Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"Why Bob Dylan?"

People from time to time ask me (including Bishop Lee, who asked me this question over dinner one time), "Why Bob Dylan?" What they are asking is why am I such a fan of Dylan (unless they are all ready a fan themselves, and then it's basically sharing "that moment" when it all became clear. Sometimes - when I've been asked the question - I say that I have been a fan all my life, but only discovered the truth two years ago.

But here's the story: I had bought a CD called "Songs Inspired by the Passion of the Christ" which came out after the film. The songs on the CD were selected by an odd combo: Mel Gibson and Bono, so I thought it would be intriguing - and it was. It's a fascinating mixture of songs, styles, and musicians - there's even an excerpt of a young Billy Graham preaching. While listening through the CD many times, I came across "Not Dark Yet," by Bob Dylan - a newer song, with his older voice, and just couldn't stop playing it. The song went deeper than expected, one that I couldn't exactly get my mind around - but it caught not only the season but in the truth of lyrics, something that even now is difficult to explain. It's not dark yet, but it's getting there. It was true. It is Dylan's Requiem.

From that song, I decided that I wanted to learn more about the music of the man that made it. And the more I learned, the more I wanted to learn more. It turned out that so many songs and musicians that have influenced me in my own music were first influenced by Bob Dylan. And so that's why I say, I've been a fan all my life.

So here's Bob Dylan singing "Not Dark Yet" from 2004 (see below). I'll include the lyrics as well. One thing to know about Dylan, once you learn the songs, really know them - then the brilliance of his phrasing becomes more apparent. When I was studying Shakespeare in London, we learned how actors could change the meaning of their lines - often so well known - in Shakespeare's plays by how they phrased them, where they took the breath, how they made their voice sound, whether they were being serious, or comical, or ironic, or sincere, or snide, or silly, or uncertain, or cautious, or earnest, or hopeful - they could change the meaning of the lines by how they said them and in doing so, move the play in a different direction.

Bob Dylan does that with his songs, which is why collectors collect so many of them. In fact, I saw this when I heard him sing "Times They Are a Changing" last summer. Instead of it being an anthem for a generation, it came out wistful, almost melancholy, a touch of regret. Instead of aiming at the youth, it was aimed at his own generation and so the song was ironic and weary - and brilliant.

Not Dark Yet, by Bob Dylan.

Shadows are falling and I've been here all day
It's too hot to sleep time is running away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I've still got the scars that the sun didn't heal
There's not even room enough to be anywhere
It's not dark yet, but it's getting there

Well my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there's been some kind of pain
She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writing what was in her mind
I just don't see why I should even care
It's not dark yet, but it's getting there

Well, I've been to London and I've been to gay Paree
I've followed the river and I got to the sea
I've been down on the bottom of a world full of lies
I ain't looking for nothing in anyone's eyes
Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear
It's not dark yet, but it's getting there

I was born here and I'll die here against my will
I know it looks like I'm moving, but I'm standing still
Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb
I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don't even hear a murmur of a prayer
It's not dark yet, but it's getting there.

Dylan 1997

NOTE: For those who may want to know - including those in Richmond - there is much grieving this week, even as we look forward to the hope of a new day coming soon, Advent. In the midst of hope - and it's a real hope - there are tears. Just so you know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

BabyBlue - This song also makes an appearance in the movie WonderBoys and on the soundtrack.

A fellow Truro member and lover of deep music.