Better Late than Never: San Francisco Man Returns Bob Dylan Album 48 Years Late

University Heights Branch Manager Sara Phillips with the long-lost album

Sara Philips, manager of the University Heights branch of Heights Libraries, was having a routine day when an oddly shaped package arrived in the mail.

“I got a package in the mail from San Francisco that was record-shaped and – lo and behold! – it contained a record from our collection that was due back in June 1973!” said Phillips.

Howard Simon checked out “Self Portrait” by Bob Dylan in 1973 when he was in eighth grade at Wiley Middle School in Cleveland Heights. He recently found the record mixed in with his personal collection, sandwiched between two other Bob Dylan albums, “Nashville Skyline” and “New Morning.”

Simon included a sweet and funny letter with the overdue vinyl, that Phillips shared with the Library’s Communications Department.

“As a recent retiree, I am taking the opportunity to turn my attention to some of the many vignettes of life that by dint of career and family have been neglected these many years,” Simon wrote. “In that context, I am returning with this letter an overdue item (by my count, approximately 17,480 days overdue as of this writing)….it’s quite late, and I’m quite sorry!”

Simon’s letter goes on to explain that the record “isn’t in great shape,” and partly blames his nomadic life.”…this particular album has moved with me (in succession) from University Heights to Chicago, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, Berkeley, back to Chicago, back to Berkeley, again to Chicago, Sacramento, and finally San Francisco. I’m pleased it’s survived at all.”

Musician Howard Simon (Photo courtesy Howard Simon)

Not only did Simon return the album—he made up for all the years he deprived the Heights community of Dylan’s “Self Portrait” with two donations.
The first, a “replacement fee” in the amount of $175 (“…a tithe, if you will…”), most of which serves as a generous donation to the Library, since, according to Phillips, “The album sleeve is in rough shape but the records themselves are in great shape.”

The second item is a copy of Simon’s own album, titled “Western Reserve.” It turns out that he is a musician in his own right, with several albums under his belt, no doubt inspired by Bob Dylan. Phillips sent the album on to the Technical Services Department to see about including it in the Library’s music collection.

“The funny thing about this is that we don’t charge overdue fines anymore–as long as we get the item back, we see no need to penalize people,” said Phillips with a laugh. “We’re grateful that Mr. Simon returned the record. I’d said we can now call it even.”

5 comments on “Better Late than Never: San Francisco Man Returns Bob Dylan Album 48 Years Late

  1. My conscience is now fully assuaged! And thanks for the charming post, and for the plug — we aging folkies can use all the support we can get . . .

    Best regards (and happy 80th, Bob),

    Howard Simon

  2. Great story! I still have the first Pearls Before Swine album that I “borrowed” from a college friend, more than 50 years ago! Sorry, Jeff Weaner, but if you’d like to have it back, contact me thru the Defiance College alumni office.

  3. Western Reserve, the fascinating and deeply moving album by Howard Simon, is one of my all- time favorites.

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