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View Diary: Books Go Boom!   Bob Dylan's Birthday: Are Rock Lyrics Poetry? (243 comments)

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  •  Great diary!!! Charlie Pierce just wrote about (4+ / 0-)

    how Dylan's songs just keep deepening & deepening for his as he ages.  Yup.  Though a near contemporary of The Bob,  early  on I was never much of a fan (grhaving grown  up in Newark on the local R&B & Gospel stations, with a heavy later topping of Motown, etc.).  Then for some reason I bought "Desire" when it came out, my sons ( both future musicians) played it until it basically disintegrated and  I was hooked.  

    One thing Dylan does that the greatest posts do is juxtapose but synthesize the most disparate and even conflicting thoughts & feelings into the fewest number of words (think Shakespeare), with the same thing thrown in by  the music for added effect.  My great favorite in that regard is "Highway "61" -- a total hoot both lyracally & musically but condensing into as few words as possible some of the most awful -- in several senses -- aspects of Judeo-Christian monotheism.

    God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son."
    Abe says, "Man, you must be putting' me on."
    God say, "No." Abe say, "What?"
     God say, "You can do what you want, Abe, but
    Next time you see me comin', you better run."
    Abe say, "Where you want this killin' done?"
    God say, "Out on Highway 51."

            Depending on how grandiose you want to get, an entire Bible episode, a big chunk of the OT, or a huge portion of the Judeo-Christian struggle to cope with an angry, jealous God -- all in 7 lines and totally undercut by the sardonic  rhetoric & music.  That one song made me laugh so freely at my religious anxiety that it really played a major role in my giving up the last vestiges of my cradle-Catholic theism.

    Dylan not poetry?  Please.

    P.S.  A sidelight.  A guitarist friend of one of my sons toured with Dylan on and off for several years around 2000 on.  He described the experience in very similar terms to those used by Baez in "No Direction Home" -- often you don't know what the playlist is going to be until right before the show and you almost never know what style Dylan's going to want to do the song in until right before he starts or even until after he starts -- an exhilarating but nerve-wracking & exhausting high-wire act.  The man's not just a poet but a very great musician -- or at least that's what I'm
    told by my sons & their friends.  

    "If you don't read the newspapers, you're uninformed. If you do read the newspapers, you're misinformed." -- M. Twain

    by Oliver St John Gogarty on Sat May 25, 2013 at 11:18:26 AM PDT

    •  Thanks for an interesting comment. I went and (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Monsieur Georges

      found the Charlie Pierce post you mentioned. The man claims there are five or six better Dylan songs than Like a Rolling Stone. Firstly, that's heresy; secondly, he has some very good choices. I was particularly impressed by the one I'd never heard, an alternate Blind Willie McTell.

      As for the song Highway 61, when I started this diary, I was planning to include three verses from each of two more songs off that album: Highway 61 and Desolation Row. Aside form the fact that I didn't have time to do that, if I had the diary would have been more than twice as long, and a lot less people would have read it. I'm very pleased with how it worked out - turning up so much in one song, and being rescued and all.

      The opening verse of Highway 61 is perhaps my favorite verse in rock. Perfect pithy storytelling, scary hilarious, and a bucket of cold water thrown on all that's sacred. It is three times as effective if you were brought up on the bible or the Torah.

      Someone who was Dylan's bandleader for years - the guy who translated what Dylan did so the band could try to keep up with him - said that you had to watch Dylan's hands very carefully, and just hang on, as it might well be the only take you got.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sat May 25, 2013 at 08:24:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It really is brilliant. I love that he pivots (3+ / 0-)

        the whole thing rhythmically on the "but" at the end of the middle line, which is the only one that isn't end-stopped and that there's no much meaning condensed into that single "but." And, yeah, 16 years of Catholic education with plenty of theology & comparative religion in college definitely adds something to the effect.

        "If you don't read the newspapers, you're uninformed. If you do read the newspapers, you're misinformed." -- M. Twain

        by Oliver St John Gogarty on Sat May 25, 2013 at 08:55:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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