Documentary Review: The God That Failed: Bob Dylan in his Time and Ours

David Shasha

Posted Oct 26, 2005      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Documentary Review: The God That Failed: Bob Dylan in his Time and Ours

Martin Scorsese, ֓No Direction Home (American Masters, PBS, 2005)

When I was growing up the very idea of Bob Dylan was enough to send a person into paroxysms of blind compulsive hero-worship.  Dylan was the biggest thing in culture for a generation.  His enigmatic posture only served to reconfirm his genius, a genius that was indeed the very essence of paradox.  The fact that Dylan could not be understood was proof positive of how great he was.

The word ԓenigma is perhaps the most accurate way to describe the man and the artist. 

DylanԒs legend was defined by the way in which he made himself and his songs opaque.  Upon approaching the art and the humanity of Bob Dylan one had to check all standard suppositions about what is expected of a person at the door.  All this mystery hid what was in essence a deeply flawed man whose talents never matched the legend.

In 1975, after years of seclusion and limited exposure to the public Dylan had re-emerged from this seclusion with a massive 1973 tour with The Band, but had remained almost completely out of the public eye since his 1967 motorcycle accident ֖ Dylan did an unannounced barnstorming tour of the Northeast called The Rolling Thunder Review where he reunited with old friends like Joan Baez, Bob Neuwirth and Roger McGuinn of the Byrds.  In typical Dylan fashion The Rolling Thunder Review was presented to half empty arenas and concert halls with shows being announced mere hours before the start time.  The show that I went to in New Haven began at 2:00 PM on a weekday after being announced that morning on the radio.  But the chance to see what was at that time a veritable god was something that sent shivers down my spine.

There was much about Bob Dylan that remained obscure and hidden.  As I said, this only added to the legend of the man.  But as the years went by, my own personal awareness of the deepening complexity of life has led me to re-assess the figure of Dylan and find that far from being an unfettered genius, Dylan was an often cynical opportunist who did indeed transform a generation and create a new way of seeing culture that frequently set out a world that was far more corrosive and far more unsympathetic than the one it had come to replace.

In the late 1950s changes were taking place in American culture.  The post-War boom was providing a newly emerging middle class with money and material possessions that provided for added leisure time and greater educational opportunity.  A comfortable age was ushered in by the election of Dwight Eisenhower as president and the rejection of the more FDR-like Adlai Stevenson.  Americans had created the American DreamӔ; a new idealism that was predicated upon things and not values.  This American Dream has been with us for many decades now and we cannot remember the altruism and the heroic values that had provided the backbone for our countrys culture.  Looking at the period from the time of the Civil War until the end of World War II, Americans were asked to sacrifice for their country and to give to one another to make their nation a better place.  The interregnum of the 1920s, an age of unfettered greed and corporate dominance, led to the Great Depression which only served to reinforce those altruistic and disciplined values that had been so much a part of the fabric of American life.

The Great Depression sparked new challenges and brought to the surface values and morals of self-sacrifice and self-discipline.  Moving into a situation where the world was imperiled by new forms of political tyranny in the guises of Fascism and Communism, America needed to emerge out of its traditional isolationism and engage with the larger world.  By defeating Germany in the 1940s and rebuilding Europe after its collapse, America was a power that used its vast resources to do the good and stabilize civilization.  Having replaced the European imperial powers, America sought to recalibrate Western power in a way that would lead to a furtherance of liberal democracy which was able to emerge slowly but surely on the European continent.

But in this context the emergence of the Soviet axis led to a renewed culture war over the nature of economic pre-eminence and political influence.  The Communist issue was one that would serve to divide Americans over the course of the 1950s and 1960s.

With the emergence of the famous House Un-American Activities Committee led by the enigmatic figures of Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon, the lawyers Roy Cohn and a young Robert Kennedy, a modern inquisition was begun that sought to purge the country of Soviet sympathizers.  Having been an ally in the War, the Soviet Union established its own spheres of influence among the American intelligentsia.  Many in the artistic and intellectual community became ғfellow travelers and saw in Soviet communism the answer to many of the social and economic ills that plagued this country. 

