Michael Friedman has done a lot in his 72 years.
The 1961 Staples graduate managed Todd Rundgren. He did publicity for the Dave Clark 5 and Herman’s Hermits. He dated Linda Eastman.
And — for a few years in the late 1960s and early ’70s — he helped manage Bob Dylan.
You know: the newest Nobel Prize in Literature laureate.
Friedman — a longtime music lover and current Weston resident whose recollections of the early rock ‘n’ roll days in Westport I chronicled last April (he was Bo Diddley’s drummer at the YMCA, for example) — was just 24 years old when he joined Albert Grossman’s New York office.
It had been a 1-man operation, managing — besides Dylan, and the Band — Janis Joplin, Peter Paul & Mary, Richie Havens, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Odessa.
Friedman was hired on as Grossman’s assistant — and partner.
With Dylan back in the news last week, I asked Friedman for some insights into the singer/songwriter/poet/Nobel Prize honoree.
“What do you add to the conversation about Bob Dylan that hasn’t already been examined under a microscope?” Friedman wondered.
He thinks, though, that it’s hard to imagine Dylan achieving all that he did without Grossman. They were “alter egos,” Friedman says.
Friedman’s work with Dylan came mainly in the office, and Dylan’s home/studio in Woodstock, New York — not on the road. But the manager saw many facets of his client.
Decades later, he remains a huge fan.
“If anything, I’m surprised that people are surprised” at the Nobel news, Friedman says.
“His lyrics and music go far beyond anything any American has achieved,” he notes.
“He’s so influential. He gave everyone — the Beatles, Paul Simon, you name it — permission to write in a way that had never been done before. The body of work he’s responsible for laid the groundwork in a fearless, extraordinary way.”
That “Nashville Skyline” album remains one of Friedman’s favorites. It was light, simple — and very country-influenced. That, Friedman says, epitomizes Dylan.
“He did not care what anyone thought, or about celebrity or fame. He was booed off the stage at Newport for going electric, when he was the spokesman for folk music. He was the anti-war spokesman, and he went country. He did what he wanted..”
But Dylan was certainly no dilettante. When Friedman asked him about his writing “process,” Dylan said: “I get up in the morning. I go to my ‘office.’ I write songs. Then I go home.”
After nearly 60 years in the business — and countless honors — Bob Dylan has received an enormous honor, for his great body of work.
“I really admire him,” his former manager said. “And I’m really proud of him.”