October 26, 2010

What Bob Dylan said about Barack Obama.

No, not at the concert last night. Back in April 2009:
He’ll be the best president he can be. Most of those guys come into office with the best of intentions and leave as beaten men. Johnson would be a good example of that … Nixon, Clinton in a way, Truman, all the rest of them going back. You know, it’s like they all fly too close to the sun and get burned.
I was just thinking about that this morning, as I looked back at what Dylan did and didn't do at the concert. He didn't play "All Along the Watchtower," which, Meade tells me, has long been the last encore song.

Was that because he played 2 shows and he played that song in the early show? It's not as though there were no songs played in both shows. Was he punishing us for not being enthusiastic enough in the demand for encores? Stodgy old Madisonians thinking too much about the crowded parking garage and filing out too soon....

He also didn't talk about politics. Didn't tell us it's important to vote. Didn't play any political songs either. I don't think he cares too much about politics. He's all about love songs. Right?


shoutingthomas said...

Jesus, Ann, the Dylan worship is a bore.

I mean, he's written some nice songs.

Do you think you might develop an interest in... you know... music?

I know it's a little late in life for this, but you might try.

My Jewish dentist named his son Dylan. It's that trite, Ann. The Dylan worship is an atrocity.

Pogo said...

He's a lover, not a fighter.

Fred4Pres said...

He's getting old. Maybe he forgot.

Okay, that is more Keith Richards than Bob Dylan.

shoutingthomas said...

Compare and contrast with your posting on the Obama rap thing.

Dylan is now completely safe... a museum piece.

The Obama rap thing is offensive and gritty.

Shit, I'm an old fart, too, Ann.

But, I try not to marinate in it.

Scott M said...

Jesus, Ann, the Dylan worship is a bore.

If I maintained a popular blog, I think it would be hard to prevent little Rush and Tool leaks. Granted, Rush avoids the media and public in general so there wouldn't be much to write about and, frankly, Maynard James can be an extraordinary, well, tool, but I would probably be hard-pressed not to mention either at all.

AllenS said...

I went to a Dylan concert in Bushkill, PA in 2003 and he didn't talk politics then either. In fact, he didn't even speak, except for his attempt at singing.

ricpic said...

LBJ flew too close to the sun? That earthbound clod never even looked up at the sky.

ndspinelli said...

He's an old man..he probably just had to take a piss. Over analyze much?? It's a good thing women didn't run the NASA Control Center in Houston during Apollo 13. They would have analyzed, sought concensus, etc. and those poor astronauts would have burned up while they did!

Ann Althouse said...

"he didn't even speak"

Last night, he introduced the band. That was the one time he spoke.

AlphaLiberal said...

Were you at the 10 O'clock show, Ann? Thought I might have seen you.

It was fun though I'm still not sure what all the songs were!

k*thy said...

So, it was a concert not a political rally? Who'da thunk?

Stodgy old Madisonians thinking too much about the crowded parking garage and filing out too soon....

Same thing happens after hockey games, BTW. I don't think it's about being old, I think it's just a "parking ramp" mentality

AlphaLiberal said...

I think one of his songs had a lot of politics in it. but it's a Dylan show, so it's pretty hard to say.

ricpic said...

What a horrible non-poem those lyrics make. I guess once you become an icon you can get away with anything.

traditionalguy said...

Dylan songs are never out of date. Listening to them again is like listening again to Mozart's Jupiter or Bach's 5th. The mind likes what it likes.

AlphaLiberal said...

I do think Dylan's music and words will be timeless gems.

ricpic said...

"The mind likes what it likes."

Shades of Woody Allen and Roman Polanski.

Don't mind me, tradguy. I'm in a particularly pissed off mood today.

EDH said...

Apolitical? Here's, a video of Dylan secretly rocking out with the military-industrial complex...

See, they get all the hot chicks!

Political World.

We live in a political world
Love don't have any place
We're living in times
Where men commit crimes
And crime don't have any face.

We live in a political world
Icicles hanging down
Wedding bells ring
And angels sing
Clouds cover up the ground.

We live in a political world
Wisdom is thrown in jail
It rots in a cell
Is misguided as hell
Leaving no one to pick up a trail.

We live in a political world
Where mercy walks the plank
Life is in mirrors
Death disappears
Up the steps into the nearest bank.

We live in a political world
Where courage is a thing of the past
Houses are haunted
Children unwanted
The next day could be your last.

We live in a political world
The one we can see and feel
But there's no one to check
It's all a stacked deck
We all know for sure that it's real.

We live in a political world
In the cities of lonesome fear
Little by little
You turn in the middle
But you're never sure why you're here.
We live in a political world
Under the microscope
You can travel anywhere
And hang yourself there
You always got more than enough rope.

We live in a political world
Turning and trashing about
As soon as you're awake
You're trained to take
What looks like the easy way out.

We live in a political world
Where peace is not welcome at all
It's turned away from the door
To wonder some more
Or put up against the wall.

We live in a political world
Everything is hers and his
Climb into the frame
And shout God's name
But you're never sure what it is.

SteveR said...

When I saw him last summer he only spoke when introducing the band, same as what Ann experienced. I couldn't identify many of the songs between the unclear singing (being kind) and different arrangements. The band was very good so it was not a bad concert in many respects.

Bob_R said...

