The Texas Connection: Bob Dylan

In this Jan. 12, 2012 file photo, Bob Dylan performs in Los Angeles. President Barack Obama will award Dylan a Medal of Freedom at the White House later this spring. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

Bob Dylan has set his return to North Texas: March 10 at Irving’s the Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory.

The venue is the site of his last trip through town, four years ago. The 80-year-old icon was originally slated to return to Irving in June 2020, but that entire tour was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Tickets for what will be the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter’s 20th overall visit to North Texas go on sale at 10am Friday.

Given the length and breadth of Dylan’s formidable career, it’s no surprise the Lone Star State figures heavily into his musical collaborations and inspirations. These examples merely scratch the surface of the Minnesota native’s enduring interest in the state he finds so fascinating he once devoted an entire hour of his “Theme Time Radio Hour” program to it.

T Bone Burnett

The Fort Worth-raised producer is a recurring figure in Dylan’s artistic life. Burnett was not yet 30 when he packed up his electric guitar, and went out on the road as part of Dylan’s expansive “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour in 1976. (You can see glimpses of Burnett in the clip below, right around the eight to 10-second mark, as well as in additional footage in director Martin Scorsese’s 2019 documentary about the tour.) Burnett also oversaw the 2014 album Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes, with artists like Marcus Mumford and Rhiannon Giddens creating songs from newly discovered Dylan lyrics.

“Murder Most Foul”

Dallas’ grim history is fertile soil for Dylan’s imagination, as evidenced by this staggering, 17-minute single from his most recent studio album, 2020’s Rough and Rowdy Ways. (Incredibly, this song yielded Dylan’s first-ever Billboard number one.) The cultural upheaval of the 1960s is punctuated by President John F. Kennedy’s killing: “They mutilated his body and they took out his brain.” The song lands like a hammer blow, illustrating anew Dylan’s astonishing ability to conjure meaning from chaos, and reflect our world back at us.

Charlie Sexton

Dylan has frequently drafted from the ranks of Texas musicians for work in the studio and on the road. San Antonio-born guitarist Charlie Sexton has performed with Dylan off and on since 1999. “He’s not a show-off guitar player, although he can do that if he wants,” Dylan told the New York Times in 2020. “He’s very restrained in his playing but can be explosive when he wants to be. It’s a classic style of playing.”

Tom Wilson

The Waco-born Wilson, who died at the age of 47 in 1978, oversaw the dawn of Dylan, producing the groundbreaking 1965 single “Like a Rolling Stone,” as well as three of the singer-songwriter’s landmark albums: The Times They Are a-Changin’, Another Side of Bob Dylan and Bringing It All Back Home. “I didn’t even particularly like folk music,” Wilson told Melody Maker in 1976. “I thought folk music was for the dumb guys. This guy played like the dumb guys. But then these words came out. I was flabbergasted.”