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Tulsa Is Suitable For Dylan Museum, But His Songs Provide Many More Options

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It Would Positively Take a Lot of Nerve To Put the Dylan Museum on Fourth Street


Tulsa is eight hundred miles from his home town, making it an unlikely site for a museum devoted to the greatest songwriter of all time. Nevertheless, the Bob Dylan Museum will be opening in the Oklahoma next summer, so Dylan fans might want to start preparing to make the trek.

Depending on where they live, fans might actually drive part of the way on Highway 61, or else cross it if they venture from the east. It would have been poetic justice if, instead of Tulsa, the museum would have been erected in one of the cities along that highway made famous by Dylan's historical rock album.

Memphis might have served as a good home for such a shrine, since Dylan forever placed that city in music immortality with “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” from Blonde on Blonde. That location would also make the museum within a two-hour drive of the Music Capitol of the world, which was the focus of Dylan's album Nashville Skyline.

Beyond a Highway 61 location, the Dylan Museum would thrive in the city that was the subject of Dylan's very first song. “New York Town” is just one of many tunes in which he mentions the Big Apple, and it is not far from where Dylan first met his idol Woody Guthrie in a New Jersey hospital.

In fact, Guthrie is one of the reasons Tulsa was chosen as the site of Dylan-Dom, for Guthrie himself was born in Oklahoma. Fans of Dylan could not only visit the new attraction, but also stop in to to see the city's museum for the folk singer who first inspired a boy named Robert Zimmerman to begin writing songs.

Many of those hundreds of compositions since way back then have mentioned cities, so there are plenty of other options for a Dylan Museum. Ashtabula, Ohio, for instance, gained notoriety just by its reference in “You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” from the Blood on the Tracks album. Had it received the radio airplay it so deserved, the song might have done for that northern Buckeye State town that “Take It Easy” by the Eagles did for Winslow, Arizona just a few years before.

The first track from that album, which was the most well-known among the nine, provided a similar plug to a town over a thousand miles southwest of Ashtabula. It appeared in the third verse of “Tangled Up in Blue,” which legions of fans believe to be one of Dylan's most autobiographical songs.

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“I was lucky to be employed, working for a while on a fishing boat right outside of Delacroix,” Dylan says, identifying the Louisiana town as being not far from New Orleans.

Among the other prospective homes for a site honoring Dylan, several song titles could be considered. St. Augustine, Brownsville, Kingsport, Champaign, Laredo and Santa Fe are towns included in track names, along with one of his earliest protest songs about racial discrimination.

“Oxford Town” from Freewheelin' depicts the governor's attempt to stop integration, when James Meredith matriculated as the first African-American at the University of Mississippi. While the tune was not flattering to the town, a Dylan museum there could serve as an atonement for the discriminatory practice of its past.

Probably the most logical spot for a Dylan Museum would be in Hibbing, Minnesota, where he was born. After decades of downplaying its association with the songwriter, Hibbing has recently renamed a street in his honor.

While it is certainly a nice gesture, and long overdue, an artist with the stature of Bob Dylan deserves much more than just a street. Even a museum right there in Hibbing would not be quite adequate, but it would be a great start.

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