Artist: Bob Dylan
Album:The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
“Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind”
From one musical icon to the next. Although, this time around I have much nicer words to share about Mr. Bobby Dylan than I did with The Beatles. Don’t worry, I won’t be making any ridiculous comparisons this time and I’ll keep Mr. Bobbity Bobby Boo Dylan in tact. I actually had finished this album a few days ago, but took awhile to getting around to writing this post (for reasons I’ll get to soon). The main reason was the length of the album, which I was surprised to see was about 50 minutes long, sure as hell didn’t feel that way, felt like I zoomed through it (which is funny because it took me multiple listenings to finally get through it).
The first instance, which got me through about three songs, was followed up with some channel surfing. We stumbled upon Forrest Gump and it was the scene in the bar where Jenny sings Blowin’ in the Wind, basically naked, with only her guitar covering her. The coincidence of this was too much for me and I figured this was a sign. A sign for what? I’m really not sure, hard to tell exactly what the universe was trying to tell me. I kept talking about how naked she was and Sandra was having none of it.
“If you want to see her naked that bad, go on the Internet, I’m sure you can find her naked somewhere. Come on, Jonathan”
I’m a simple man, what can I say, but a greater power was not really telling me anything other than damn, what a coincidence. Maybe it was Bobbylini Dylan’s philosophical nature that rubbed off on me from that song and I was looking way too much into it all, but I can guarantee I immediately forgot about it after we stumbled upon Lumberjack Olympics (Basically muscly, sweaty men wielding axes and chopping wood in competitive style) and that just intrigued me way more than any coincidence could.
It’s funny, the opposite effect actually occured when entering this album than The Beatles one. For the most part, everyone knows my relationship with Folk music. I respect it, but I don’t like it, never did. I could never get into folk music and for the most part I always find myself bored listening to it. It’s purely a personal taste. I can definitely see why people love it and get into, I just, for whatever reason, never could.
I, obviously, knew of Bobby Booby Dylan and for the longest time always made an effort to sort of avoid him. I’ll be honest I was very judgemental when it came to it and I did have an ex who loved him a ton (which didn’t help since our musical preferences clashed horribly, so it made me associate Bobilobba Ding Dong Dylan with that). My initial feeling was, I was not going to enjoy it and went in with that.
I was wrong, so terribly and happily wrong. Whereas The Beatles I went in with the attitude that I’m listening to the greatest band in the world and being disappointed, this time I went in thinking I won’t enjoy it and found myself loving it. Yes, believe it or not, I loved a folk album. I was engaged and stuck the whole way through, Bobbity boopity boppity Dylan’s cynical lyrics and cheerful guitar playing resonating with me more than I expected to. I didn’t think I’d be immersed as much I was in a Bob Bob the Bob Dylan’s music, but I was, I really was. Shocking I know (for those who know me, for those who don’t… be shocked for the sake of it).
So, I’m going to have a moment of honesty and, I guess, Vulnerability right here. Remember when I said it took me awhile to get myself to write this post? Well, the main reason for that was because I was actually scared to write it. Yeah. Every other post I was always ready to jump in and get it going, even when I was saying things I knew people would disagree with in the last post. This one, I just couldn’t get myself to sit and write it. It was strange, but I understood why (having grown to understand my fears and feelings and be able to pinpoint the root cause of it all). The main reason was because I felt I wouldn’t be able to give this album justice. I can’t really talk about folk music, which after the very underwhelming and pretty lackluster post I wrote on Joan Baez, I knew I would have a difficult time writing about this one, which sort of created a wall for me. It was odd because for the most part I was always able to crank something out, especially when I had no idea what I was talking about (most of the jazz albums), but this… Mr. BOB DYLAN made me nervous. Maybe because he’s such a big icon, I don’t know.
But the writing must go on, not going to give up because things get tough. This is not only for my readers but mostly for me, gotta just sit down and do it. So, I’ll do my best. here goes nothing….
This is a damn good album. If I could summon the perfect words to talk about it, I would, but for now I’ll have to go with my limited vocabulary. All these years I didn’t give Bobby Robby Dylan a chance and I’ll admit it was unfair of me to think so negatively of him when I didn’t even know him. It’s hard to make an album that at once is incredibly sad but still feels happy, but by-god he managed to do that. That’s really the vibe of the entire album, it’s bittersweet from start to finish. The cheerful guitar playing never distracts from the sadder, philosophical, cynical and at times political lyrics, but rather supports it in an incredibly beautiful way.
From what I gathered, this was the album that showed the world that Bobbin’ Dylan was a poet and it cemented him as a songwriter who wrote lyrics with substance and depth. It blew him up from young folk singer to Folk Icon and he even became recognised as the spokesperson for all the disaffected youth in America (even though he would go on to hate this title and try to stray away from it).
Whether he liked it or not, there was no denying he tapped into the minds of the young adults of his generation. His first intention may have been to write music that showed his feelings and fears of the world around him, but without realising he was actually voicing what everyone was feeling. He may not have wanted the title but his material managed to resonate with everyone around him. He was the voice they needed, even if he didn’t want it. It doesn’t end there either. His writing style was vague enough that it made the songs incredibly timeless. A lot of the songs on this album are arguably more relevant and poignant today than they were back in 1963.
Oxford Town came to mind, telling the story of a brown-faced boy and the discrimination he was facing. The ambiguous ending of a fight and two dead leaves a lot to the imagination to the fate of our protagonist and oddly still fits here today in 2017. With everything happening in the world, a story of a brown-faced boy facing dangerous discrimination in small town USA seems to be appropriate as a modern day “protest song”. With fears of the other being strong in North America and my best friend being a brown man (who I can guarantee is definitely some delicious milk chocolate to me) it struck a slight chord with me. My best friend isn’t muslim but with the rampant fear that’s growing and growing, it can easily happen that someone could judge him too quickly and who knows what could happen. It’s a scary world we’ve come to and I hope it will be kind to him.
