Dylan At 80

Dylan At 80 –

It Used To Go Like That, And Now It Goes Like This

Edited by Gary Browning & Constantine Sandis

Imprint-Academic –

Since the days of my youth, Bob Dylan has taught me a great deal about love, politics, war, culture, music, history, religion and the full scope of the human condition, from kindness and nobility to treachery and plunder. His work will last for generations as a guidepost to our forgotten past and our uncertain future on this earth. ‘Wasn’t that a time?’ the Weavers sang during the Cold War years when Dylan got his start. It was indeed.

Tim Shorrock (‘The Troubadour as Teacher’).

Most of the time, Robert Zimmerman has his Bob Dylan mask on. He’s masquerading in the Shadow Kingdom.

(Prologue).

Dylan At 80 – It Used To Go Like That, And Now It Goes Like This is a collection of appreciative, cohesive essays which address the genius that is Bob Dylan. What’s more, they do so from a wide menagerie of very personal, differing aspects.

And then some.

The latter of which fundamentally makes this book an altogether terrific read.

One of the most interesting and might I add, surprising, is the book’s Foreword written by Nana Mouskouri of all people: ‘’Dylan’s songs gave me certain answers. He was searching for a truth he needed to live, and went on learning and communicating, though so many answers still remain blowing in the wind. He can reflect the sadness of departure (whether its fare thee well or farewell Angelina), or the greatness of a father who wishes for his child to remain forever young. His desire to find the truth that is absolute for him teaches us that he is, for sure, a philosopher – born with a need for truth.’’

A truth, which in so many (unfortunate) instances, is yet to arrive.

Especially in his native USA, where the (equally unfortunate) cancer of racism remains rife, as touched on by Alexander Douglas in ‘Bob Dylan and the Story of Black America from 1965-1965’: ‘’Forty years after Sam Cooke’s death, Dylan takes to the stage to play ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ and not for the first time, a guitarist switches to keys later in their career. It’s far from a technically ideal vocal performance but, at the same time, it’s impossible to think of anyone who understands this song better. What we know is not as important as what we understand.’’

Furthermore, as a slight continuation of the above, a number of these essays address how implausibly relevant and Dylan still is at the age of 81 (his birthday was May 24th).

A prime example being Barb Junger’s contribution, ‘Tangled Up In Blue – Dylan And Love,’ wherein she writes: ‘’There’s something beautifully direct in the quiet certainty of purpose of every track of Rough and Rowdy Ways. Dylan at 80 understands this world and his inner world, as we all would hope we would our own. Moreover, he understands his own heart, and all the people who’ve lodged in there, or passed by, every scar and wound, every dusty trail of lust, every drunken awakening and hurtful slur. If ‘Don’t Think Twice’ is the past, the then, so this is the here, and now. One of the major love songs of his canon, ‘I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You’ expresses a quality of the weariness of acceptance that can only perhaps be understood fully by an ageing heart. At 80 Dylan remains the romantic he always was:

I’ve travelled from the mountain to the sea

I hope that the gods go easy with me

I knew you’d say yes, I’m saying yes too

I’ve made up my mind to give myself to you.’’

As none other than Scarlet Rivera, violinist on the Rolling Thunder Revue has since written, Dylan At 80 is: ‘’A stellar collection with keen insights into the heart and psyche of Bob Dylan. A masterful and essential guidebook for every Dylan fan. Each chapter’s penetrating analysis provides a key, unlocking the symbolism, myth, and meaning of lyrics spanning his entire career.’’

Spanning his entire career this book most definitely does.

So other than reading this excellent collection, all that’s left for us to do is salute him when his (next) birthday comes.

David Marx

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