This morning (whilst looking for something else of course) I stumbled upon this post entitled “Even Dylan Hates Hippies” from the ‘Blog the zoo last year. I thought I should share an extract with you (and not even the bit containing the phrase “Rasta wannabe”):
Earlier this week Bob Dylan released his memoirs, and in them he recounts quite a bit of frustration with hippiedom. Here are a few money quotes from an article in Japan Today:
“The world was absurd … I had very little in common with and knew even less about a generation that I was supposed to be the voice of,” Dylan says.
“I was fantasizing about a nine-to-five existence, a house on a tree-lined block with a white picket fence, pink roses in the backyard. Roadmaps to our homestead must have been posted in all 50 states for gangs of dropouts and druggies.”
“I wanted to set fire to these people,” Dylan recollects, saying the hordes of fans who turned up at his family home in Woodstock and walked over his roof or tried to break in drove him and his family to seek refuge in New York.
Even though I wasn’t even born until the very end of the man’s heyday, I’ve always liked Dylan; three of his albums are in my truck’s CD case right now. His music is excellent, and to me he always seemed to be saying more and better things than most of his contemporaries. While most of the politically active bands of the era were mindlessly screaming “Fuck the Establishment!”, Dylan’s message was more along the lines of “What is the establishment? How does it affect you? Are you okay with it?”. To some people—the type who show up for a weekend concert without food or beer—the difference might be overly subtle. To me it is hugely and apparently obvious: The former incites revolution only for the sake of revolution, while the latter promotes the legitimate questioning of authority and tolerance for dissent.
There is always a danger in ascribing meaning to an artist’s work, because what we see there might not be what the artist intended us to see. We filter music—as well as all other art forms—through the lenses of sense, opinion, and intellect. That’s how Dylan singing “Tangled Up in Blue” got translated into “come sit on my roof and break into my house”; some folks really think they get it, but they couldn’t, in truth, be further off the mark. I will go out on a limb to say this, however: Bob Dylan’s music is purely American in that it calls for an examination of oneself and the relationship between a free individual and the state. Far from being about revolution, I think his political message – when he had one—was about the responsibility all members of our democracy share to create and participate in a just and accountable government
Yeah, well, who doesn’t hate hippies?
All fascinating, but he still sings like an unhealthy donkey.
I came to your blog through the link on the observer blog.
It was always a great irony about Bob Dylan, that when he sang, “Something is happening and you don’t know what it is…” many of his fans thought they knew “what was happening” – but didn’t.
His best songs were always those intensely personal tirades and put-downs, nothing to do with being anybody’s spokesman – something he carefully gave up after his 3rd record. He once said of his Born Again period, “Jesus himself only preached for 3 years,” and Bob does tend to give it around 3 albums before moving on to something else.
No greater compliment can be paid him than that he released country records in the late 60s in order to alienate the woodstock generation – and prompted Greil Marcus to write, “What is this shit?” – a classic case of a Mr Jones not knowing what it was that was happening.