“Don't know how I got to write those songs. Those early songs were almost magically written."
Bob Dylan, in a recent interview aired on the documentary No Direction Home, Martin Scorcesee,Director, 2005.
Does Dylan look back in time upon his early days as a cultural icon, the spokesman of the sixties generation, and sense detachment now from his body of work? I don’t know, but then again, what do any of us “know” about this mysterious and enigmatic artist?
After a near death motorcycle wreck in 1966, when the keen was considered to be at the height of his powers, Bob Dylan retreated from the constant and overbearing glare of public attention. He still has barely let the adoring public see his private self. This mystery lingers, even though he has remained on almost endless tour for the entirety of the 90s and 00s (100 dates a year), and published his memoir, Chronicles: Volume 1, in 2004.
His gnosis is present in his manner of “stream of consciousness” speaking. The quotes are powerful and sharply pointed, but seldom placed in any direct context. And there are volumes upon volumes of words attributed to Bob Dylan, both in the form of lyrics, and in prose and poetry, interviews and autobiographical writing.
Partly, his spiritual side, which was openly and boldly evangelical Christian from his conversion in 1979, is little understood by his generation at large. The sixties and seventies were, after all, not known for the religious piety of it’s art or youth cultures.
“I got in through the door when noboby was watchin’ it. Now that I’m in, they’re gonna’ have a hard time getting’ me back out.”
Artistic courage is taking the stage at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and going electric; being booed and still taking the same direction because you know it’s what you have to do. It’s your direction. Bob Dylan was all but crucified for standing from his rare perch and uttering something new and original. The Folk music intelligencia were sure that it was blasphemy, but Dylan kept selling tickets and touring and selling records. He knew that his hecklers were still hungry for whatever it was he was bringing, and he carried the day.
Artistic growth and originality is mixing folk and rock, Gaelic and rockabilly. Growth is coming from where he was, and making a country album. Before country was the most popular music of our day. Way before.
And a career that has spanned forty-five years is still vibrant and strong. His new album, Modern Times, just came out. Google XM Satellite Radio. The number 2 post, today, is the show:Theme Time Radio Hour with Bob Dylan.
It’s about “Themes, Dreams and Schemes.” Dylan talks about hair, this week. His hour on baseball is sure to be talked about for some time. Go figure the Bob to take an old venue and create something original and fresh from it.
What picture do you have in your mind of “what you’re about”? If you can only keep the faith of the artistic spirit embodied by Dylan and his work, I know good things await.
Next Post: back to visual art.