Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Election Day Bob Dylan Listenings

As I have written in this space before, Election Day brings my music listenings squarely to the doorstep of Bob Dylan. Just because, I guess. Or perhaps because no one American has so consistently written and sang about the American Experience as well or as articulately as Mr. Zimmerman has. And no American Experience is more American than the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Election Day should be the great equalizer for all of us. I know it's a very naive thing to say that it is in fact that, but it should be. One person, one vote. Every gets their shot, one shot, each year to make their voices and opinions heard. One person, one vote. Hundreds of millions of Americans voicing their beliefs on their own, yet no one is alone. At least no one should be. We do it alone, but together. As Americans.

That's why I still love Election Day and still look forward to casting my vote this day every year, just as I have for the last 31 years. And that this year my 18-year-old son gets to vote with me for the first time? Even better.

So with that "alone together" theme, I give you this year's choice of Bob Dylan albums and songs. In my very humble and perhaps misguided opinion, it is one of his three greatest records ever, yet one seldom thought of among his giants. John Wesley Harding.

It was revolutionary for its time 50 years ago when it was released and remains so now. After Dylan's electric hulabaloo. After Blonde on Blonde. After Don't Look Back and the "Dylanization" of the music world. After the motorcycle crash and his self-imposed exile. And he came back with a quiet, folkier yet razor's edge sharp album in JWH that was startling in its artistic and lyrical simplicity. It spoke so loudly of the tumultuous times that 1967 brought and 1968 was about to bring (the album was released just after Christmas), yet did it in measured, at times hushed tones. It remains sui generis in his catalog or anyone else's. A true, endearing work of art by an all-time master.

And today's song is one of the quieter, more solemn tunes from that quieter, more solemn album. "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine." Sung to the same tune as the epic worker's folk tune, "Joe Hill," there's a line in "St. Augustine" that really hit me as I listened to it today, thinking about Election Day and all it connotes for us:

"No martyr is among you
Whom you can call your own.
So go on your way accordingly,
But know you're not alone."

Amen. Through it all we're still here. And today we still vote. So go do it. And know you're not alone.

No comments:

Post a Comment