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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 June, 2004, 20:15 GMT 21:15 UK
Dylan blows in for graduates
By Thomas McGuigan
BBC News Online Scotland

To say you graduated with Bob Dylan looking on is no mean feat.

But that's what the class of 2004 at St Andrews University did on a wet and windy Wednesday on the edge of Fife.

For a sizeable group of music fans, Robert Allen Zimmerman sings what they feel.

Bob Dylan
Dylan was either too hot or overwhelmed during the ceremony

And he was in Scotland to receive a Doctor of Music honorary degree from the university.

It was his second such award after he accepted a similar accolade from Princeton University in 1970.

Dylan is credited as being one of the most important singer-songwriters of the 20th century and he would go from an appreciative audience at the university's Younger Hall to the first of two gigs in Glasgow later that night.

How does it feel, we could have asked the man who gave us Like a Rolling Stone, to be deluged by a traditional Scottish downpour?

The packed crowd of professors, students, family and press crammed themselves into the building and some welcome warmth.

Choir cheer

Earlier, students had grappled with blustery gowns and angry umbrellas in the unforgiving weather.

Blowin' in the Wind? More like tossed about in a gale.

However, once inside, the St Salvator's Chapel Choir soon soothed wet and aching ears.

Scotland's oldest university does not hold back on pomp and ceremony and the procession of students who left the stage as graduates could not contain beaming smiles.

Ewan McNeil
The university has a great tradition and it was great to see Bob Dylan make the effort to help us enjoy it
Ewan McNeil
In the form of a brief interval, the choir cleared their throats to give those gathered their own version of Blowin' in the Wind.

Then, Professor Neil Corcoran, of the university's school of English, addressed the hall.

Like any other Dylan fan, he explained why the musician is as popular now as he was in the 1960s.

"Dylan was once asked what his songs were about," Prof Corcoran said.

Dylan had replied: "About three, five or 11 minutes."

The professor allowed the laughter to subside before pointing out that, for many people, Dylan had been an important part of growing up.

Graduates said Dylan's visit added to the occasion

"His songs made the time, rather than it making them," Prof Corcoran added.

Then, a small man with dark, greying, curly hair got to his feet to thunderous applause.

It was difficult to judge whether he was feeling the heat in the hall, or was simply embarrassed to be revered in such terms.

But Dylan looked almost pained as he shook his shoulders in his robe and accepted the award.

He then returned to his seat, licked his lips and tapped his foot a few times until the end of the ceremony.

'Brilliant day'

Dylan has released more than 40 albums and, although the times may be changing, his popularity appears to remain the same.

As the academic train made its way to the exit, those in the audience rubbed shoulders to catch a glimpse of the magician in the robes.

Outside the hall amid mercifully little rain, graduate Ewan McNeil, 21, from Ayr, summed up the day.

"Today was brilliant," he said.

"The university has a great tradition and it was great to see Bob Dylan make the effort to help us enjoy it."

Dylan receives honorary degree
23 Jun 04 |  Scotland
In pictures: Dylan's honorary degree
23 Jun 04 |  In Pictures
Bob Dylan: What is his legacy to music?
29 May 01 |  Talking Point


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