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Friday, August 14, 2009


together through life

Something that runs through my mind fairly regularly, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now, was in my mind much of the time today. Somehow, I connect with that in ways I don't even have to think about. I first heard it in my early 20s and was struck by it as a curious enigma. All the way along, I've felt younger as I grew older. Now, the oldest I've ever been, I feel the youngest I ever felt. I had a "heavy" mind for a kid. Never understood why other kids didn't think about things like I did. Much gravity in the early years. Passing 30 and 40 and 50 and 60 it seems like I get lighter within, can let things go by and not feel like I have to do something about it. Years ago, Bob Bamberg told me I think like an old man. He was right. I didn't know it was so visible. One of those aspects of self others see that we don't see ourselves. Lotsa them going around.

Not long ago in months I heard somewhere on NPR about the world of poetry is now accepting Bob Dylan as a poet. Why'd it take so long? What is it about the obvious that is so obscure? And like it matters to Dylan. I knew it and my friend Lucas Carpenter knew it when we were hearing Blowing in the Wind, Times Are Changin, Mr Tambourine Man, Like a Rolling Stone. Dylan was out there on his own with no close second. The Stones and the Beatles weren't even in the same league. Dylan was his own league. American poets were sidestepping and avoiding issues Dylan addressed straight on. Dylan is as American a poet as Robert Frost and John Berryman.

It's not often that a songwriter is embraced by poets as one of themselves. One of the hesitations of taking him in would be that all would have to look up to him from the start, because any American poet not impressed with Dylan's body of work isn't paying attention. Dylan figures as an artist through his music who had something major to contribute of value to all humanity. I'd not hesitate to put Dylan in the league with Harold Pinter, who received the Nobel Prize a few years ago with an acceptance speech Dylan could have written. And he has the integrity of a poet.

I discovered him in 1963 when he had 3 albums in a bargain bin at one of the box stores of the day. I'd heard the name and it looked kind of interesting, song titles and pictures. They were so cheap I bought all 3. Talk about a mindblow when I got home. Kind of like the day I bought Robinson Jeffers' Selected Poems. I stayed up all night reading the poems over and over and over. They were so beautiful I couldn't put the book down, didn't want to let it go. I appreciated his mind in the poems. That's how it is for me with Dylan. I've appreciated his mind as long as I've been listening to him.

He has so many albums it's too much to keep up with. Every once in awhile I'll get a Dylan album and love it. This one, Together Through Life, has pretty much stayed in my sound system since it arrived a few months ago. Dylan as a 65 year old singer/performer does it with the same grace as a black man like BB King and John Lee Hooker. Unlike Mick Jagger who brings the word shameless to mind when I see him jerking about like he's 18 in a video. Jagger did not age gracefully. Dylan did. Jagger invested in looks and Dylan invested in content.

He's not just a songwriter other songwriters look to as the master, he's been a rock star for 40 years, consistently good and continually getting better, always with one of the best bands going, and as a musician he has access to the best to make music with. It seems he talks the vocals more than he sings them, like Lou Reed, another poet rock star. He's not the kind of songwriter who comes along every once in awhile. Like Mozart only happened once, Shakespeare only happened once, Dylan only happens once.

In the early years, I bought every Dylan album as they came out. When he went to preaching, I backed off. Sorry Bob, can't support that. He had a strong didactic streak anyway. Songs that start, you gotta, turn my interest away. I remembered Little Richard throwing an expensive diamond ring in a river because he was going to give his life to the Lord. I drove to Winston-Salem one night in 1978 to see Little Richard preach at Winston-Salem State auditorium. About a dozen white guys my age were sprinkled throughout the audience. It was a riot to hear him go on about rock and roll being of the devil and he was working for the devil when he was making rock and roll. He'd just come out of a period of cocaine addiction and performing Little Richard the has-been Queen of rock and roll, prancing on pianos in chartreuse outfits to make Liberace commit a racial slur.

It was in this time Paul McCartney met him in Germany and Little Richard taught him how to do that Little Richard scream. Then Richard's back to preaching, then he's on tv talk shows wanting his royalty money for all his hits. And he looked so bad, so many facelifts you could play drums on his face. I wanted to say, Man, where's the integrity? I used to think he was the best there ever was. There's still nothing like Long Tall Sally, Slippin & Slidin, Rip it Up, Lucille, The Girl Can't Help It, Good Golly Miss Molly, Ready Teddy, Keep a Knockin, Miss Ann. This is raw rock and roll at the beginning.

This album of Dylan's, Together Through Life, appeals to me in a similar way as a good reggae album by Burning Spear. The lyrics have something to say worth listening to, the rhythms are easy to live with, the music more interesting the more I listen to it. The songs flow in a way that don't require you to jump up and start playing air guitar. Dylan's music has never dated. Mr Tambourine Man sung by Dylan is timeless, always current. Sung by the Byrds, it's 1965 oldies. I'm happy that Dylan's life has been parallel mine in time, a voice in the world of music that has spoken to me throughout my adult life. Without him, there would not have been one. An awful lot of people feel the same way, an entire generation.

The picture above is the back of the album cover.

1 comment:

  1. went to see Bob Dylan several years ago at a festival. Bob was the main reason we went. It started out to be a nice day but the later it got the darker the sky got. Willie Nelson played before Bob, right around the end of Willies last song it broke loose a down pour. My wife and I were in the lawn and everyone made a mad rush for shelter. being an outdoor show there wasnt much shelter to go around. we wound up sitting in the rain with blankets over our heads thru the show, refuseing to miss this American Icon. It was uncomfortable, but well worth it.