At a time of continued Jim Crow racism in the American South and labor difficulties in the northern centers of trade and commerce, communism was an attractive and a utopian system that attracted those who sought to redress the great inequalities in the American corporate system.  Young performers like Pete Seeger and his group The Weavers had followed in the footsteps of the Dustbowl Bard Woody Guthrie and the activist singer Paul Robeson.  The investigations of McCarthy which centered around government officials and the movie industry led to the ostracizing of many who harbored communist sympathies and created a chill in the political activities of these performers and creative artists.

After the defeat of what came to known as McCarthyism in the late 50s, people like Pete Seeger emerged to head a movement of Folk singers that was centered in New YorkԒs Greenwich Village.  Performing in the many smoky coffee houses on Bleecker Street, these acoustic guitar slingers had been informed by the traditions of people like Guthrie and Huddie Ledbetter, a black musician whose songs transcended the blues genre.  While American music had been formed by white musicians like Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family and Roy Acuff on the one side, and by a variegated Jazz tradition led by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and white musicians like The Dorsey Brothers, Benny Goodman and Frank Sinatra who served to make the music more popular and accessible to a still-racist general culture, the new Folk musicians had to do battle with deeply entrenched commercial and popular values.

Playing to small audiences in a bohemian atmosphere, the folkies spoke of politics and social justice.  They resurrected the Dust Bowl songs and the anti-Jim Crow sentiments of a musical underground that was now starting to rise to the surface of things.  Promoters like Harold Levenson and Albert Grossman found new ways to make this music appeal to a wider audience and a movement had been born with the release of the first LP by one of the most accessible of these groups Peter, Paul and Mary. 

As we see in Martin Scorseses Dylan documentary ғNo Direction Home, Grossman, later to become the architect of DylanԒs career in its early stages, formed Peter, Paul and Mary in a very careful and calculating manner.  Sending them off to Florida to practice we learn that Grossman kept the center of the group Mary Travers out of the Miami sun in order to keep a waif-like look that kept her looking pale.  Grossman was keenly aware that the surface sincerity of this new music had to be buttressed with a commercial aspect that included sex appeal and youth energy and passion.

At the time the music industry had been run by people like Mitch Miller, the legendary A&R head of Columbia records, later to be Bob Dylans home, who had created a formulaic pop sound that almost completely eviscerated the rough edges of country and jazz, those two uniquely American art forms which could often be unkempt and out there.  MillerҒs role, as was duplicated by Chet Atkins in Nashville, was to smooth out those rough edges and produce a palatable product that was guaranteed not to startle or offend.

The emergence of Elvis Presley in the late 1950s served to mongrelize the smooth pop sounds of the Johnny Mathises and Patti Pages of the day.  Presley delved deep into the Negro traditions of the South and its blues mannerisms and the mountain spirit of Bill Monroe to create a hybrid that was unfettered from the harsh chains of the pop sound.  Presley, however, had little effect on these new folk singers.  Presleys sound was bastardized by the big record companies in America and his real impact was perhaps larger in the UK than it was here.  PresleyҒs true heirs were a group from Liverpool known as The Beatles who were able to re-impress his anarchic sound on the American music scene.

Folk music seemed in the late 1950s and early 1960s to be the absolute antithesis to the spirit of the new Rock and Roll.  Dour and earnest to a fault, the folk singers preached social revolution in political terms and eschewed the vagaries of mainstream culture.  They were not, at least at the surface, interested in selling large amounts of records or connecting with masses of people.  They held their message on their sleeves and felt themselves to be a new clerical class of ascetics that sought to change the world.

It is here that we come to the story of Bob Dylan.  Having grown up more or less a vagabond after his birth in Minnesota, Robert Zimmerman took to the life of a carnival performer who scavenged for his living.  When he wrote his signature song Like a Rolling StoneӔ in 1965, Dylan knew well what it was to be on his own with no direction home.  The myth of Bob Dylan was created in his youth among the barkers and freaks of the circus world that he once called home.  Dylans youth was a journey through the back alleys of life; a world that would be reproduced in the surreal images of his most well-known songs, songs that were not based in any scholastic intellectual tradition, but in the ғOn the Road style beatnik persona of Jack Kerouac and the existential bohemian mysticism of Allen Ginsburg, a longtime Dylan friend and mentor.

DylanԒs persona was crafted in the hall of mirrors and in the shadow of bearded ladies and midgets.  His own image shifting was created in his adolescence.  While many of the folkies had gone to Ivy League schools and were raised in a middle class environment, Dylan was an exception to the general rule of the activist protest singer.  For Dylan becoming a folk singer was a way of fitting in and becoming accepted.  Once he had achieved what he was after, he ditched it all.  And this was to become the modus operandi of Bob Dylan: As an artist and a human being Dylan sought to get what he needed and get out.  His own genius was in his ability to conform to expectations and then to destroy those very expectations which he then insisted were never what he was about in the first place.

In his first years in the Village folk scene, Dylan began to learn the repertoire of people like Dave Van Ronk and mimic those sounds in his own compositions.  But Dylan was never emotionally tied to the causes that these performers were singing about and dissimulated a persona, something he would consistently do over the course of his career, which he used as a skin to be discarded at will.  Once he achieved what he sought, he would move on.

But in the initial stages of his career, Dylan attached himself to both the new performers and the old guard.  Having gotten the attention of scene-makers like Seeger and journalists like Ralph Gleason and Nat Hentoff, Dylan felt free enough to begin to add his own personal compositions to his set-list.  Dylan proved to be a canny judge of others and created a persona that was one part Jesus and one part Guthrie.  His early classic songs like BlowinӒ in the Wind, ԓWith God on Our Side and ԓThe Times They Are a-ChanginҔ are epic works that speak in a prophetic language that often verged on the hyperbolic.  These songs were statements from a young man who actually held no real commitment to the activist part of the folkie persona, but as statements they were taken by the growing audience for this socially aware music as anthems which brooked the social changes that were sought by the progressive community.

Dylan, like the Mr. Magoo that he would come to be over his career, wanted it both ways: He wanted to be a big star, loved and admired by many, and yet he also wanted to be a deeply aloof and private person who could do what moved him.  As a person who was not a bona fide intellectual, he continued to follow the commercial path of the folk movement over the course of his first few albums.  He dutifully wrote songs about blacks and the disenfranchised in order to curry favor with the insiders of the movement.  At the famous March on Washington in 1963 a scruff-necked Dylan appears as a relatively unknown singer, but one whose song BlowinӒ in the Wind, a foray into the ԓprotest tradition, had been sung by the photogenic Peter, Paul and Mary with Martin Luther King Jr. looking on. 

Dylan in this sense was a marketing genius: He had correctly intuited the requirements of the new social movement, of which he saw himself a marginal part at best, and fed that beast with what was seen as visionary statements of revolutionary activism.  This from a man, as Joan Baez well notes in the film, who never showed up at any of the many rallies and marches that were a central feature of the movement.

In this sense Dylan was, as would be the case in his hard climb to become a cultural legend, a wide-eyed opportunist who looked for the spotlight and once in that spotlight played it for all it was worth.   

