Farewell Aaron: wonderful Dylan fan, and such a great friend who I never met

 

 

By Tony Attwood

I am desolated beyond measure to have to report the passing of Aaron Galbraith, one of the great friends of this site, a terrific researcher and writer, and an absolute Bod Dylan fan.

Although Aaron wrote and co-wrote well over 300 articles for this site, he and I never met (what with living on different continents), and we never even got to talk on the phone (although I did ask), but his contribution to Untold Dylan was immense and invaluable.

One day back in 2018 (just six years ago but it seems so much longer) he simply sent me an email with an article he thought might fit into Untold Dylan.  From that piece it was obvious at once that here was a writer with imagination, original thoughts and a lot of knowledge about Dylan and the music that influenced Dylan.   Of course I was delighted to oblige and publish it.   I wrote back and begged for more, and Aaron returned the favour over and over and over again

I did also suggest we might have the occasional chat but no, he was just happy writing, and coming up with ideas.

For what Aaron was, was a guy who not only knew about Dylan and the music that influenced Dylan, he was also brilliant at considering new ways in which we could look at Dylan – ways that would give us greater insights into this work.  Ideas that could make a one-off article, or turn into a series which could run to maybe 5 or 10 or 100 articles on specific Dylan topics we hadn’t previously covered.

These included having the brilliant idea of creating albums that Dylan didn’t make but should have done.   I am hoping in the near future that I will be able to go back and pick out some of those articles and bring them to the fore once more – although of course they all remain on the site.

In short, Aaron was one of the exclusive band of people who, for reasons that will never become clear, was willing to give up hours of his time writing for and creating ideas for Untold Dylan, just because he enjoyed doing it  He wanted no reward.  In fact, I doubt if he would have objected if I’d left his name off one of the articles he wrote or contributed to.   I hope that never happened, because I valued his input so much, but it always struck me he was that kind of guy.  He just enjoyed having the ideas and doing the research.

I never learned much about his life (although I did ask) but somehow we always got on well as we exchanged emails about the topics we might cover.  Indeed if you want to see what Aaron wrote just go to the Dylan site and type in “by Aaron Galbraith” in the search box (using the inverted commas) top right and they will all come up.

In fact Aaron didn’t just invent series, he invented series that kept Untold Dylan going, such as “Other people’s songs”, and “Why does Dylan like” and then would often very gently and kindly point out where I’d missed something out in one of my articles, or gone off on the wrong track.  Indeed we even created albums together that Dylan didn’t make but should have made. Not just a list of songs, but the actual recordings.

But beyond all that Aaron did a huge amount of uncovering of songs Dylan wrote which I had missed – indeed he was part of a tiny group whose work allowed me eventually to claim that we had the definitive list of Dylan compositions.   My goodness, I really do hope that I said thank you enough to Aaron for that and that he fully appreciated how much I felt I owed him.  When Dylan himself passes on, I expect at least a postcard from on high thanking Untold for creating the definitive list of Dylan compositions.   I’ll refer Bob to Aaron who will be waiting up there, finally able to say hello.

And there was so much more.  Aaron also invented the wonderful series that ran and ran – “Other people’s songs”.  That contained recordings I’d never come across before – my education continued.

But mostly, our list of Dylan compositions was added to many times by Aaron (https://bob-dylan.org.uk/dylan-songs-reviewed-on-this-site) and is now seen by quite a few people as the definitive list.  Indeed over the years Untold Dylan has become seen as an important Dylan site for those seriously interested.   Wiki occasionally quotes us when talking about a Dylan song and ludicrously calls me “Dylan scholar, Tony Attwood….” But really they should be paying tribute to those other writers who have made this site what it is.  I just pull the strings and give some opinions:  Aaron was one of those who did the hard work.

But my main point is that Aaron’s approach always added a different flavour from that of the rest of us writing on this site, and his is one of the voices that has helped Untold keep going down the track we have chosen.

In later days, I guess when Aaron was perhaps not feeling so well, or maybe was getting more tired (he never said) he would select songs, and I’d write a meandering review of them for me to develop.  Some people treat them as my articles, but the key point was I would never have been able to write that review without Aaron being there making the selection.  He really did take the word “Untold” seriously and took us into new dimensions.

Aaron never dictated what he wanted (and you may have heard, some authors really can be very demanding in terms of the way their work is treated – very pesky creatures these authors…) and indeed he seemed very happy to come up with ideas and let me meander off with them probably in ways that he would not have taken.  At least he never once complained at anything I did with his work.  If only every author could be like that.

I want to give one example of this which appears at https://bob-dylan.org.uk/archives/8637

I mention Aaron’s work at the top in finding this, and then go onto a ramble of my own.  But the key point is that it was Aaron who pointed out that we could do an article on this – and then he left it in my hands.  So my name is on the article and Aaron gets his mention – but the key point is there would have been no article without Aaron.

I knew inside me things were not right for Aaron when he stopped writing for Untold, for he told me in several emails just how much he had enjoyed what he had been doing.   Knowing he was having a break I wasn’t pushing for anything more from him, but as he had created albums of Dylan songs – if you want to see an example take a look at https://bob-dylan.org.uk/archives/26235 -….  I was hoping I might persuade him to do that again. Sadly that hope has now gone.  I suspect he is entertaining all the other good people with whom he is now sharing the afterlife.

So overall, if it was possible for two guys of the older variety, who had never met and never even spoken on the phone to have one hell of a good time together, this was it.  And indeed it was, from my perspective, Aaron and me.  He was my great friend that I never got close to… In the way I published the articles I felt I was respecting how he wanted things to be; I do hope I got it right.

Indeed when he pulled out of writing for Untold I really tried to get the balance right between saying that I would welcome an article from him any time, but at the same time not hassling him for more.  I do hope I got that right too.

