Saturday, August 05, 2006

Dylan: What it means to be human

BB NOTE: This article, by a writer in the UK, explains what it is about Dylan that people will "Spend a day's wage to see him perform." While my ticket to see him on August 16 in Frederick, MD didn't cost a day's wage (and not even a day off - since it's on Saturday night) - the thought has crossed my mind to fly somewhere (like when he performs in Minnesota) to see him. It just crosses my mind - at least for now it does. Here's the article:

Why the Dylan faithful spend a day's wage to see him perform

Aug 3 2006

David Williamson, Western Mail

THE imminent release of the first Bob Dylan album in half a decade is a cause of excitement which will baffle good people who prize moderation in all things.

The singer's performances are variable in quality, his interviews are as revealing as Victorian swimwear, and many of his utterings inexplicable. But Modern Times is awaited with richer anticipation than the birth of many children.

Quite simply, the joy of Dylan is that he is alive (ie, not dead) and has not succumbed to predictability or retirement.

So many of the great writers, musicians and filmmakers who bring us pleasure are men and women we discover after they have died.

There are schoolchildren who wish they had been born a decade earlier so they would have had the chance to see Kurt Cobain at a Nirvana concert.

How many English teachers wish they could go to the Globe and watch Shakespeare shouting directions at his actors as they staged the definitive Hamlet?

Similarly, is there a clergyman alive who would not want to ask St Paul quite what he meant in some of his more puzzling verses? And does Tony Blair not sit alone on many an evening asking, "What would Attlee (or Churchill) do in a situation like this?"

So this is why the Dylan faithful pay a day's wage to watch the venerable singer from Minnesota step onto the stage and start playing music. We have no assurance we will hear the perfect replication of the song we sing in the shower, but we know that someone capable of genius is about to perform and the least we can do is turn up.

When manufactured pop bands perform in arenas, there is little chance they will hit a wrong note, spontaneously decide to play a song the backing band have never heard, or decide to rewrite the words to a classic on the spot.

But going to watch Dylan, or buying an album by him, is much more like turning out on a drizzly week-night to watch a local rugby team perform. Even if the result is a thuddingly conclusive failure, there is still the exercise of passion, the attempt at greatness and the lurch for victory.

Dylan's excellent memoir, Chronicles, makes it quite clear he set out to write songs which would cut beneath the surface of life to the deeper truths which would otherwise be secrets. To possess ambition as lofty as this is notable; to have hit the mark so many times is remarkable.

He has never committed emotional hara-kiri on Oprah, flaunted celebrity girlfriends, successfully jumped on bandwagons (his performance at Live Aid is legendary as a catastrophe), or launched fragrances. What he has done is write songs which reveal the heartbreak of the soul and the revelation of the imagination.

When the Martians next visit, lend a copy of Blood On The Tracks.

This, you can say with utter confidence, is what it means to be human.

1 comment:

David Williamson said...

Thanks for blogging this! Glad you enjoyed the article.