Bob Dylan - No Direction Home, Part 2

September 28, 2005 00:30 by keithkaragan
What came to mind in watching the conclusion of the PBS American Masters biography of Dylan was the concept of Bob as the bridge between Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, and Kerouac and the cultural revolution of what was to become the 1960's. Not the hippie, Haight-Ashbury culture per-se, but the underpinnings that would become this phenomenon.
Ginsberg said that when he heard Hard Rain for the first time that he wept, knowing the torch was passed on to the next generation. That's (to me) the exact thing that occurred, Bob carried this ethos forth into the future. He was the champion of the underdog, while staying away from direct involvement in the politics, opting to say his part through his art. Evolving this art from taking the folk movement to a wider audience, to honing his own unique and compelling style that came from nowhere and echoed everywhere, to taking it to new places by going electric - like putting salt in an open wound.
Documented in the film is the 1965 Newport folk fest, where the electric set set mild mannered, folk purist, Pete Seeger into such a rage he needed to be restrained to keep from cutting the power to the stage. This is someone who saw Bob as a kindred spirit who was taking the works and style of Woody Guthrie to the people - was at that moment, by that one act, a mortal foe - a traitor to the cause. The dangers of zealots are revealed. Zealots in fans, in friends, in all areas - pushing Dylan further, by his own determination, into new ground.
The film ends in 1966, really just a few short years after the start of his career and after his famous motorcycle crash that began an exile of 8 years from public performance. Its amazing how much happened in this short period. Some favorite moments: Seeing Dylan at the March on Washington with MLK - I had no idea; Al Kooper's comments about how he conned his way into the 'Like a Rolling Stone' recording session as the organist ... and how prominent this part was in a song that is so iconic.; and another Al Kooper moment where he states why he quit the band. He didn't want to play the gig in Dallas, to paraphrase - 'They had just killed Kennedy, and if they didn't like him what hell were they going to think of us, I was really scared...'.
Like I've said before, I've always liked Dylan ... and last night I wanted to be Bob Dylan for the first time. Tonight it occurred to me that Dylan was the artistic shot heard around the world, and throughout the country, more so than the Beatles. The Beatles may have wielded more influence in later times, but I now think it was Bob that really turned the tables on everything in popular culture pre-1966. As a single entity, not a band, not a moniker, an identifiable and personal force that made the difference ... carrying that torch of the Beat movement forward and finding a much larger audience with genuine genius and authenticity.
The literal palette for songwriters, and the aural palette for singers changed in this period, and have remained changed ever since. Think of all the artists that had something to say, and have said (or sang) them since then using the platform Bob erected it. Even if they are unaware of him, they've benefited from his actions. This was dangerous, mind altering art. More dangerous than some more avant-guard art due to the audience, yet made through the same muse.
If you don't care for Dylan, ask yourself what you don't like. Is it the attitude, the politics, or the music that you don't care for? This may be a good question for a personality test ... it may reveal things about how you adapt to change, or uncomfortable circumstances, or something (I don't have any particular insight here, but I'm curious about what the reasons might tell about someone that likes or dislikes this artist, for particular reasons).
When can I get my Bob Dylan collector series US Postage stamps?
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