My Back Pages

What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?

My 13-year-old self slumped in the passenger's seat. The drive home was tense enough already, fueled by disappointment after I walked in the winning run of my baseball game. My dad and I barely exchanged a glance. I pushed the radio buttons in search of hip hop. As soon as I landed on Ludacris, he switched the station to classic rock. A strange voice rambled through a jumble of words. "Lies that life is black and white spoke from my skull." My dad sighed deeply as Bob Dylan sang "My Back Pages." I stared at the grey lanes of I-66 stretching ahead of us and muttered, "What is this?"

Five years later, in the dollar bin of my local record store, I came across the faded white cover of "Another Side of Bob Dylan" and remembered that tense ride. Back home, my mind muddled through the overlapping lyrics leaping from the record's smooth groves as the young songwriter preached his sermon in vivid and confusing rhymes. As the record spun, I grabbed a pen and wrote my first song. It was beautiful, poetic—and a total copy of "My Back Pages."

At that moment, those mysterious lyrics became crystal clear. I was searching for answers in the dreams of other people; living my life in black and white. I had wanted to be a pitcher for my father. I...

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