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OPINION

Dear Bob Dylan . . .

Letters from his unopened sack of fan mail.

A bag of fan mail directed to Bob Dylan in 1966, on display at the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Okla., April 30, 2022. A new space to display DylanÕs vast archive, celebrates one of the worldÕs most elusive creators, and gives visitors a close-up look at notebooks and fan mail.JOSEPH RUSHMORE/NYT

A recent story about the new Bob Dylan archive in Tulsa, Okla., included a picture of a US mail sack, one of many, full of fan letters that the famous singer never opened. According to an archivist, “the bag had apparently sat untouched for years.”

A peek at Bob Dylan’s correspondence? One can only imagine . . .


“Dear Mr. Dylan,

My seventh grade teacher has asked me to write a half-page essay on your song, ‘Highway 61 Revisited.’ Can you help me? Kent Nordstrom”


“Dear Bob,

Wanted to thank you for the name change, which gave me that great lyric, ‘When you say Dylan/He thinks you’re talking about Dylan Thomas/Whoever he was.’ Can you imagine the alternative? ‘When you say Zimmerman/He thinks you’re thinking about the Zimmerman Telegram/Whatever that was.’ Peace and friendship, Paul Simon.”

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“Dear Mr. Dylan,

It is with some sadness that we note a certain retreat from your encouraging ‘Christian phase,’ exemplified by such magnificent work as your 1979 album, ‘Slow Train Coming.’ We could not agree more with your public pronouncement of that year: ‘There’s only two kinds of people — there’s saved people and there’s lost people. Jesus is the lord. Every knee shall bow to him.’

Might it be time for a spiritual re-rebirth? A Slow Train Second Coming? May we suggest a Christmas concert from St. Peter’s Square, broadcast live to Christians around the world? We think a return to the One True Church might benefit both our brands.

Yours in the confidence of eternal salvation, Pope John Paul II and Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury”


“Dear Bob,

Hi! It’s Kent Nordstrom again. I’m in college now, and my English professor really liked my idea of writing a senior thesis on the gambling symbolism in your song ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.’ I’m having trouble reaching you … "

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“Dear Mr. Dylan,

My name is Dewey Howe and I represent New Jersey Superior Court Judge Samuel Larmer, referred to as ‘some fool’ in your hit song ‘Hurricane.’ Judge Larmer is no fool. He graduated from Columbia University Law School, is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and holds a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from New York University. Any suggestion that a man of Judge Larmer’s accomplishments is a ‘fool’ is actionable and we demand an immediate retraction.”


“Dear Mr. Dylan,

I was very disappointed to learn that you composed a song, ‘Day of the Locusts,’ disparaging your recent visit to Princeton University to receive an honorary degree. Leaving aside the lamentable rhyme scheme (‘diploma’ and ‘Dakota’ — you can’t be serious), your suggestion that ‘The man standin’ next to me, his head was explodin’/Whoa, I was prayin’ the pieces wouldn’t fall on me’ deeply offended the legendary journalist Walter Lippmann. It was in fact Mr. Lippmann who stood next to you during the ceremony. I hope you will apologize to the Lippmann family forthwith – President Robert F. Goheen.”


“To: Mr. Robert Dylan

From: The Swedish Academy

Dear Bob (If I may),

How sad that you cannot join us in Stockholm for the award ceremony. But so much has already been accomplished! Our Uppsala server farm crashed immediately after we announced your Literature prize, and our Twitch channel has 186 million new followers! Do you know Ms. Beyonce? We are examining her work closely. Congratulations again!”

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“Dear Mr. Dylan,

I am Kent Nordstrom, a low-residence PhD student at a prominent online university. I would like to discuss my thesis topic, Bette Davis Style: Deconstruction and De-gendering in ‘Desolation Row’ with you as soon as possible. I have had some difficulty reaching you in the past . . .”


Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.