Thank you, Bob

It was, indeed, a special moment this week, when the country of my birth awarded Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize in literature, for he has been a constant companion ever since my student days in California in the 1960s. It was special, it was even grand.

Now, I’ll leave that up to others, and they have been many, to go into the literary merits of Dylan’s songs and poetry, like the Princeton professor Sean Wilentz, author of the excellent book, “Bob Dylan in America,” who said to the Washington Post:

“We are honoring a great literary figure of our time…He has taken the lyric form, as old as Homer, and raised it to an entirely new level, a level that stands with the highest literature that the West has produced. Period.”

Like in “Mr Tambourine Man…”

Take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time
Far past the frozen leaves
The haunted frightened trees
Out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea
Circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

It’s beautiful and I must have listened to Dylan sing it a thousand times without ever getting tired of it.  I could mention many others, “Desolation Row,” “Visions of Johanna,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Red River Shore,” and on and on…They have all been a constant joy in my life.  In fact, life would have been different without them.

Thank you Bob.

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Pete Seeger was — “Forever Young”

Pete Seeger, dead at 94, sings Bob Dylan’s beautiful “Forever Young.”

His full life by Jon Pareles in New York Times, and, by the way, Pete Seeger, you won, as David Corn writes in Mother Jones.

A man to be admired and missed.

 

“Buckets of Rain” — buckets of joy

Today, Bob Dylan turned 70. He has been my musical companion for 50 of those years. What more can I say?

Let me just point you to John Bennet’s post, “Don’t Read This, Bob,” on the New Yorkers’ blog News Desk, where he features, among others, Ebony Hillbillies playing Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain.”

Listening this morning to this street band’s version of this lovely song brought me such immense joy.

Have a listen!

“The Real Dylan in China”

I have to add to what I just wrote about Bob Dylan in China under the headline, “Did Dylan sell out in China?” and draw your attention to Sean Wilentz’ post today on the New Yorker blog.

Wilentz, a professor at Princeton University, is, you may know, the author of the superb book, “Bob Dylan in America,” so he knows what he’s talking about when he writes:

“I’d argue Dylan made a fool of the Chinese authorities, while getting paid in the bargain. He certainly made a fool of Maureen Dowd– or she made a fool of herself.”

And Wilentz continues:

“But Dylan learned long ago that he is not a particularly good conventional political spokesman. His gifts lie elsewhere, in composing and singing songs of love and loss and the rest of human experience, above and beyond politics, although politics is always there as well. His art has changed the world mightily, and not just in righting political wrongs.”

So true!

Did Dylan sell out in China?

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote yesterday that Bob Dylan had sold out in China when he was there recently for the first time, by not singing some of his most famous protest songs from the 60s like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” because he did not want to offend the Chinese authorities.

Under the headline “Blowin’ In The Idiot Wind,” Dowd wrote that Dylan should have done that, especially now, during the current wave of violations against human rights in China.

Dowd’s article has, as expected, caused much debate among both Dylan fans both here in America, and among Western journalists and Chinese living and working in China, according to the China expert at The Atlantic, James Fallows. On his blog, Fallows writes about how both his Chinese and Western friends are upset and angry with Dowd.

One of them asks, do you really think that the Chinese were pleased that Dylan sang “My Way of Thinking” with this verse?

“So much oppression

Can’t keep track of it no more”

Those who have critiziced Dowd’s column have a point, writes Fallows. At a minimum, he writes, it is not clear cut that Dylan sold out to be able to come and sing in China.