Sunday, November 16, 2008
Advertising signs that con you,
Into thinking you're the one,
That can do what's never been done,
That can win what's never been won,
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you.
“Stunning…” “Unprecedented…” “Electrifying…” “Incredible…”
You’d be hard-pressed to find a superlative that hasn’t been used in the last two weeks to describe Barack Obama’s meteoric ascension to the nation’s highest office.
But perhaps no comment has been more analyzed, more categorized or more scrutinized by fellow Dylanologists than the one made by Dylan himself during his election eve show in Minneapolis’ Northrop Auditorium:
“…it’s a brand new time right now. An age of light. Me, I was born in 1941 — that’s the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. Well I been livin’ in a world of darkness ever since. But it looks like things are gonna change now…”
Typically, Dylan revels in his innate ability to confound us with his cryptic, enigmatic comments. This, of course, is precisely what's so perplexing about Dylan’s election eve proclamation. It wasn’t wrapped in a riddle. It didn’t need to be sliced, diced, dissected and redirected. It was strikingly sincere and without pretense.
As Sean Curnyn thoughtfully observed in his blog, ‘Right Wing Bob,’ a few days after the election, it was never Dylan’s intention to confound us. Nor was it his intent to offer a ringing endorsement of president-elect Obama. The notoriously irascible Dylan was simply referring to an Obama campaign button worn by his longstanding bass player, Tony Granier. But that fact was left out of most reports, who were so stunned Dylan had actually spoken that they stripped the statement of all context.
It wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened.
His entire life, Dylan has constantly reinvented himself to keep the hounding media at bay. Whether it’s changing his name, changing his musical direction, changing his religion—the man who famously opined, ‘he not busy being born is busy dying,’ has given birth to countless ‘Dylans’ over the last 40 years.
In the months leading up to the election, one could argue we’ve seen our share of ‘Obamas’ as well. In the last 18 months alone, Obama has appeared on no few than 300 magazine covers. Ebony, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek. Each caters to a different audience. Each requires a different persona be projected. Yet Obama manages to move from one to the next with an effortlessness and facility that is eerily reminiscent of another Midwesterner who's donned his fair share of disguises over the years.
To see the many 'faces' of Barack Obama, click here.
In the days to come, the searing light the media that has turned on Barack Obama is only going to get more intense and more scrutinous. And as it does, things are going to change for Barack Obama. Things are going to change for Bob Dylan, too.
Forty years ago, a prescient Bob Dylan told the press he didn’t want to deny, defy and classify them. All he really wanted to do was be friends. Of course, being friends wasn’t enough. The press wanted more—we wanted more. The result? We got 'Bob Dylan.'
And what did Dylan get? A rap he’s been trying to shake ever since— ‘voice of a generation.’
And while it’s not our cross to bear, one can only imagine that the moniker, ‘voice of a generation,’ carries a lot of weight. Certainly, it’s a burden Dylan’s been trying to free himself from his entire life.
Maybe Dylan’s admission that he’s ready to step out of the darkness and into light isn’t some confounding, cautionary tale after all. Maybe it’s not an admonishment at all. Maybe all Bob Dylan was doing November 4 was telling us whose voice he’ll be listening to now that a new generation has spoken...
While preachers preach of evil fates,
Teachers teach that knowledge waits,
Goodness hides behind its gates,
But even the president of the United States,
Sometimes must have
To stand naked.