May 24, 2011

Bob Dylan turns 70.

Thanks for staying alive, Bob!

IN THE COMMENTS: Shouting Thomas said: "Well, shit, Althouse, I was expecting a more expansive Dylan Hullabaloo."

I don't find birthdays and aging that interesting. I write about Dylan all the time, and most of the people here don't even appreciate it. I'm supposed to hold a birthday party? Does Dylan care about birthdays? The word "birthday" appears but twice in all the Dylan songs.  One is in "Desolation Row":
Now Ophelia, she’s ’neath the window
For her I feel so afraid
On her twenty-second birthday
She already is an old maid
To her, death is quite romantic...
That's not about celebrating birthdays. "Birthday" is just there to say the woman is 22. She's old at 22. Being older when younger is a theme in at least 2 Dylan songs that spring instantly to my mind. If they don't spring instantly to your mind, then you probably don't care what they are anyway.

The other Dylan song with the word "birthday" tells us something about what he thinks of birthdays. It's "She Belongs to Me":
She’s got everything she needs
She’s an artist, she don’t look back...
You will start out standing
Proud to steal her anything she sees
You will start out standing
Proud to steal her anything she sees
But you will wind up peeking through her keyhole
Down upon your knees... 
Bow down to her on Sunday
Salute her when her birthday comes...
I don't think Dylan likes getting down on his knees or bowing down, and I think we can infer that he scorns birthday celebrations. That's what I think, and I've been interpreting Dylan songs for 45 years.


shoutingthomas said...

Well, shit, Althouse, I was expecting a more expansive Dylan Hullabaloo.

I live in the Dylan Capital of America, Woodstock, and I've been marinating in Dylan-O-Mania for 61 years!

So, here's my reflections on you, Dylan and me all becoming old farts.

wv: disma... yes, unfortunately, it is.

shoutingthomas said...

Let's have a Hootenanny!

Pretty soon, Althouse, there won't be anybody around who remembers what in the hell a Hootenanny was!

madAsHell said...


That was a really bad TV show when I was a kid. I think it was supposed to appeal to me, but it didn't.

I think is was a magazine as well.

Althouse posted this over an hour ago, and I'm the third comment.

Maybe Hootenanny's are best forgotten.

shoutingthomas said...

A Hootenanny is/was a folkie jam session.

See, I told you nobody would even know what it is.

sv:stivic... yes, Archie Bunker and Meathhead Stivic!

madAsHell said...

Wow! I'm having a private conversation with the Shout.

It's a gun fight, and all I have is a knife.

Titus said...

I don't know anything about Bob Dylan.

Am I missing something?

shoutingthomas said...

Am I missing something?

Way back when, Tight Ass, everybody, male and female, wanted to sleep with Dylan.

That was about 50 years ago. Hetero was still thought to be glamorous and hip.

Now, not so much.

You missed out on the star fucking. Maybe you could have turned Dylan into a fag.

Trooper York said...

Actually "Stayin' Alive" is the Bee Gees.

Much better musicians. Just sayn'

Meade said...

Better musicians - agreed. Who isn't a better musician?

Songwriter? No one better.

Mitch H. said...

Shouting, for me at least, this is the definition of a hootenanny.

The captcha is "dities"? I swear blogspot's anti-spam measures are trending dangerously far into the SkyNet band on the Turing meter.

J said...
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yashu said...

I mostly lurk rather than comment these days (and don't think I've ever commented on Dylan), but I always appreciate the Dylan posts. One of my favorite things at, & about, Althouse.

phx said...

I always appreciate the Dylan posts. One of my favorite things at, & about, Althouse.

phx said...

I'm easily sucked into all the political jostling and stuff with the other posts, but if you ask me Dylan's song are more human than all that. Speaking strictly for myself, that kind of art takes me deeper into the meaning of our existence than the contemporary, narrow, generally self-serving debate of the day.

That probably wouldn't make sense to someone who thought of Dylan as a protest singer, but I don't. In terms of quantity, the overtly political themes are marginal to his body of work.

