I have to confess and I realize that this makes me lose some of my “cool points”, but I don’t listen to much Bob Dylan. In fact until recently I couldn’t name one of his songs.
But he seemed like a fascinating character that peaked my curiosity so I found a memoir on sale at the local bookstore and bough it for a friend who really likes Dylan and decided to read it first. (I know I am a good friend, right?)
First of all I really like the writing style, it felt current, like it was written yesterday because it was dealing with principles that are timeless. Dylan seemed to struggle with what we are all struggling with which I believe is how to create. We all have our own personal Mount Everest that we were put here on this earth to climb, but sadly many of us feel like we just aren’t cut out to be mountain-climbers.
REBEL WITH A CAUSE
Bob Dylan seemed to be the opposite of a Rebel-without-a-cause. He knew exactly the kind of music he wanted to create even though it wasn’t mainstream and wouldn’t make him famous. The irony is that his passion and integrity made him more marketable than the best formulas for popular music. We can relate to passion. We can relate to wanting to change a broken system.
I was most surprised by Bob Dylan’s family values. Once he started his family he was fiercely dedicated to privacy and being a good father and husband. He packed up and moved and even created an alter-ego version of himself, put out a couple bad records, and destroyed his PR so the press would leave him alone.
I guess that is the problem with taking a stand is that people want you to lead a revolution. Dylan didn’t seem as interested in starting a revolution as he was in perfecting his art.
PUBLIC RELATIONS WITH BOB DYLAN
The most entertaining portions of the book for me were the sections that dealt with Dylan’s relationship with the press. Apparently in his very first interview he decided on the spot that this person was asking the wrong questions, silly, trivial questions. Which seem to be the only type of questions most media people are interested in. So he made stuff up.
He created an on the spot biography that followed him for years and made him even more mysterious which made more media ask more lame questions and so on and so forth.
Later in his life he had a wife and children and moved to Woodstock. His songs were being heard as a call-to-arms for anti-war and anti-government groups who would organize protests and have crowds assemble in front of his home and demand him to be their leader. Bob was not interested. But they wouldn’t stop. They followed him everywhere and he realized the only way to stop it was to destroy his public image. Which didn’t seem to bother him much. So he poured a bottle of whiskey over his head and headed into a local store, made a scene, making sure a lot of people witnessed it and waited for the papers to pick up on the story. He then recorded what he called a bad album filled with lifeless songs to make himself appear washed up. After months of trying it worked. They moved again and finally got some solace.
It is enigmatic that a man not interested in fame became one of the most famous recording artists of all time. His music inspired generations of musicians and he is still an unseen force in music today.
THINGS I REALIZED AFTER READING:
- Family is more important than you career or reputation. My word may be my bond, but my family is my legacy.
- I need to read more.
- I need to stop being so lazy about what kind of music I listen to. I am always just turning on the radio and getting frustrated by the lack of creativity and substance instead of seeking out good music and enjoying it.
- The press was ignorant even back in the 50s and 60s as to what is actually important.
- I thought that there used to be all this great music and no empty songs but today it has just got bad. I guess not. There was always a surplus of formulaic empty pop songs.
- I like Bob Dylan.