Friday, June 10, 2011

Fuck Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan turned 70 this year and my first thought was: good—he’ll keel over any day now. Then I realized that would be the worst thing that could happen, as surely I’d be forced to suffer tributes, wall-to-wall TV footage, ubiquitous re-releases and rarities, and every Starbucks within 100 miles (which is approximate 70) playing his music from open to close.

I’ve never understood the cult of Bob Dylan. Okay, he has a handful of good songs, but he’s not a poet. Sorry, folks—he’s not. Joyce Mansour, Ernesto Cardenal, Ciaran Carson, C. K. Williams, Byron, Anna Akhmatova, and Farugh Farrokhzad are poets. He’s a songwriter. If he ever wins the Nobel Prize for literature, which his worshipers claim may happen, I’ll know that the Swedes have also sipped the Kool-Aid.

This morning I was strolling through the pedway on the way to work, sleepy from the train ride and a bit grumpy, when “Like a Rolling Stone” butted into my head via the crappy speakers outside Au Bon Pain. I tried to describe Dylan’s voice to my wife and the best I could up with was: he sounds like a gopher dying inside a whale’s asshole. I was proud of that one.

Okay, Tom Waits, Kevin Sharp, and Eye are three of my favorite vocalists; clearly I do not always listen to singers with perfect voices. But Bobbie Zimmerman’s voice just bugs me. And his harmonica playing is brutal. And his songs are often more frustrating than brilliant. “Ballad of a Thin Man” for example, is a song I always liked, but the last verse is so awful it ruins the whole thing. But nobody wants to say that as Bob is beyond reproach in our post-baby boom world that seems to follow piped pipers of his sort. I think it has to do with his carefully constructed enigmatic persona. Yeah, he’s a rebel and his harmonica has been described a big middle finger (though I’m not sure to whom), but I’ve suffered through Don’t Look Back and I have to say that his antics in that film are very annoying, occasionally callow, and often self-important. He was buying his bullshit early on and the world followed suit. He’s managed to pad that out to a very long career. Well, good for him, and, to paraphrase Robinson Jeffers (another actual poet), I’m happy to let the duped stay duped.

Jesus, I just had to get this off my chest. Thanks for listening. I feel better now.