Has anyone here seen Dylan do Watchtower recently in concert? I have not. Heard that the incarnation of five years ago owed a lot to the Hendrix cover on Electric Ladyland. Dave Mason's acoustic guitar part is what makes that version for me. Playing tag with the downbeat and never quite touching it. It's really hard to get away with that live and keep the song driving.

Mick said...

Dylan is too smart to associate w/ political parties, that's why he sent the Communist Folkies into a screaming rage when he went Electric. Like most Americans, he is probably more Center Right.

edutcher said...

I imagine talking politics onstage hasn't had the same zing since the Dixie Chicks. I know he's got his audience, but they can always walk away if he has a Bill Maher moment.

AlphaLiberal said...

Yeah, Communist Folkies. Hope you're joking!

Here is the set list:


traditionalguy said...

There is a rumor going around that Bob Dylan is a believer in the living Jesus Christ. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

William said...

Internal evidence indicates that Gershwin was a reliable New Deal Democrat. Nonetheless, I don't think anyone in that era ever looked to him for political guidance. How did it come to pass that muscians and other entertainers, whose private lives are more exemplary of hubris than wisdom, were deemed knowledgeable about anything other than open G chords.....Hayden had to wear the livery of the Emperor, and he resented it. Nowadays, entertainers wear the garb of the Sun King, and I resent it.

Kirby Olson said...

He's a Christian conservative, but when he came out he was hounded by his secularist base. So he went back into the closet.

Class factotum said...

Last night, he introduced the band. That was the one time he spoke.

As it should be. When I go to a concert, I don't want to know what the artist thinks. All I want is to hear the music. I'm not paying for his opinions.

ndspinelli said...

For those who live in Madison, you know Fraboni's. I did some work for the now deceased, Angelo Fraboni who was a good guy. Angelo is from Hibbing, Mn. He had nice things to say about the Zimmerman family. Bobby Zimmerman's dad owned the local appliance store. Angelo's dad owned the local butcher shop. As you might expect, Bobby was a little different.

mtrobertsattorney said...

"Communist folkies" is exactly right.

It was that old, self-avowed communist, Pete Seeger himself, who tried to cut off the power to Dylan's electric guitar while he was on stage at the Newport Folk Festival. He was wielding a fire axe before he was restrained.

(Seeger, though he never did a lick of manual labor himself, always wore a blue work shirt to show his solidarity with the working class.)

Marshal said...

Dylan was a commentator, not a true believer. His songs caputured what he saw and understood others to be feeling. He wasn't expressing his own opinions in his political songs.

Mick said...

AlphaLiberal said...
"Yeah, Communist Folkies. Hope you're joking!

Here is the set list:


Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and many other "folkies" were avowed Communists, look it up.

John Stodder said...

I've long thought Dylan's reputation as a beacon of the left was a matter of projection. He writes about injustice, not voting preferences. Sometimes pointing out these injustices nourishes the left. But it's not as if the left is the only group that notices injustice, though I know they think otherwise.

Bryan said...

@ William

Joseph Haydn didn't work for the Emperor, he was employed by the Esterhazy family. I don't think he had to wear livery either and if he did, I don't think he resented it. You may have been thinking of Mozart?

Re Dylan: why is it whenever someone mentions Dylan or the Beatles there is always a lot of snarking? Often the request is made, "why don't you boomers shut up about your crappy music--it's over already." I don't think this is a boomer thing at all, I think it is a quality thing. It is very common to have surges of creative invention at certain times and not at others. Think of the burst of activity in the theatre around Shakespeare's time. It wasn't just him it was also Marlowe, Fletcher and a host of others. Despite our dogged refusal to admit of absolute (or even relative) differences of quality in the arts, it is simply the case that this brief period produced the finest dramas in the English language. Similarly, Greek theater of the 5th and 4th centuries BC featured Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. It's not just theater, of course, it is a common phenomenon in many fields. A brief burst of creative activity is followed by a long, dreary period of, uh, dreariness. There are bursts of creativity in music as well: the Elizabethan period was one such giving us the incomparable lute songs of John Dowland as well as the music of William Byrd and many others. Creativity tends to inspire the like in others. And vice versa. Now the truth is, whether some like to admit it or not, that there was a burst of creativity in pop music in the 60s that has not been equaled since. The Beatles managed to achieve an astonishing range of textures and colors with very primitive equipment. Any artist of today has a thousand times the technical possibilities open to George Martin. And what do they do with them? Mostly dreary crud. Bob Dylan was a huge part of the 60s efflorescence (Lennon learned how to write better lyrics from him) but in a quite different way. A while back there was a post about how Dylan was very phlegmatic during his appearance at the White House, barely shaking the President's hand before leaving. Well, Dylan happens to be a much more important figure than the president. His influence will last a lot longer and he's got a lot more to say.

We remember the words of Cicero and Seneca more easily than we remember the names of minor Roman emperors...

Scott M said...

Think of the burst of activity in the theatre around Shakespeare's time. It wasn't just him it was also Marlowe, Fletcher and a host of others.


Think of the burst of activity in grunge around Nirvana's time. It wasn't just them it was also Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, and a host of others.

Bryan said...

Well, of course the problem is sorting out the wheat from the chaff...

Go back and listen to some Dave Clark Five or Herman's Hermits.

Plumb Family In Turkey said...

In Dylan's current incarnation which is going on 20 plus years he rarely speaks other than to introduce the band. There was a period when he'd tell a corny jokes, the kind you might've heard on the Grand Ole Opry. Back in his solo folkie days he was much more talkative although even then it wasn't political.