I was playing Blowing In The Wind on the recorder in primary school. My pimpled teenage self ranted for Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. I slammed out "Things Have Changed" in the jungles of Papua New Guinea after an ill-judged romance. I always knew about A Simple Twist of Fate. I danced with the Jokerman, and now It's Not Dark Yet (but it's getting there).
More than any other artist, Bob Dylan has inhabited my soundtrack, haunted my soul, demanded my attention, disappointed and inspired me. This omnipresent, unknowable, wise-cracking minstrel is my muse, the sprite who showed me the words they don't teach you in English literature class. Dylan is a musical giant, a creature of the American spirit, his Chaplinesque whimsy leavening the excesses of his flag-waving countrymen. He has the turn of phrase, the imagination, the chutzpah for which I'd happily trade several vital organs.
And now, here he is, 80 years old. Visibly frail when last I saw him live, in Sydney a couple of years back, delivering his new and venerable songs in a voice older, and younger, than the man in whom it lives. Rolling thunder, and something more.
The man who put poetry into pop has lived to be 80. Of this, I am happy. Listen to my Bob Dylan birthday tribute.
The recorded music era began in the late 1800s, making it possible for musicians to become widely known. Radio spread their fame further, and the modern media notion of celebrity was born. These men and women lived large, but so many of them died young. A strangely significant number of them died at the age of 27.
Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain and more. It can't be anything more than a coincidence, but a curious mythology has developed around the so-called 27 club.
Listen to my ABC Radio story on the 27 club.
The Rolling Stones were on a roll. Their ninth album, Sticky Fingers, was another high point on a golden run of albums from Beggars Banquet (1968), Let It Bleed (1969), to Exile on Main Street (1972). Even now, all these years later, a Stones live show still draws heavily on songs from this period.
As Sticky Fingers was being unloaded at record stores 50 years ago, the Rolling Stones were loading up and moving to France, seeking refuge from Britain's punitive tax regime, in which Mick, Keith and the lads were paying up to 95 per cent of their earnings to the Government. As a result, they were flat broke, at the height of their success.
Mick Taylor replaces founder member Brian Jones on sessions at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and at Jagger's home in Hampshire. The result is glorious, an album of songs full of Stones influences and swagger, with some truly magical playing. Watch them listen to the playback of Wild Horses - a clip showing the mood of the times, and their sense of wonder at what they had made.
Listen to my ABC Radio piece
Rock music mythology is brimming with faith and excess, spirit and flesh, vision and madness. The most compelling acts seem to live large at the earthier end of these spectra, yet can still reach in to the stars and draw down the gift of music.
We have lost one of the best, Jim Steinman, songwriter, studio producer, and very occasionally, a lead singer. Jim wrote all the songs for Bat Out Of Hell, the record that made Meat Loaf a global star. Jim wrote for and produced many other artists, but Meat Loaf was his big claim to fame.
Jim had a rock and roll soul, but he drew on everything from Broadway musicals to Mozart to percolate his unique rock brew. He wrote epic songs, and he was one of the most visionary record producers – up there with Phil Spector, without the murderous impulses. And he was no slouch as a singer. Check out his 1981 solo record, Bad For Good.
Listen to my tribute to Jim Steinman
Pop and rock music is so often about love, lust, attraction. Relationships - and to have one of those, at some point, you have to get, or request, a phone number.
We don't remember numbers anymore. Digital amnesia - we let our smartphone remember the numbers for us. But those numbers are often part of the story. Phone numbers have featured in song lyrics and titles for at least 80 years. It's a small, but very entertaining, musical genre.
Listen to phone number songs
Richard is a writer, podcaster, radio and TV broadcaster, an editor, and a lover of music. He tells the stories of how great songs are made, and of the people who make them.