Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Bob Dylan

I have been reading Bob Dylan's 'Chronicles'.

This is not a celebrity autobiography ghosted by a professional writer. Dylan can write. The style is engaging.

Bob Dylan was an early favorite of mine. I never thought much of his voice or harmonica playing, but his words were new and courageous and his tunes catchy. In the book he tells us that he never wanted to be a leader of the protest movement of the 1960s. He was a perfomer and a song writer - who cared what he thought about politics. Too bad that modern celebrities don't follow his example. Actors who have appeared in a TV series or singers who have made a hit record are supposed to have been endowed with superior wisdom on the merits of teh death penalty or the Iraq invasion. Says who?

I suppose he could be accused of name dropping, but after all he is more famous than most of the names he drops. His narrative is full of facts and sometimes the minute detail is tedious, but in a funny sort of way he paints a picture of what it was like to be a young singer in New York. Folk singing was an arcane art that shied away from commercial records. Dylan admires all types of music from Sinatra to Neil Diamond to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly and even Beethoven. There is no clear timeline in this book. We skip from the young man who hitched across from the mid-west to New York admiring the humdrum with wide open eyes, to the married man with five children trying to find something new in a recording studio in New Orleans. Its line is thematic not chronologic.

I guess he's a grandfather now. The fresh-faced youngster of the record sleeve is long gone. The tone of the book is experience, but now and then the innocent ingenue appears

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bob Dylan is the soundtrack of my life. There is a song for every event, some grand most less so.

I started to play guitar so I could emulate Dylan and the topics he discussed. He helped me find my voice and choose the path of protest in 1963.

'A Hard Rain is Going to Fall' echoed my concern about nuclear war. I shared the secret of Blind Boy Grunt on the Broadside bootlegs and longed for that "Girl from the North Country"

I look back now and wonder, would the real Bob Dylan please stand-up. Who was this man from the midwest that seemed at one moment a reflection of Woody Guthrie and at the next a cutting social commentator with "The Times They are a Changing."

He was mine and he was yours, not the same Bob Dylan for we each have our own.

He was truly the voice of a generation...

Chris Dwyer, Canada
"The answer is blowin' in the wind"