Although, is life really ever kind to anyone? Not really.
I really don’t want to get political with this (especially since in general, I’m not a political person. I usually keep those ideas to myself and never get involved). But it’s hard not to with Bobbin’ For Apples Dylan. He basically popularized the protest song and brought it to the mainstream. There was no other man who could sit down at a concert, with a devil-may-care attitude, and spout political lyrics to a mass audience. At least not in those days. I feel it’s a safe bet to say that Bobber Robber Dylan was amongst the first punks to hit the music scene. Yeah, Punk way before punk was even a thing yet. If you think about it, he basically was. It doesn’t sound like the Punk we’ve grown to accept as the punk genre, but the ideology and attitude of one was definitely there and if you don’t believe me, just listen to Master of War and you definitely feel that biting commentary punks would adapt in their lyrics.
There’s so many highs in this album, I actually feel like I could write an article for each one. But I won’t… at least not anytime soon. Who knows, I might revisit this album one day to give each song a proper look at, but for now, I’ll keep it brief because I still have about 964 albums to get through.
I had forgotten that he was the mastermind behind Blowin’ in the Wind. If you also didn’t know that, it’s totally ok, because Peter, Paul and Mary were the ones that had the hit on their hand with it and it’s most often associated with them. Having heard the two I can say, their version was definitely more accessible, but it doesn’t hit that level of cycnicism that Bob’s Burgers Dylan delivers. Theirs may have sounded pretty, but Bob’s delivery of the lyrics has a much more genuine feel to it as if you can hear him actually contemplating these questions with no answers and sighing at the misery of the world, fed up yet still going because there isn’t really much he can do. It’s more powerful than you’d expect.
It doesn’t end there (of course not). His song Talkin’ World War III Blues leaves quite an impact and has the same effect that Oxford Town had. It’s funny how this song from 1963 feels way more relevant today as we seemingly inch closer and closer to the possibility of World War III. When Bob wrote this, it was during the Cold War and fear of nuclear war was damn strong. Everyone felt like the world would just blow up at any second. It never happened, thankfully, but damn is that fear just getting stronger and stronger as every day goes by. We all feel it to some extent and at one point or another we have all wondered what would happen if it did. The song was a ramblin’ style song, that he improvised and just sort of ranted about his feelings of it all, but once again, he managed to speak what everyone was thinking and I don’t think he ever thought his words would feel relevant to a young 24 year old 54 years later. When he sings about imagining what the world would be like as the lone survivor and asking others that he’ll put them in his dream if they put him in theirs couldn’t have been more relateable to me, even if it tried. We are all the main characters in each of our stories, and when the world goes down, we would all like to think we’re the ones who would survive and come out alive and well. Unfortunately, we don’t know what will happen, so we only hope that we’re still a part of it in the grand scheme of things. I know I do.
As I said before, Bob Xavier Dylan managed to capture a bittersweet vibe throughout the entire album. Like the song before where he was rambling on about his fears of nuclear war, he still managed to make it feel more upbeat than it really was. For me, the standout song that beautifully captured this vibe to perfection was Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right. One of the few love songs on the album, it was everything every love song should aspire to be. Love songs are tricky to write, they can easily enter the “Lovey gooey cheesy” territory and the “I’m whiny and sad, break-up” territory. Bob 2 Casale Dylan draws the line in the middle somewhere and walks it masterfully. This is one of the best love songs I have ever experienced and what really sets it apart is both Dylan’s lyrics and his delivery and tone. Lyrically the whole song has the singer wallowing ins elf-pity about his break-up. It goes through the regular points you’d expect, some pointing and blaming, some sad revelations, the whole “I’m like this because of you, we could have had it all” type of stuff, but it’s completely turned on it’s head when he utters the title: “But don’t think twice, It’s all right”. Simple, but packs a punch. It doesn’t matter how angry, sad, upset he is about the break-up. It doesn’t matter if he growls, spits, yells, cries the lyrics. He’s having a hard time with it, but he’s also accepted it. Telling his love that she has made her decision and shouldn’t look back on it is one hell of a thing to admit and accept, especially in heartbreak. You’d never see Adele and Taylor Swift sing something like that (especially since they’re always so hung up about their exes). This is an incredibly mature and adult break-up. He reminds us that break-ups are two-sided and the singer is not the only person going through it. We often forget that the person doing the breaking is also someone who has feelings and made the decision for a reason, but it’s easy tog et lost in our own emotions feeling our sadness is above theirs for being on the receiving end of the break-up. He takes her decision into consideration and basically tells her not to change her mind just because he’s feeling a certain way. What really brings the song to perfection is the cheery guitar playing that counter-acts the sad acceptance in the lyrics, bringing that bittersweet feeling that supports the theme of the song. Without it it may have been another sad song, but being bittersweet is exactly what the song was going for and he did it incredibly well.
I never thought I’d be this into Bob Dylan but I’m happy I finally got around to listening to him. I can admit that I was wrong all these years and it’s one of the few moments that I am happy to be wrong.
Does this change my feelings toward folk music in general? Not really, I still find folk music hard to sit through, but at least I have a taste of it that I could hold on my tongue.
Or ears… music, you know?
Song of Choice: Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
P.s. If you’re wondering, the Bob Dylan nicknames wasn’t intentional, I just started doing them and couldn’t stop. I have no reason or explanation for them, it just came to me in the moment and I went with it. So there.