From Woody Guthrie To Walt Whitman

Posted: December 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

Like every great poet, Dylan honed his craft by always going forward, without any concessions to whatever people thought of his work. As such he has constantly defied expectations. Folk singer, activist, going electric, rejecting politics, retiring in the world of Nashville country music, becoming a fundamentalist Christians, engaging on a Never Ending Tour where every night is a surprise with no set list, no “greatest hits concerts” and often songs that no one would ever expect him to play.

Throughout his career, there is one constant though. The evolution of his writing towards lyricism. From fact based folk songs to metaphor based folk song to electric modernist/beat poet/stream of consciousness rock to traditional country music and finally to the place where the greatest poets all settle; lyrical poetry.

Yet, in the mind of the mainstream public, he is still stuck in the folk activist category and even critics are stuck in his 1965/1966 trilogy that they constantly hail to be his greatest work.

Yet, if one compares the two lyrics below, it is obvious that his latest work by far outweighs those revered trilogy songs. The first one is not even poetry but just (somewhat) clever wordplay. The second one on the other hand is a masterpiece of lyricism…

“Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don’t wanna be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don’t work
’Cause the vandals took the handles”

(Subterranean Homesick Blues -1965)

“Pride will vanish
And glory will rot
But virtue lives
And cannot be forgot
The bells
Of evening have rung
There’s blasphemy
On every tongue
Let them say that I walked
In fair nature’s light
And that I was loyal
To truth and to right
Serve God and be cheerful
Look upward well beyond
Beyond the darkness of masses
The surprises of dawn”

(Cross The Green Mountain – 2008)

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