Article by Jakub Wisniewski


Artur Jarosinski, a collector of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen works died on 
August 21, 2011, aged 32. 

True artists like Bob Dylan are rare species. True fans are not easy to
find either. 

To collect everything is a hell of the job. Bootlegs vary in quality so in order
to get your hands on the best quality of recordings you have to listen to 
hours of concerts on end. There are countless memorabilia- t-shirts, posters, 
monographs, newspaper cuts, drawings, cartoons, even curios like a cup 
that was thrown from stage to the crowd. Collectors scramble for rare 
editions of albums with, say, Japanese version having one track added to 
the standard one issued in America and Europe. True fans want all the 
artifacts big and small. 

And, mind you, there is a mind-boggling technological development that 
inevitably make a fan's collection obsolete - bootleg tapes of yesterday 
become CDs and then turn into MP3s. Books get torn and frayed. Finally 
artists have an unnerving habit of occasional going on tour so that fans 
follow them around. 

And follow Bob Dylan Artur did, year in year out. That was life on the road 
for much of his youth. Monday -Berlin, Tuesday - Cologne, and so on. 
Venues, cities, climate zones and languages spoken would change but it 
slightly mattered. He was not there for the sight-seeing. There was 
sufficient excitement in concerts and concert-related activities. Night train 
or bus to get from one venue to the next. Hours of waiting at the 
entrance to get closest to stage when they open the gates. The hope to 
catch a glimpse of Dylan coming to soundcheck. And the magic moment 
when lights fide out…

Everything had to be documented and filed. Each night, as Dylan played, 
Artur would write down in his little notebook the setlist (like a spy who 
writes coded messages to headquarters): H61R (for Highway 61 Revisited),
LARS (Like a Rolling Stone) and so on. Artur was often the first to call 
Bob Links to pass the setlist to the global Dylan community. Let others 
know and share the emotions.

In a way Artur came 40 years too late. Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen 
being clearly past their prime Artur entered a contest that was clearly 
handicapped. By the time Artur was born Dylan had managed to become 
a voice of his generation, be proclaimed a traitor and acquire a status of
living legend again. Similarly all those Dylan collectors had already had 
established their own reputation, financial means and contacts. Artur 
seemed like a newcomer from nowhere (who among the crowd of 
bootleggers had heard of Eastern Europe?). 

He had his moments of doubt, of course. The Internet has its share of 
crooks, leeches, impostors and bigots. Bob Dylan is humiliated by the 
fact that he has fans in Poland, someone told him once. It wounded 
him deeply. And there is a strange case of the artist himself. Bob Dylan
is not the type of an artist to chat, shake hands with you and ask if you 
want an autograph. He is immutable like some ancient god, inaccessible 
and distant. Once Artur was selected for rough aggressive questioning 
by some security entourage of Dylan. Why do you come to so many 
concerts? Can't you move somewhere towards the back of the crowd? 
As if he had been an assassin or a dangerous maniac. Maybe this was 
the primary reason why towards the end of his short life he moved 
away from Dylan towards Leonard Cohen. Some Dylan fatigue or 
weariness has set in. He had everything there was to collect anyway.
You could wake him up in the middle of the night give him a date, say 
5.5.76 or 7.8.98, and he would tell you what Dylan was doing on that 
day and - if there happened to be a concert - what was played on this 
particular date. Like a detective Artur would scour the lyrics for 
references to literary works, biblical allusions, hidden meanings and 
overlooked facts. People knew him, asked his advice, desired his 
attention. Is this outtake in circulation? Is this a master tape or just a 
miserable copy? He would settle disputes. This was his internet life.

It would be hard to find a starker contrast between his internet status 
of a wiseman and real life figure. Gentle-mannered, slightly shy and 
cheerful Artur taught English to schoolchildren of Bochnia. He invented 
nursery rhymes based on Dylan songs. Imagine the amazement of kids 
coming for private lessons at the stacks of records and assorted 
dylanica cramped into a tiny room of the flat where he lived with his 
parents. Later on he moved to Wroclaw as a translator. 

Artur was a maverick. Many people did not understand his passion.
(Maybe every collector is slightly misunderstood?) Bochnia, like many 
parts of southern Poland, is a curious blend between modernity and
tradition. This is a sleepy former salt-mine town where older generation 
venerates John Paul II, cherishes family values and loves Polish folk music. 
These parts of Poland were a bulwark against communism but it 
somehow never came hand in hand with the Rolling Thunder Revue. 
The younger generation that does not remember communism inevitably 
slid into modern-era lowbrow entertainment. Bob Dylan has never 
attracted anybody's attention. Artur was alone in Bochnia.

Kraków was a bit different, at least for a little while, when gloom of 
dictatorship turned into blossom of democracy. When Dylan came to 
the city in 1994 16-year-old Artur was there in an anonymous, 
rain-drenched crowd ready to skip the TV broadcast of World 
Champions final of Italy playing against Brazil. There was a craziness in 
this audience, megatons of pent-up energy. The Iron Curtain had 
just come down and people's hunger for rock music seemed insatiable. 
It would not last long. Soon the rock music came to be largely forgotten 
by those whose staple food became junk food of pop music. Artur stuck 
with healthy food of good music. 

Artur Jarosinski departed as he arrived, like a comet. He died in an 
accident on his way home after a concert. I wish Bob Dylan knew and
heaved a sigh, because with every fan gone some of the artist is lost 
forever. Without fans there is no artist and Artur was one of the 
greatest of fans. 

Jakub Wisniewski
December 2013 

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