By Jason Violette
Bob Dylan is an American icon and folk paragon who is now the first singer, songwriter to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for literature.
City College student, poet, philosopher, rambler and Mutiny Radio host “Diamond” Dave Whitaker not only knew Bob Dylan back in the day, but served as a mentor to Dylan.
“Diamond” Dave Whitaker has evolved in conjunction with San Francisco throughout its history for the last half century. He is a local legend, a cultural curator, and advocate of freethinking whose personality radiates with originality.
Whitaker first set out for San Francisco in 1957 to be apart of the “Beat” movement, an American social and literary movement centered in the artist communities of San Francisco. Gallivanting through San Francisco’s Little Italy, Whitaker met poets and philosophers such as, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and other social misfits and anarchist.
Having left the country to go to Israel in 1958, Whitaker returned stateside landing back in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1961. In Minneapolis, Whitaker continued to expand on concepts introduced to him by Kerouac and Ginsberg, nurturing the spirit of the “Beat” generation by encouraging people to play their uniquely styled music.
Whitaker first met Bob Dylan in 1961 at the University of Minnesota, when mutual friend, Bonnie Beacher, bumped into a “bummed out” Dylan who was wrestling with his life’s journey.
After Beacher listened to a young Bob Dylan, he said, “I know where you need to be,” and took Dylan to Whitaker’s house. It was in Whitaker’s living room “where music was going on, where talks of radical politics are going on,” said Whitaker, that the two met for the first time.
Whitaker recalls that it was through his friendship to Dylan that he was first introduced to musician and folk patriarch Woody Guthrie.
“It was when I gave Dylan, Woody Guthrie’s autobiography ‘Bound For Glory’ a book about riding freight trains, playing picket lines, hobo camps and other dives, that Dylan learned of Guthrie,” Whitaker said. “It changed [Dylan’s] life.”
After closing his eyes,Whitaker recollected a story of himself and Dylan attempting to locate and speak with Woody Guthrie. He said Dylan located Guthrie at Greystone Park Mental Hospital in New York City.
“We tried to call [Guthrie] but could not talk to him due to his disease,” Whitaker said Guthrie suffered from Huntington’s disease.
Whitaker said Dylan hitchhiked from Minnesota to Madison, Wisconsin where he stayed with other folk singers who were brought together by their shared radical ideas. According to Whitaker, Dylan continued to travel to Chicago, Illinois and finally New York City.
“In those days there was no modern interstate system, and this is back when there was only three main highways, so it took Dylan a few weeks to make it to New York,” Whitaker said.
A few weeks later Dylan sent Whitaker a postcard, with Guthrie pictured playing a guitar stickered with “this machine kills fascist” on the front, and smoking a cigarette.
“Do you want to know what the card said,’ Whitaker asked.
It read: “Dear Dave, I met Woody, He like’s my stuff. –Bob.”
I asked Whitaker when was the last time he and Bob Dylan had spoken and if he had any clue as to if and when Dylan would accept the coveted Nobel Peace Prize?
“It had been years since we’ve spoke, Bob will take his time as he always does and do what he thinks is best,” he said.