walt Whitman’s time loved his poetry, or could read it? No. But he had an aura to him. He was Walt Whitman, the Bob Dylan of his day. There are many statues of Walt Whitman, including one in Forest Hills, New York, his place of birth — where such a thing makes an awful lot of sense.

That is why I can say with a straight face that my Committee for Giant Colossal Statues of Bob Dylan was 100% serious. You may be satisfied with a papier-mâché sculpture in Hibbing. Or the decades-long quest to finally remodel the Armory. Or a weird little Bob Dylan Way. Those are all good first baby steps! But nowhere adequate to our Homer, our Blake, our Whitman. Dylan fans from all over the world pilgrimage to our city and find little.

I think this whole “we’re too conflicted about Dylan and/or too humble to build a statue” thing makes us look ridiculous. A local boy won the Nobel Prize for Literature, after conquering the Earth, and you’re hung up about it?

Face it: Duluth is Dylan City. He is our largest cultural export.

Build a statue.

Okay, maybe a mural? I mean, not a big colorful one or anything…

An index of Jim Richardson’s essays may be found here.



about 2 months ago

Nice. The problem with statues is they cost a lot of money, and in 20 more years when we find out that Dylan stole all of his lyrics, angry mobs will want to tear it down. I suppose if we build it out of something easily recyclable it might be okay. How many years until we get our Maria Bamford statue?

Jim Richardson (aka Lake Superior Aquaman)

about 2 months ago

Wake me when Maria Bamford becomes the idol of millions and is compared to Homer and Blake.

Matthew James

about 2 months ago

If the biggest concern is all the money and hassle of having to remove any given statue when a protesting group deems it problematic, why don’t we just get ahead of the curve on the Daniel Greysolon Sieur du Luth statue on the UMD campus and swap it out? Whatever Dylan’s lasting legacy might be, I can’t imagine it ever ending up worse than the totality of French colonialism. And between Dylan and Du Luth, Dylan is the one who actually lived in Duluth, the one who certainly has his work referenced in more UMD classes, and the one where we actually know how he looked, which is kind of a key element of a statue. Added bonus: we would save a ton of money on the pedestal. The Du Luth statue could go into the Tweed Museum next to a sign discussing its historical and artistic context. Seems like a win all the way around.   

Or, if cost is the main issue, the Du Luth statue is just an abstract representation anyway. All you really have to do is add a guitar, give him a new hat, and change the name on the plaque. And then we have ourselves a Bob Dylan statue by a highly renowned Lithuanian-born French-American Cubist sculptor for just a couple thousand dollars at most. A somewhat oddly dressed statue, but hasn't Dylan always been known for his unique style? In any event, I see a lot of possibilities for discussion here.

T. Heinonen

about 2 months ago

Homer and Jethro?

Jim Richardson (aka Lake Superior Aquaman)

about 2 months ago

@MATTHEW JAMES: This is a surprisingly good idea
@T. HEINONEN: lmfao


about 2 months ago

Must you cheapen and degrade yourself by using "Godd#*m" in the headline? That word is highly offensive to so many readers. It completely diminishes your point.

Derek Montgomery

about 1 month ago

@kingfish, the only thing offensive here is the lack of Bob Dylan statues in Duluth.

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