The theme that runs consistent though his entire work however, is empathy. The art is in the gorgeous music, the lyrics which are poetry, and the way his voice meets the songs.

Matt said...

I'm guessing many folks under age 50 don't much like Dylan. Or they don't care about him. Or they are misinformed about him. For instance, he hasn't done protest songs for 40 years now.

He's one of the great musicians / songwriters of the 20th century. Depending on where you stand with him he is either at the top of the list or way out in front of it. I don't think anyone who knows and likes music can deny his talent or his contribution to music.

Beldar said...

Bob Dylan is the single most over-rated "artist" of the 20th Century.

Trooper York said...

Bob Dylan is one of those thing that make pretentious aging baby boomer cream their depends and which the rest of the world couldn't care less about. Like Woody Allen, classic rock, PBS, the Kennedys and JD Salinger.

It has no importance in the modern world.

You should concerntrate on what is important in this year of our lord 2011. Snooki, Lady Gaga, Sarah Palin and JK Rowling.

Oh and the Real Housewives of New Jersey.

Penny said...

Got into my car to run an errand, and this was on the radio...

"And now I know you’re dissatisfied
With your position and your place
Don’t you understand
It’s not my problem

I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment
I could be you

Yes, I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
You’d know what a drag it is
To see you"

And as soon as that "you" was out of Dylan's mouth...

Nada, nothing. For at least two minutes, which is an eternity in radio time.

And then a breathless DJ, saying something like..."Well that was just too strange"!

I thought, "What a drag to be YOU!"

Trooper York said...

I mean nothing says keeping the revolution alive like playing Ceasar's Palace.

Paul said...

I was in the Levon Helm All Stars band in the mid to late 80s and we would play at the Lone Star Cafe in downtown Manhattan a lot. He had special guests regularly and Bob Dylan played with us one night. Levon introduced me to him on the bus and ole Bob looked right past me like I wasn't even there.

I also met a girl when we were in Halifax who was Dylan's gal Friday for a few years until she couldn't stand it any longer. He was an insufferable curmudgeon and a world class slob apparently.

reader_iam said...

Cracked up when I came across this Peanuts strip: great commemoration of Dylan's 70th .

Meade said...

J said (and then deleted)...

"That's not to say he's a communist--but he did perform a few powerful renditions of 'Masters of War' when your heroes Bush-Cheney were dropping bombs in Iraq."

He also performed "Searching For A Soldier's Grave" his first show post 9-11.

Next time you want to make some kind of lame connection of a song first performed in 1963 to people living in the 21st century, instead of Bush or Cheney, try thinking of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as one of Dylan's reviled masters of war.

Consider this: Dylan has performed Masters Of War, on average, 18 times per year over the last 47 years. That rate continued during both President Bush's term and President Obama's term until November 23, 2010 -- the last time Dylan performed Masters of War.

What changed?

In November 2010, WikiLeaks began releasing U.S. State department diplomatic cables, including documents that cited Khalid saying that, if Osama Bin Laden were ever captured or killed by the Coalition of the Willing, an Al-Qaeda sleeper cell would detonate a "weapon of mass destruction" in a "secret location" in Europe, and promised it would be "a nuclear hellstorm."

To paraphrase the song and dance man himself:

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A [holy] war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain
[into the Indian Ocean]

Eddie said...

Count me in the silent majority(?) who enjoy your posts on Dylan. And I take issue with Meade's reduction of Dylan to a great songwriter. He is a great singer too, in my opinion. I'm not qualified to judge singing on the technicals, but his voice has moral authority. Authority as in calling you to a reckoning.

KenK said...

So is Bob a poet who sings, or singer who intones poetry? Been trying to answer that one since the seventies.

traditionalguy said...

Unlike Blogger, Dylan's songs will not pass away. Bob has created more in his three score and ten than any other artist in words since Walt Whitman. I look forward to a meeting with Bob in heaven and getting to know him better.

Meade said...

tradguy, some Bob covers for soundtrack to your journey on that gospel road.