Bob Dylan Through The Ages
Bob Dylan Through The Ages
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Date Created: 02/17/14
er 39 spin up poli cs The Politics of Bob Dylan The protest songs for which Bob Dylan is most famous were Written in a 20month burst in the early 1960s Within a year Dylan had turned his back on them not in renunciation of politics argues Mike Marqusee but to pursue a deeper kind of radicalism n fllll HM 6 Forty years ago on 26 October 1963 Bob Dylan premiered 39The Times They are AChanginquot his generational anthem to a soldout house at New York39s Carnegie Hall The song is founded on a conviction that the movement for social change is unstoppable that history will conform to morality In its second verse Dylan issues a brash enduring challenge to the punditocracy quotCome writers and critics Who prophesize with your pen And keep your eyes wide The chance won39t come again And don39t speak too soon For the wheel39s still in spinquot It was the unexpected achievements of the civil rights movement a grassroots upsurge which transformed the American political landscape that made this challenge and the song as a whole possible and even plausible But it was Dylan39s genius to articulate the universal spirit animating the specific historical moment The protest songs that made Dylan famous and with which he continues to be associated were written in a brief period of some 20 months from January 1962 to November 1963 In uenced by American radical traditions the Wobblies the Popular Front of the thirties and forties the Beat anarchists of the fties and above all by the political ferment touched off among young people by the civil rights and ban the bomb movements he engaged in his songs with the terror of the nuclear arms race with poverty racism and prison jingoism and war He also penned love songs that mingled delicate regret with brutal candour we never did much talkin39 anywayquot This creative firestorm gave us Let Me Die in My Footsteps 39Blowin39 in the Wind A Hard Rain s AGonna Fall Only a Pawn in Their Game class rule as the root of racism With God on Our Side rejecting American fundamentalism Masters of War taking on the military industrial complex the gleefully vindictive When the Ship Comes In and the magnificent Hattie Carroll a cleareyed account of a single injustice that becomes an indictment of a system and its liberal defenders Thanks to his sharp edged radicalism and unique poetic gifts as well as no little musical craft Dylan renewed the protest genre and helped it reach a new mass audience When The Times They Are AChangin album came out in January 1964 the 22 year old from Minnesota found himself crowned as the laureate of a social movement hailed as quotthe voice of a generation In the meantime however Dylan had decided that this was not what he wanted to be The new Woody Guthrie was mutating into something else something that made some of his early acolytes uncomfortable For Dylan is not only the most renowned protest singer of his era but also its most renowned renegade In mid1964 he explained to critic Nat Hentoff Me I don39t want to write for people anymore you know be a spokesman From now on I want to write from inside me I m not part of no movement I just can t make it with any organisation He was in the midst of recording a song called My Back Pages a dense imagecrammed critique of the movement he had celebrated in The Times They are AChangin Here he sneers at quotcorpse evangelistsquot who use ideas as mapsquot who spout quotlies that life is black and whitequot and who fail to understand that I become my enemy in the instant that I preachquot Alarmed by the discovery of authoritarianism at the heart of the movement for liberation and within himself he rebels against the left39s selfrighteousness He pours bile on the quotselfordained professor Too serious to foolquot He scorns what he sees as the dead culture of political activism quotmemorising politics Of ancient historyquot Equality I spoke the word as if a wedding vow But I was so much older then I39m younger than that now This refrain a recantation in every sense of the word must be one of the most lyrical expressions of political apostasy ever penned Ex radicals usually ascribe their evolution to the inevitable giving way of rebellious youth to responsible maturity Dylan reversed the polarity For him the retreat from politics was a retreat from stale categories and secondhand attitudes The refrain encapsulates the movement from the pretence of knowing it all to the confession of knowing nothing But in its assertion of youth39s autonomy My Back Pages doesn39t so much repudiate 39The Times They Are AChanginquot as deepen and extend it He was urging the young people of the sixties to reject categories inherited from the past and define their own terms For Dylan youth itself that vast new social demographic had become the touchstone of authenticity A tremendously empowering notion for the generation whom it rst infected but also as it turned out a culdesac and less of a revolutionary posture than it seemed at the time Dylan39s break with politics and the movement that had been his first inspiration unleashed his poetic and