Now the bricks lay on Grand Street
Where the neon madmen climb
They all fall there so perfectly
It all seems so well timed
And here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice
Oh, Mama, is this really the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again
An Email To My Sister In Fort Erie
My sister Sharon lives in Fort Erie with her husband, Dr Bob, retired. She spends a lot of time in the summer cruising around the Internet and watching baseball.
She’s the only woman I know with a full MLB package which enables her to watch any game that’s going on in the entire league right up to the playoffs.
My sister is always sending me interesting stuff because she’s smart and knows where to find it. I have written more than a few posts based on links she has sent me.
She also knows that I am a huge fan of Bob Dylan, have been pretty much all my life and that I often use bits of his lyrics to preface my posts here on beBee and WordPress.
This week she sent me a link to a one hour interview with Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller fame. Penn is one of those Americans who really gets what’s going on. He’s a writer, magician, big time entrepreneur and Libertarian. So this interview touches a lot of bases.
But my sister directed me to the part of the interview where Penn talks specifically about Bob Dylan and what he means to the world, not just the world of music, but the world of art and the world of letters, because Dylan is first and foremost, a writer.
I guess, although she didn’t come right out and say it, my sister was trying to figure out the basis for my fascination with him.
If you open this link, https://youtu.be/D3JX4m4nJKw and go to minute 39, this is where the discussion turns to Dylan.
Penn sums it all up amazingly well. There are are lot of big time people in the world who more or less worship Bob Dylan. Steve Jobs and Salman Rushdie are among them. If you listen to what Penn has to say, I think you’ll have a pretty good idea why.
BTW…the rest of the interview is equally interesting. Interesting people have a knack for that, so I encourage you to listen to the whole thing.
What follows is the reply I wrote to my sister after listening to this interview.
Thanks for this clip. Penn Jillette is an extremely literate individual. His observations about Bob Dylan are right on the money, at least from my point of view.
I’m convinced that I would never have become the mediocre writer I am without having discovered Dylan.
I distinctly remember hearing Like a Rolling Stone on the radio back in the mid-sixties and thinking, holy shit, I’ve never heard anything like that. After that I made it a point to find out who this Dylan guy was.
And in the process of constantly being inspired by his uniqueness and the magic of his words, I became a writer. Not as a form of emulation, but as a result of inspiration.
I have the best Dylan lyric site bookmarked and often go there just to read. It’s inspirational but not in a godlike way. Like Penn Jillette says, what you get out of it is art. It really does make you appreciate the world and all it can be through the soul and voice of one man.
Leonard Cohen, in his own way, has the same sort of effect on me, but having read his biography, I get the feeling that he is trying to please people very hard. Maybe that’s Jewish guilt or something.
Writers, it seems, have always been to be trying to unearth new stuff about themselves. I have, just over the past year or so started to dig into my past a bit, something I have always been afraid to do for some unknown reason.
One of the things I have discovered in reflecting on my past was that life was not so bad back when we were kids, at least not for me. I find that on balance I have more good memories than bad.
But I digress. Writers will do that. Even mediocre ones.
There are really are very few comparisons that one can make to Dylan.
A lot of the great artists are working off some sort of angst or other, but Dylan just seems to observe and reflect what he sees, mainly so that he can understand it himself, I suppose. Pretty much everybody else you can think of is just trying to be a rock star or some sort of musical ambassador. I guess maybe Hank Williams was an original in his own way.
Dylan started off as a Woody Guthrie protege but developed his own voice very quickly once people started to pay attention. On the musical side, he owes a lot to Robbie Robertson and a couple of other producers like John Hammond, especially Bob Johnson and even Daniel Lanois later on. He learned a lot from these people about arrangements and presentation, although he probably would have been just fine playing a guitar by himself.
Anyway, it was great to hear this interview. So thanks for sharing it. I’m going to do the same.
Almost every writer I know, and I know a few, has someone or something that inspired them to start the long journey of working in words. And for some of them some of them, it was Dylan for sure.
I have always admired the fact that nothing I have ever heard of his sounds like it was created for any purpose other than to be a Bob Dylan song. That is so rare in today’s world.
He just seems to write about the stuff that interests him without any apparent regard as to how it might be perceived by others. He is trying to explain the world to himself first and after that, let the chips call where they may.
I know a few people like that, and a few people think of me sort of that way as well. Personally I think everybody who writes anything for the sake of writing it should be that way 100% of the time.