by carl wilson

Talkin' Pistol-Packing Rabbi Blues

Alex Ross and Alex Abramovich are book-clubbing it up this week in a Slate dialogue about Dylan's Chronicles. Which is great, because all I really want to do is, baby, talk about that book with you.

Abramovich points in his opening towards a question Mrs. Zoilus and I were talking about last night: How much do you buy his disavowal of ever having had activist intentions? His political period actually was very short-lived, but do we think he was being opportunistic, simply exploring a thread of the folk tradition at a moment that seemed to call it forth (that's kind of the way it's portrayed in Chronicles) or trying to change the world and then getting frightened away when the world almost did seem to change in answer to the songs he was blowin' out into it? Show your work.

Edited to add: The marvelous Mr. Ross took up my gauntlet later in the Slate dialogue (which turned out to be all too brief). I'll have some responses by the a.m.

The Writ | Posted by zoilus on Monday, October 18 at 01:05 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)



I think its all of those things (most things are.) Clearly he is/was aware of the issues swirling around at the time. He might disparage his "finger pointing" songs in a way but as her on-stage sermons during his Christian period showed, preaching (even if only as a rhetorical device) is never far from the surface.

However I think there is also truth to the story that he lobbed into Greenwich Village and the politically active folky thing was going on so he bent with that wind. He was always ambitious and clearly wanted his music out there and heard. Of course he was also emulating Guthrie and others in taking up those themes. But acknowledging that doesn't make his belief in the basic values of his "protest songs" (hate that term, gag) a total put on. When it got too much however (and getting a family changes your priorities too) its hardly surprising he pulled away with the intensity he did.

In Chronicles he talks alot about political and social issues, and with more affection about the folky scene than ever before. So clearly those things still resonate. What he still hates of course and hated most at the time is the freaky aspect of being worshipped, feeling his family was in danger etc.

Everyone's actions are a mixture of motivations -- sincerity and ambition among them -- and his too, despite people wanting to insist Bob is somehoe strange or different from the rest of us.

Posted by Amanda on October 20, 2004 04:45 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson