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Rock on, Bobby Dylan

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“Come gather ’round people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You’ll be drenched to the bone.

If your time to you

Is worth savin’

Then you better start swimming’

Or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’.”

The song was from the 1960s and Bob Dylan, who is widely noted as the most acclaimed and influential songwriter of the past half century, was talking about the changes rocking the country during that era of protests, demonstrations, love-ins and generation gaps. He was right on target, saying in his music of the day what political and social analysts would discuss for the next few decades in retrospect.

“Come senators, congressmen

Please heed the call

Don’t stand in the doorway

Don’t block up the hall

For he that gets hurt

Will be he who has stalled

There’s a battle outside

And it is ragin’.

It’ll soon shake your windows

And rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin’.”

Dylan, who the Associated Press recently wrote “brought rock from the streets to the lecture hall,” received an honorary Pulitzer Prize last week for what the Pulitzer judges called his “profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”

The break through for rock ’n roll was substantial. The AP noted that “the Pulitzer judges, who have long favored classical music, and, more recently, jazz, awarded an art form once dismissed as barbaric, even subversive.”

Rough, certainly, but barbaric… that’s a bit harsh.

“You may be an ambassador to England or France,

You may like to gamble, you might like to dance,

You may be the heavyweight champion of the world,

You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed,

You’re gonna have to serve somebody,

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

And he wrote classics like nobody else. “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Just Like A Woman,” “Lay, Lady, Lay,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Simple Twist of Fate,” “Positively 4th Street,” “Too Much of Nothing,” “Shelter from the Storm,” “Hurricane,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “All Along the Watchtower” … “Blowin’ in the Wind.” All meaningful, and how the people loved to sing along…

“How many roads must a man walk down

Before you call him a man?

Yes, ‘n’ how many seas must a white dove sail

Before she sleeps in the sand?

Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly

Before they’re forever banned?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

And there were tough, bluesy love songs, like “It Ain’t Me Babe.”

“Go ’way from my window,

Leave at your own chosen speed.

I’m not the one you want, babe,

I’m not the one you need.

You say you’re lookin’ for someone

Never weak but always strong,

To protect you an’ defend you

Whether you are right or wrong,

Someone to open each and every door,

But it ain’t me, babe,

No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe,

It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe.”

And he sang of the tough side of life:

“How does it feel

How does it feel

To be without a home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone?”

But think of it: Rock ’n roll and Dylan nail an honorary Pulitzer! Yes, the times they have been a-changing. But could hip-hop or rap be in that distinguished class some day, too? Five years ago I would have scoffed. Today, I’m impressed. The lesson? Art excels from wherever it starts to a pinnacle, then transforms itself and reaches again and again.

Angelo S. Lynn

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