Friday, May 24, 2013

Vol. 171: The Greatest Living American Artist

     In the winter of 1961, a young man from Hibbing, Minnesota set out on a quest. What began as a trip to meet his hero Woody Guthrie, has spanned almost five decades of often uninterrupted work (except if you count the mysterious motorcycle accident of 66' and his brush with death in the Spring of 97'). He's created work that will one day in the eyes of many, stand up next to that of Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Jack Kerouac in terms of relevance in capturing the soul of the American character. He is a walking, breathing, singing, sunglasses wearing mythical hero, the embodiment of the American spirit.
     On May 24th, this mystic wanderer, this myth creator, this motorcycle vagabond gypsy king will turn 72 years old. There are 72 names of God in the Kabbalah, but that just may be mere     coincidence. We'll have to let the Tarot cards of fortune spin its' wheels to decipher their significance; so let us shuffle the deck and spread the cards one more time.
     His songs, his literature, his puzzling body of work speaks to the longing of us all to become better.  It demands that we ask questions of ourselves, to get as close to perfection as possible; it is the never-ending search, the constant struggle, the traveling over the hills and through the valleys we all face and what he brilliantly puts into each and every song.

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dyin’ voice within me reaching out somewhere
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair

Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand

Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay

I gaze into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand

"Every Grain of Sand," Shot of Love
     He is a poet, a singer-songwriter, an alchemist; blending words and music together in a cauldron of smoke and mirrors, accompanied throughout, always with different musicians and different arrangements. He scrambles your senses on the frying pan of his music. He's deconstructing old myths at the same time he's creating his own, all the while never answering journalists' questions in a straight forward manner. That would be what's been expected. That would be too easy.
     He's always walking the mystic path of his own creation. His music oftentimes leaves the listener struggling to discern the hidden meanings from behind their cryptic nature; but, if you listen well enough, you can hear the wisdom of his words, if you could just get past that voice.
     He's an artist that has come full circle, from the warnings of apocalyptic clouds of acid rain in "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," to the Time out of Mind  album's sad worried laments upon the inevitability of death and dying in this tragic modern world. As a result of his constant struggle, he's never been too busy to stop being born when most of us are too busy dying in endless lines of work-day traffic.
     He's a Hebrew prophet singing, wailing for the world to wake up and pay attention before it's all too late. Like Moses, he too has led his own followers through the mindless desert bubble-gum pop music of the early 1960's into the lyric bending consciousness changing of the middle to latter periods of that tumultuous decade. Being the crowned spokesman of the generation, he continually challenged conformity. He wouldn't attend Woodstock when it was held practically in his own backyard. He'd already moved on from the peace and love and onto to something else. He had already realized that no amount of protest or social gathering was going to change anything, until you changed yourself.
     His lyrics bridge the gap between humor and self-actualization. His songs are composed of lost love, past relationships and failed alliances. He's never exactly telling us what to do, for that's up to each and every one of us to decide for ourselves and therein lies the rub; the difficulty of his music for some, the challenge of changing embedded behaviors. We can all make personal breakthroughs, if we can just get past that voice.

It’s mighty funny, the end of time has just begun
Oh, honey, after all these years you’re still the one
While I’m strolling through the lonely graveyard of my mind
I left my life with you somewhere back there along the line
I thought somehow that I would be spared this fate
But I don’t know how much longer I can wait.

"Can't Wait," Time out of Mind

     In the end, according to the simple twist of his fate, he's just a "song and dance man." At times his songs can bring you to tears, in the plain realization that you are able to be so close to his staggering genius. His music easily gets under your skin, disarms, slides and slithers its way into your subconscious; there is no shelter from this storm. Like nails on the chalkboard, you can't look away or disengage from his voice of awakening. He wrote songs of protest (but no more "finger pointing songs" these days) and continues to write songs of prophecy and pragmatism. He writes songs of heartbreak, heartache and self-deprecating humor. He sings songs of truth. His "Chimes of Freedom," rang for an entire generation and still do, if you listen hard enough past the bombardment of commercially twisted advertising manufactured pop-music; what he's been after has always been what he wishes for mankind. The truth.

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

"Forever Young" Planet Waves

Ever since he got on the road, he's been busy.

 Dylan has won many awards throughout his career including 11 Grammy Awards, one Academy Award and one Golden Globe Award; He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Songwriters Hall of Fame. In May 2000, Dylan was awarded the Polar Music Prize. In May 2012, Dylan was one out of thirteen honorees to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[332]  
At 72, still pretty damn Cool


     Long before there were advertising conceived reality-singing-contest shows, he proved that it took the alignment of the universe, hard work and divine inspiration to get a record contract. From a "Song for Woody" to "Things have Changed" his repertoire encompasses the entire span of human emotion. Since the summer of 1988, he has been tirelessly touring. As of May 5th, 2013, he's performed 2500 times live since June 7th, 1988. It's just another side of him that makes us realize that he is constantly swimming in the ether of the eternal. He's always putting new spins and angelic sounds on past songs, always giving the listener, the watcher something to hear, something to look for. Another reason to attend another one of his shows.
     There are the subtle nuances of his smirk, the vague answers of his interviews as he continues to cast mirrors in front of us; like all good art, it's up to the viewer and the listener to participate and take meaning from his enduring genius. It is this very reason that I have to come to the belief, taken from one of the earliest episodes of the classic television show The X-Files, that Mr. Dylan is like a shark; if it stops swimming it will die; if the man from Hibbing stops touring, stops writing, stops working, stops "singing and dancing," he too will die. If his songs continue to do anything, they get you to think, they bend your mind and like he said back in 66', "everybody's mind should be bent once in a while." He's a modern day Hebrew Prophet wandering the world, spreading his message in a desert of distrust, impatience and materialistic greed; and although things have changed, some things never do, and if the Bible were being written today, there would be a Gospel according to Bob. You just have to believe, have faith and continue singing and dancing; if you could just get past that voice.

Happy 72nd Mr. Dylan, take another bow; you most definitely deserve it, you most certainly do.

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