The Mesabi iron range runs across the top of Minnesota. Biggest iron ore pit in the world up there. Bob Dylan was born nearby, in Duluth. In the dead of winter Duluth is a bastion of weird old immigrant America. Freezing waves pounding the shoreline. Rusted freighters sulking out on the black ice. Raw, hard country. Beer tastes different in winter. Like yellow blood tingling with Slavic iron shards. It’s a long way from New York City, Los Angeles, Nashville and the rest of it. Dylan’s family later moved up to Hibbing. Hibbing, today, is a 1940’ movie set. Intact. Dylan worked in his old man’s hardware store; pounded rock and roll on an upright piano in the high school auditorium. He ran away to Minneapolis, and then to Greenwich Village. You know the rest. Fifty years ago.
I was the kid listening to Dylan’s early vinyl on my Uncle George’s record player. The kid in the room with heroes tacked up over my head. As The great vinyl wheel spun round with its holy prayer… The records keep revolving around in my soul. Nostalgia? If that’s a holy and bygone house of art and music, then I’ll live there. Art time is frozen and has no clock value. No expiration date. All the great classical composers: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Wagner, Brahms, Verdi … lived (mostly) during the 1800’s. What the hell happened? What’s happening now? Armageddon or the great Aquarian shift?
We are rowing through the doldrums, far out at sea. No wind to touch our sails. No movement. Jon Parales wrote a recent piece in the Herald Tribune about the “dumbing down” of the modern lyric. So can someone tell me why, on Dec. 3, The Wall Street Journal devoted two pages ,with irreverent cartoons, to a rant of why Bob Dylan should quit the stage? It was a cruel piece, and I can only guess why the paper, carried around in the computer bags of international bank and marketing types, would deem it necessary to spend two full pages contemplating the question.
I would say that: drunk, crippled, half dead, or 200 years old, Bob Dylan should be left alone. You don’t have to attend the show, folks. He’s been attacked since 1963, it never seemed to bother him, as he constantly reinvented himself and redesigned the modern lyric. Better that the Wall Street Journal had covered Leonard Cohen’s recent triumphant concerts at age 75. If age is the question. The truth is Dylan’s very presence, whatever shape he’s in, scares the hell out of a current generation of writers who will never measure up. There is nothing significant for music journalists to write about, so… attack the maestro. Sigh…Babe Ruth will not leave the stadium, and the little leaguers want inside.
My song Mesabi begins the next release. It speaks of my childhood; and Dylan’s. The spark. Coming this fall.
(The next series will deal with the new songs. Amen.)