October 3, 2006
The Genius of Bob Dylan
A friend recently sent me an article called The Genius of Bob Dylan from the latest edition of Rolling Stone. I have been a Dylan fan for as long as I can remember liking music, and so any talk with him would be entertaining for me, but I found this interview insightful and profound on a deeper level than your typical musician interview. Dylan really delves into the concepts of art and fame, and ultimately what it means to be human. I have cut and paste a few choice excerpts, but I suggest you read the article in its entirety here
Here are the highlights:
"This is how I feel? Why do I feel like that? And who's the me that feels this way? I couldn't tell you that, either. But I know that those songs are just in my genes and I couldn't stop them comin' out."
As ever, Dylan is circling, defining what he is first by what he isn't, by what he doesn't want, doesn't like, doesn't need, locating meaning by a process of elimination
"You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them. There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like -- static. Even these songs probably sounded ten times better in the studio when we recorded 'em. CDs are small. There's no stature to it. I remember when that Napster guy came up across, it was like, 'Everybody's gettin' music for free.' I was like, 'Well, why not? It ain't worth nothing anyway.' ". . .
"The only fans I know I have are the people who I'm looking at when I play, night after night."
"I don't listen to any of my records. When you're inside of it, all you're listening to is a replica. I don't know why somebody would look at the movies they make -- you don't read your books, do you?"
"I can't stand to play arenas, but I do play 'em. But I know that's not where music's supposed to be. It's not meant to be heard in football stadiums, it's not 'Hey, how are you doin' tonight, Cleveland?' Nobody gives a shit how you're doin' tonight in Cleveland."
"You risk your life to play music, if you're doing it in the right way."
The struggle to capture Dylan and his art like smoke in one particular bottle or another seemed laughable to me, a mistaken skirmish fought before it had become clear that mercurial responsiveness -- anchored only by the existential commitment to the act of connection in the present moment -- was the gift of freedom his songs had promised all along. To deny it to the man himself would be absurd
"If I was me, I'd cover my songs too."
"And you know, when all's said and done, maybe I was never part of that art form, because my records really weren't artistic at all. They were just documentation. Maybe bad players playing bad changes, but still something coming through."
And my favorite:
"Let's face it, you're either serious about what you're doing or you're not serious about what you're doing. And you can't mix the two. And life is short."
So get serious about what you do, whatever that is!