Bob Dylan: American Trickster Songwriter & Singer

Bob Dylan: American Trickster Songwriter & Singer

In 1981, the „New York Times“ carried an article by Stephen Holden in which he wrote that Bob Dylan’s temperament is unalterably and essentially iconoclastic. The general sense of this characterization referred to the quintessential nature of Dylan’s personality as being that of a trickster par excellence! Many examples can be provided that demonstrate this kind of behavior on Dylan’s part. Here are a few of them: When it was a question of complying to censorship in connection with his appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, he refused to take part in it. Pressures to thrust the role of political spokesman or political correctness on him, he rejected or cleverly avoided, most notebly in the case of his China tour in 2011. He did not regard politics very highly; in a speech he said, „There’s no black and white, left and right to me any more; there’s only up and down and down is very close to the ground. And I’m trying to go up without thinking of anything trivial such as politics.“ His view on the media was not a bit better because it told people are lies. He frequently spared with journalists and interviews as was the case, for example, when asked on a television show about a movie he planned, a cowboy horror movie. Asked if he played the cowboy, he replied, „No, I play my mother.“ President Clinton admitted that he disturbed the peace of and discomforted even the powerful.
Salman Rushdie, in response to the award of the Nobel prize for literature to Bob Dylan, expressed his enthusiasm, by saying, „From Orpheus to Faiz, song and poetry have been closely linked. Dylan is the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition.“ Taking into account Bob Dylan´s Eastern European ancestral roots, it is to be noted that bards have played a significant role in the society and culture of that part of Europe; a recent example being Vladimir Vysotski. The bardic tradition has a long history, going back to pre-Christian times. With the change from native, so-called pagan religions to Christianity the knowledge and wisdom of previous times was adjusted and placed into Christian society through the bardic tradition. This deeply profound strain appears in Bob Dylan’s statements, such as, the world will eventually know that there is only one God, or in his song „Gotta Serve Somebody“, to which John Lennon responded shortly before his murder with one of his own, „Serve Yourself“.

 

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