Take a look at https://bob-dylan.org.uk/archives/21863 and you will see just how we worked together and how it was Aaron’s ideas that allowed me to expand Untold Dylan.

Occasionally I get emails from senior academics thanking me for Untold Dylan and the variety of work therein.   Not notes correcting an error, not pointing out something we missed, but thanking me for Untold Dylan.   Aaron was very much part of creating the environment that it seems some people now do consider worthy of study.

And indeed “creating this environment” was what Aaron helped bring to the show.   That idea of going somewhere else, thinking about Dylan in the way others had not done, and then allowing us to see where it goes… that was Aaron.

When writers have written more than a few articles for Untold I ask them to write a piece in the Untold writers page.   I haven’t changed what he wrote as yet, but I will do in due course to pay proper tribute to him.   For the moment it remains as he wrote it….

https://bob-dylan.org.uk/archives/9215

Aaron Galbraith grew up in the west of Scotland and was educated at Glasgow University. Always a massive music fan, the first concerts he attended were Paul McCartney and Neil Young. He recently counted and has seen over 100 different acts live (several more than once), ranging from Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Van Morrison to BB King, The Strokes, Blur and Adam Ant.

He became acquainted with the work of Bob Dylan whilst at Uni due to one of those 3 CDs for a tenner deals popular at the big music superstores of that time. On a whim, he picked up Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde. He then proceeded to collect the entire back catalogue and has since seen Dylan over ten times in concert.

He now resides in Virginia in the Good Ol’ US of A with his wife and young daughter. His hobbies, beyond Dylan and other musical acts, include following the Scotland national football team and attending various tennis tournaments throughout the world, primarily to see Andy & Jamie Murray in action.

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My goodness I really do hope that I said thank you enough to Aaron for that and that he fully appreciated how much I felt I owed him.  When Dylan himself passes on, I expect at least a postcard from heaven thanking Untold for creating the definitive list of Dylan compositions with a full acknowledgement to our dear, dear friend who I never got to talk to: Aaron Galbraith.

12 Comments

  1. Arron, alas, he’s gone but he’s surely not forgotten ,..,at times like these , word’s utterly fail.

  2. Thank you Tony for this wonderful tribute to my son. It gives me great comfort to read this. Aaron truly was a remarkable person. He actually came upon your site during a stay in hospital at the start of his illness 6 years ago. Aaron from a young age was extremely passionate about music and I am able to think back today fondly about this. As a teenager his bedroom was like HMV but everything was neat ands tacked in order and kept pristine. When I said no more music to be brought in till he cleared some out I discovered him putting his clothes in bin bags but the music remained. You learn to pick your battles I suppose and the music kept on coming. When he moved to America all his music cds / tapes /dvds /vinyls / books went too at great shipping costs. But that was Aaron. Aaron was a very positive person and I am glad he added positively to this site.

  3. This is very sad news, Tony Attwood. I think I’ve read every article Aaron Galbraith has written on this great Untold blog.
    He had an interesting POV and your rapport with him was wonderful to read. When I submitted music to the unfinished song “Tioga Pass” a few years back, Aaron offered high praise, making me smile–comparing me to Neil Young (!). I like his personality so much on the page that I had the unshakable feeling that we could’ve been good friends in this lifetime. Aaron Galbraith has changed frequencies; may he Rest in Peace.

  4. Hi Tony and was so touched how affectionate your piece was on Aaron I needed to write to say thank you. His Mum Martha and her sister Sandra ( my wife) are devastated at his loss and the fact we remain in Scotland though travelled to his wedding in Washington 11 years ago had only reflections of his Mum and Step Dad’s visits after his MND / ALS Diagnosis 6 years ago. Music was his life along with Albion Rovers our local team who his brother and he used to follow al9ng with the Scotland team fervently. They even had season tickets for the Rovers as an excuse to meet up at home games in Coatbridge. Avid chess players they both won prizes and were clever on a variety of subjects. His illness claimed him a piece at a time but as you have witnessed through his writing he remained passionate about his subjects but never look for sympathy for his failing body. I am struggling to finish as Dylan was a poet, writer and voice to express thing that mattered to many including “our Aaron” so I hope you get that postcard someday and if not just hope some feedback is as grateful as mine. Thank you and God Bless Aaron xxx

  5. Dear Tony,

    First let me offer you my condolences to you for the passing of your friend Aaron Galbraith. It is never easy to lose a friend even those you may not have met in person. It is clear in reading this you were both great friends over a considerable length of time with email exchanges and in sharing mutual respect, work ethic, and interest in Bob Dylan. I recognized Aaron’s name immediately and have enjoyed so many of his wonderful articles, so of course this news is also a great loss to Untold Dylan and the entire Dylan community.

    I think this is one of the most beautiful tributes I have ever read; so you can be assured that you have offered a beautiful and heartfelt homage to an incredible man. You can take comfort in the fact that Aaron’s contributions will continue to be read and valued in years to come and that in itself is a gift to this website and Aaron’s legacy. RIP Aaron!

    Tony, you leave no doubt that Aaron was one of the preeminent contributors of ideas, research knowledge, and writing here. You have made your esteem clear and as you often do, also underestimated your own extensive achievements. I am sure Aaron held you in high esteem and was grateful for the fact that you facilitated and valued his work. I think he would also join me in saying thank you for your website and for your gracious attitude.

    All the very best
    denise

  6. What a lovely tribute Tony. I am also from Coatbridge originally and I’m sure I met Aaron after a concert sometime in the early 90’s

  7. Tony thank you so much for writing this tribute to our lovely nephew Aaron Galbraith , Aaron truly was a remarkable person and he will be missed by so many, thank you again for this beautiful tribute.

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