[Marxism] following the link on Dylan

Greg McDonald gregmc59 at gmail.com
Tue Oct 25 19:15:16 MDT 2016

I don't think Marqusee, or any other writer grappling with Dylan's oeuvre,
has argued that Dylan remained part of the movement. That much is patently
obvious. Dylan himself has stated he never felt comfortable as a topical
folk song artist. I think we should take him at his word. After all, he was
VERY straightforward about that with his Tom Paine award fuck you speech. I
don't think he was really interested in sticking around as Pete Seeger's
junior partner in the CPUSA. Would you?

He was obviously more interested at the time in developing a new mode of
artistic self-expression, combining elements of symbolist poetry with rock
music. Whether he was successful or not is in the ear of the beholder. A
lot of people like Dylan's music, a lot of people don't. I think much of
his topical work sounds dated, while some of his later work, especially
since "Oh Mercy",  I can still listen to and it doesn't bore the shit out
of me. I still enjoy  the records he cut with The Band, as well as the
original Highway 61, which is very punk IMO, especially with Mike
Bloomfield ripping it up. "Blonde on Blonde" is quite special, "Blood on
the Tracks" is great if you're going through a divorce. "John Wesley
Harding" and "Nashville Skyline" are very enjoyable with a cup of coffee in
the morning, but I've always been a big Johnny Cash fan.

After Dylan broke his neck in a motorcycle accident and retreated from
public view for three years, he seemed to relish being out of the
spotlight. He avoided Woodstock, choosing the Isle of Wight instead. Much
to the consternation of people who kept looking to him for answers and
guidance, he refused to come out publicly against the Vietnam war. i think
he was just fed up with the whole circus. Anyway, that's my own assessment.
Much of his music from 1989 on seems to be an attempt to further refine his
take on the great american songbook. In that sense it was prescient.
Americana is now part of the musical lexicon.

Marqusee's book was originally titled "Chimes of Freedom". It looks at the
topical stuff and offers a political interpretation. "Wicked Messenger" is
an updated edition taking into consideration some of Dylan's later work.


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