Bob Dylan. Is there anyone who characterized the 60’s more? Didn’t he typify the a-changing winds? Perhaps not, Maureen Dowd opines in the NY Times. Ms. Dowd is mortified that Dylan would allow his set on a recent tour to be approved by Chinese authorities.
Part of me agrees with her. It is a compromise of one’s ideals to cow to censors, though Dylan has before shown character in that regard:
In May 1963, Dylan’s political profile was raised when he walked out of The Ed Sullivan Show. During rehearsals, Dylan had been informed by CBS Television‘s “head of program practices” that the song he was planning to perform, “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues“, was potentially libelous to theJohn Birch Society. Rather than comply with the censorship, Dylan refused to appear on the program. (from Wikipedia).
Another part wonders what we have done to our friend Bob. I have always been ambivalent on his work, finding his vocals only occasionally tolerable (Nashville Skyline) while reveling in his ability to tell a story (Blood on the Tracks). Others liken him to a god, a eternal icon representing the counterculture of the 60’s.
Dowd is apparently a member of the latter category and was no doubt sympathetic with those who wanted to off themselves when he did a commercial for *Victoria’s Secret. Yet by her own admission, Dylan never was and never wanted to be a voice for the “counterculture.” He was a musician earning a living, one who worked to succeed by adjusting his own desires with the reality of gaining an audience. It is not Dylan who failed anyone–it is our own childish notions of what the 60’s represented.
Of all the descriptions of that decade, Ayn Rand’s best sums it up in her description of Woodstock–300,000 people wallowing in the mud. I never found that time especially inspiring, and no, it wasn’t because I hated all the draft-dodgers and long-hairs. The decision to fight or resist the draft was one of the only serious issues of the decade, one that troubled young men of conscience and sent true cowards running for cover instead of making an honorable stand against a corrupt US government.
The rest was an orgy of…what? Imagine a nation of Woodstockers fending for themselves. How soon would their world of railing against “the man,” whoever he was, collide with the hard realities of survival? How confident would you be that any one of them could bandage a cut, much less perform an operation? Like teenagers who despise their parents while spending their money, members of the counterculture chose not to understand what they hated. Unwilling to conduct even the thinnest analysis of how people are actually fed, clothed, and healed, the tantrum became the rallying cry of a band of self-important dolts.
Dylan may be criticized for complying with set approval. On the other hand, he may not have wanted to sing the songs his dreamy worshipers love. I don’t know the details and so refrain from judging. I do know this–the idiot wind hails from Woodstock and blows through the skulls of those who just can’t move on.
*Terry wonders how it can be much of a secret if it takes that little to cover it up.