musical genius it freed him to explore an inner landscape His lyrics became more obscure coherent narrative was jettisoned in favour of carnivalesque surrealism the austerity of the acoustic folk troubadour was replaced by the hedonistic extravagance of an electrified rock n roll ensemble The songs depicted a private universe but one forged in response to tumultuous public events It39s remarkable that so many of Dylan39s left critics failed to see the politics that infuse his masterworks of the midsixties 39Maggie39s Farm booed by purists at the Newport folk festival fuses class and generational rage in an uncompromising renunciation of wage labour Here the power of the employers is propped up by ideology quotShe talks to all the servants about man and God and lawquot and the state quotthe National Guard stands around her doorquot The social order is experienced as intrusive deceitful inimical to the individual39s need for selfdefinition quotI try my best to be just like I am but everybody wants you to be just like themquot These themes were also explored in 39It39s Alright Ma I39m Only Bleeding Dylan39s epic indictment of a society built on hypocrisy and greed quotmoney doesn39t talk it swearsquot Here consciousness is the battleground it39s where the individual struggles to extract some autonomy from the allpervading corruption of a society ruled by commodities If my thoughtdreams could be seen They39d probably put my head in a guillotine Although Dylan never dealt explicitly with Vietnam its escalating madness can be felt in two of the major compositions he recorded in mid1965 Highway 61 Revisited and 39Tombstone Blues In the latter Dylan portrays quotthe CommanderinChiefquot it was Lyndon Johnson but might as well be George Bush proclaiming quotDeath to all those who would whimper and cryquot And dropping a barbell he points to the sky Saying quotThe sun39s not yellow it39s chickenquot In these and other songs of the period Dylan recoils with horror and wit from a public world poisoned by militarist patriotism and commercial hucksterism Far from having jettisoned politics Dylan was redefining its scope In compositions like Visions of Johanna or 39Desolation Row great social themes jostle with intimate grievances When a disappointed punter at the Albert Hall called out for quotprotest songsquot a frustrated Dylan replied quotOh come on these are all protest songsquot quotTo live outside the law you must be honestquot Dylan wrote in 1966 This prophetic warning to a generation a movement himself leaps out of Absolutely Sweet Marie a silly swaggering song of sexual frustration The next line is less well known but telling quotAnd I know you always say that you agreequot For today39s antiwar and global justice movements Dylan39s songs of the sixties offer both a bracing protest against enduring enemies and a salutary critique of some of our own worst habits About the writer V Mike Marqusee writes a regular column for Red Pepper 39Contending for the Living and is the author of a number of books on the politics of culture on topics ranging from cricket to Bob Dylan Times They Are Changing Lyrics Come gather round people Wherever you roam And admit that the waters Around you have grown And accept it that soon You39ll be drenched to the bone If your time to you Is worth savin39 Then you better start swimmin39 Or you39ll sink like a stone For the times they are a changin39 Come writers and critics Who prophesize with your pen And keep your eyes wide The chance won39t come again And don39t speak too soon For the wheel39s still in spin And there39s no tellin39 who That it39s namin39 For the loser now Will be later to win For the times they are a changin39 Come senators congressman Please heed the call Don39t stand in the doonNay Don39t block up the hall For he who gets hurt Will be he who has stalled There39s a battle outside And it is ragin39 It39ll soon shake your windows And rattle your walls For the times they are a changin39 Come mothers and fathers Throughout the land And don39t criticize What you can39t understand Your sons and your daughters Are beyond your command You old road is Rapidly agin39 Please get out of the new one If you can39t lend your hand For the times they are a changin39 The line it is drawn The curse it is cast The slow one now Will later be fast As the present now Will later be past The order is Rapidly fadin39 And the first one now Will later be last For the times they are a ohangin39 Bibliography Bob Dylan Times they are changing Youtube The White House httpwwwyoutubecomwatchvk2 sYIIjS cQ Bob Dylan Pro Quiz Quizlet Created by Gchampman772 6 httpquizletcom909322 5bobdylan pro ash cards Lyrics Times They Are Changing PDF httpsongmeaningscomsongsview1 1 12 Early Day interview http wwwyoutubecomwatchvUpuQC KIfOM Late in Life interview http wwwyoutubecomwatchvgKkZcgrec8A Bob Dylan SlideShare A History of His Music in Relation to It39s Role in Society httpwwwslidesharenetesullivan12bob dylan powerpoint 12 324989 Bob Dylan Striking Back Critics PDF http wwwrollingstonecom music news bobdylan unleashed a wild ride on his new lp andstriking back at critics 20120927
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