his bobness: what would the boy say to the man?

8 March, 2006 at 10:17 pm Leave a comment

Surfing through bobdylan.com, I found some of his rare performances (http://bobdylan.com/performances/). Have a listen to his April 17 rendition of "I dreamed I saw St Augustine", from the Orpheum Theatre, Boston, Mass. Here is Bob singing one of his greatest songs – in a way I've never heard him do it before. The words are often indistinct. He sounds as though he's recovering from a sore throat – or hasn't quite hit recovery yet! – and slips into his lazy performance-mode "talkie-sing" mode (ie when he's coasting and just can't be bothered to interpret his material). And yet … it's great! It's beautiful and moving. He sings it with the love of the familiar – he's lived long with the song. It's never blase, although it hovers on the edge. Instead, he manages to hold on to that dynamic of a familiarity that speaks of deep, deep knowledge, and yet is aware of further mystery. But Bob is the Gnostic – these are secrets only he knows, and he almost plays with us, exciting our envy and longing for a similar depth knowledge.

Ok, ok, this is sounding far too … something! Pretentious? Sentimental? I mean, it's just a man singing a song. And yet Bob manages to do that sort of stuff with his music, doesn't he? Listening to Bob sing his old songs is to be drawn into the narrative of his journey with the music. There's a crossover somewhere: Bob interprets the songs/the songs interpret Bob. What the songs become is what Dylan himself has become.

So I found myself listening to an old man sing an old song, while looking at a photo of him at the Newport Festival. And I wondered what the young Dylan would say to the man he's become? Would he like him? Would he regret the way it all turned out? If he knew how he'd sound 40 years down the road … would he do it all differently?

Now, call me sentimental and uncritical, but I reckon he'd be fine with it all. He started out knowing he had something to say – and found that he didn't have a clue as to just how much! He's "followed the river down to the sea" and the beach is pretty good. He's learned to live with his regrets (more than a few, and certainly enough to merit more than just a mention!). You can hear it in the songs. The world ain't what he probably hoped it would become, but it's a better place for having given him space and recognition. He's "just tryin' to get to heaven before they close the door" – and that ought to do just fine!

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Entry filed under: bob dylan, music.

uniquely jesus … postmodern churches

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