To The Poet Bob Dylan

"All I can be is me- whoever that is. " — Bob Dylan

“To the poet Bob Dylan…” – Written on the first page of Allen Ginsberg’s Collected Poems 1947-1997

Just a few days ago, on May 24, Robert Allen Zimmerman celebrated his 70th birthday. But he’s not your run-of-the-mill grandpa—not to the rest of the world at least. He’s Bob Dylan.

"It frightens me, the awful truth, of how sweet life can be..." — Bob Dylan

Most people consider this poet, musician, songwriter, and artist as a genius—a term he publicly loathes. He’s an enigma. Dylan has been known to publicly shun the spotlight, avoid interviews, and often exhibiting a blatant distrust towards journalists.

"I'd come from a long ways off and had started a long ways down. But now destiny was about to manifest itself. I felt like it was looking at me and nobody else." - Bob Dylan

“There was nothing easygoing about the folk songs that I sang. They weren’t friendly or ripe wit mellowness. They didn’t come gently to the shore. I guess you say they weren’t commercial. Not only that, my style was too erratic and hard to pigeonhole for the radio, and songs, to me, were more important than just light entertainment. They were my preceptor and guide into some altered conscious reality…I just thought of mainstream culture as lame as hell and a big trick. It as like an unbroken sea of frost hat lay outside the window and you know you had to have awkward footgear to walk on it. I didn’t know what age of history we were in nor what the truth of it was.”

– Bob Dylan, Chronicles Volume One

For a man who has been credited as a major player of the counterculture movement—civil rights, folk-rock, and protest movements—of the 1960s, he refuses to stand as a figurehead or spokesperson for a group or movement, often (famously) lashing out reporters who would interpret his songs and ask him about his stand on specific issues.

(Check out The Ten Most Incomprehensible Interviews With Bob Dylan from NYMAG.com)

If a chance to stand face to face with Bob Dylan came my way, it would take all my energy to stay still.  I would gush like a schoolgirl gone mad. And yes, I would wear my Bob Dylan T-Shirt. (As an anti-anti-anti-consumer culturist, he would most likely sneer at the commercial use of his image.)  I would fawn. I would shriek. I would stutter. I would stumble over my words.

"There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke. But you and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate, so let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late. " — Bob Dylan

I only began to explore his music in 2006. I was home from school, sick, stretching out on the couch and watching television, when the film “The Ballad Of Jack And Rose” came on. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Camilla Belle, the movie is about the relationship between a father and his teenage daughter who were living off the land—the remnants of a hippie commune whose members (except for Jack and his daughter) all moved on—which was going to be converted into a modern housing development.

The film, one of my favorites, portrays a father and a daughter struggling to preserve the past—coping with their changing relationship, letting go of the ‘60s, and keeping the modern world at bay. And in one scene, the song “Shooting Star” began to play. The scene was simple; and on its own, unremarkable: Rose was biking towards one of model homes in a newly built subdivision. However, those few minutes of melody cast the mood, the tone and the spirit of the scene, if not the entire film. I Googled the lyrics right away, and found out that the song was by Bob Dylan.

I became obsessed.

I can still recall the way certain songs would “feel” as I meandered through the twists and turns, the empty alleyways and open roads that made up my life—the icy wind on my cheek, long drives and train rides, watching the sun go down in Mauer Park—as he’d sing stories in my ear of lovers found and lost, vagabond dreams, and fading memories. He was forever doomed to remain a transient being, and so was I. I had found a kinship, a soulmate with someone whom I had never met and, most likely, will have no chance of ever meeting. But it didn’t matter, because now I knew that I was not alone.

While notorious for his dislike for ‘playing the media game’,  his music is his persona: inscrutable, mutable, varied, multifaceted.

He refused (and still does) to be pinned down because he already understood something about life that most of us try to deny and push away: that we can never be one thing. We, and the lives and identities and beliefs that we build for ourselves, are as certain and fixed as sand on a stormy beach.

Mr. Tambourine Man

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me

I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me

In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Though I know that evenin’s empire has returned into sand

Vanished from my hand

Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping

My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet

I have no one to meet

And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me

I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me

In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship

My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip

My toes too numb to step

Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’

I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade

Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way

I promise to go under it

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me

I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me

In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Though you might hear laughin’, spinnin’, swingin’ madly across the sun

It’s not aimed at anyone, it’s just escapin’ on the run

And but for the sky there are no fences facin’

And if you hear vague traces of skippin’ reels of rhyme

To your tambourine in time, it’s just a ragged clown behind

I wouldn’t pay it any mind

It’s just a shadow you’re seein’ that he’s chasing

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me

I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me

In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind

Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves

The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach

Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free

Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands

With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves

Let me forget about today until tomorrow

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me

I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me

In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s