Monday, May 24, 2021

Happy Birthday Robert Zimmerman!

“Every songwriter after him carries his baggage. This lowly Irish bard would proudly carry his baggage. Any day.” – Bono


What does it mean when “your generation’s” preeminent poet/tunesmith turns 80?

Young Bob Dylan (2)

It can only mean one thing really, the one thing that Boomers never thought would be true: we have grown old along with our remaining icons. By all rights, we should be the wise ones but as has always been the case you don’t just wake up at 70 and find yourself to be wise, it requires a life’s work as well as some innate intelligence to begin with. Bob Dylan, nee Robert Zimmerman, is such a man, famous by age 21 he used the experience of the intervening years to hone his intelligence into wisdom.


Although his early songs remain the most well known and popular the real genius of his songbook emerged slowly over the years and requires a degree of cerebral effort to fully appreciate – hence the reason the greater popularity of the earlier songs which people though they understood - quite well, thank you -  in the context of the political, social and cultural milieu of the time. In truth a true understanding of Dylan’s songs has always demanded more than a surface hearing of the words. Which is why of all the 20th century songsters out there Dylan will be remembered long after the likes of the Rolling Stones, any of the Beatles and Elton Johns who are simply tunesmiths.

Dylan is timeless, if you understand him, which many don't. For example take this lyric from 1962’s A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall: a lot of people today of all generations think its “timelessness” can be translated to refer to the earth’s impending doom due to global warming:

I'll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner's face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I'll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'
But I'll know my song well before I start singin'
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

A bit of research and they would discover that what he’s really referring to is disinformation, presumably even that about global warming:

In a 1963 radio interview Dylan said, “In the last verse, when I say, ‘the pellets of poison are flooding the waters’, that means all the lies that people get told on their radios and in their newspapers”

And while there’s nothing particularly unclear about this, from 1983’s Sweetheart Like You -

They say that patriotism is the last refuge
To which a scoundrel clings
Steal a little and they throw you in jail
Steal a lot and they make you king
There's only one step down from here, baby
It's called the land of permanent bliss
What's a sweetheart like you doing in a dump like this?

the unwise wags amongst us will think he speaks of the likes of Donald Trump, not Joe Biden and Company. It is the burden of the unwise to politicize everything.


921d1fd8eb86d19ffa122c61b3eed56dRebel with a cause, but he suggests you find your own

One could write volumes about Dylan, but I’ll just wrap it by saying happy birthday Robert Zimmerman – you did your generation proud. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Please post your favorite Dylan tune from his 60 years of recordings.

life 50Make that 60…and counting