Monday, February 14, 2005

Dylan the Visionary

"America was changing. I had a feeling of destiny and I was riding the changes."

The most interesting parts of Bob Dylan's awesome book, Chronicles, Volume One, are his insights of his early struggles to make it as a musician, particularly when he was in New York in the early 60s. He conveys well his timing, his sense of the musical zeitgeist-- for instance, when he says about Ricky Nelson at the height of his fame, about Nelson's "bleached out lyrics," that Dylan "still liked him, but that type of music was on its way out. It had no sense of meaning anything. There'd be no future for that stuff in the future. It was all a mistake." (Dylan goes on to explain the "power of spirit" of roots music.)

This is exactly the way ULAers feel about the current literary scene!

To me the most poignant moment in the book is when Dylan meets his old friend Bobby Vee. Dylan had played with Bobby's rockabilly band in North Dakota in the late 50's. Vee quickly went on to become a huge pop success. When he arrived in New York, Bob Dylan went to see him perform at the famous Paramount Theater in Brooklyn, fighting through mobs of teenage fans to talk to him.

"He was on the top of the heap now. It seemed like so much had happened to him in such a short time."

The two friends talked, one in a slick pop suit, the other scruffy, the air of struggle about him.

"I told him I was playing in the folk clubs, but it was impossible to give him any indication of what it was all about."

Two friends who'd taken very different paths.

"Standing there with Bobby, I didn't want to act selfishly on his time so we said goodbye and I walked down the side of the theater and out through one of the side doors. There were throngs of young girls waiting for him in the cold outside the building."

Dylan remembers this moment so well! Undoubtedly it had a huge impact upon him. Did he know then that within just a few years, Bob Dylan would be more important in their field than Bobby Vee ever dreamed of being, and Vee would be a has-been? Such is the way culture can shift very swiftly and radically. The trick is being half-a-step ahead of the change.

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