I came to a high place of darkness and light. The dividing line ran through the center of town.
In the fall of 2000 as the Al Aqsa Intifada was breaking out I was in New York City. The photos of the Palestinian father shielding his son from bullets were all over the news. We were going to a conference and staying in a little apartment of friends. I was in the the end game of one of the more dysfunctional relationships I have been in and my head was swimming. A show on WBAI played “A Hard Rains Gonna Fall” form the live “Hard Rain” album of the mid-70’s. I described the setting; I can’t describe the emotions that song unleashed in me.
I don’t think of Dylan as political. Sometimes he makes me mad, sometimes his music disappoints, sometimes the blooze rock he can do now grates on my ears. I hate his winking commercials. But mainly I stand slack-jawed at his achievement. He has musical metaphors for emotions we don’t have words for. Not much music changes me. His has. I can’t wait to hear the music he has made in the last decade when I reach the age in which he recorded it.
His music gets way under my skin and, as good old Marat said (or was it Weiss giving voice to Marat?) “there comes a time when you have to pull yourself up by your own hair, turn your skin inside out and look at the world in a whole new way.” Dylan has helped me in that task; as he has countless others.
I haven’t even begun to explore what is an already serious Dylan appreciation. Of course he could produce something so bad next week that I would view it as only slightly more consequential than Scarlett Johanson’s new album. I doubt it, but with Dylan you never know. Happy Birthday Bob.