Dylan linked up with Joan Baez in order to secure his place as an insider, only to turn his back on both Baez herself and the insider status that she provided him with.  Seen in ScorseseԒs film Dylan was a relentless social climber who knew that he wanted to be famous and sought out the most efficient way to achieve his goals.  Along the way, Dylan wrote some truly memorable songs that he himself, as would also be the case over the course of his career, would largely treat as throw-aways.  From an early point in the process, a Dylan song like Chimes of Freedom,Ӕ recorded by The Byrds in 1965, was aerated and given a deeper musical heft by the genius of Roger McGuinn and the innovative ways in which he brought out the rich melodicism of the track.  Dylans own version, par for the course, would be a speeded up performance that would suppress the rich hues of the melodiousness of the song.

In one of the many interview segments in ғNo Direction Home, culled from over 10 hours of interviews that Dylan recently did with his longtime manager Ԗ he refused, as is his standard practice, to participate in the making of the film Dylan rants in typical Dylan fashion against the uses to which his songs were put.  And yet Dylan֒s notoriety and celebrity were buoyed by The Byrds and by Peter, Paul and Mary.  His voice dripping with venom, Dylan insists that his songs had nothing to do with what would become known as Folk-Rock, that particular commercial form of music that served to electrify the sleepy guitars of the Greenwich Village bards and accentuate the wonder of the melodies that were so critical a part of these songs.

When we hear Dylans projection of his own personal anomie and his fierce antipathy for any sense of pluralism within music, we see emerging what I think is the ғreal Bob Dylan Ԗ a vicious and self-centered egotist whose self-absorption led a generation astray.  To make this clearer, the art of Bob Dylan projected a calculated selfishness that was promoted through a form of secular messianism which recast Dylan as a cultural god. 

It is very clear throughout No Direction HomeӔ that Dylan sought to craft this image in a relentless way, not really caring much about who he had to step on and who he ripped off.  This is not to say that Dylan lacked for talent and genius.  But Dylans genius was not expansive in the least.  His visionary poetry was filled with the sort of vagaries that increasingly perplexed his first and most ardent admirers who had seen Dylan as a central part of the movement for social change.

But true to his Kerouac-inspired fury, Dylan was not about making the world a better place.  His true goal was as a shameless self-promoter who was driven to become an icon.  His own sense of self and personal ambition separated him from the pack and once he had become a hero to the masses Җ at the time of the March on Washington and through his appearances on places like The Steve Allen Show his fake humility and shyness were on full display.  Allen, who had become famous for his attacks on Rock and Roll and the new popular culture, saw Dylan as the harbinger of a new serious and socially conscious culture that would in effect hold its ground against the frivolity of ֓Tutti Frutti and ԓWhole Lotta Shakin Going OnҔ and restore a gravitas to popular music that had been destroyed for these longhairs by The Beatles and Rolling Stones, two groups whose ethos was more in keeping with the idea of music as pure entertainment.

Scorsese, sadly, like many of his ilk, allows Dylan to be Dylan.  He does not attempt to engage any form of critical thinking about the man and his art and its political implications.  Not that approaching sycophantic critics like Greil Marcus or Christopher Hicks, both of whom have recently published major works on the Dylan mystique, would have made that much of a difference.  Scorsese accepts Dylan in terms that Dylan and his fans have turned into a veritable orthodoxy of belief: The profundity of Bob Dylan is left unquestioned.  His role as an arbiter of modern culture is not to be questioned and the beneficent influence he has had on our civilization is not to be put into jeopardy.

The narrative of No Direction HomeӔ traces Dylan the carnival-barker to the Bleecker Street Folksinger to the wide-eyed shaman of Blonde on Blonde.Ӕ  For Scorsese the key to the story is the way in which Dylan turned his back on the Greenwich Village scene and plugged in his instrument and created mayhem in 1965.  The very fact of Dylan going electricӔ should have come as little or no surprise to those who had been listening to his records, but is ultimately not really the point.  The very idea that in the very middle of the Civil Rights movement and in the aftermath of the assassination of JFK that Bob Dylan the GOD would turn his back on the cause a cause he was never actually committed to in the first place ֖ came as a shock to the cognoscenti.  In the famous episode at the Newport Folk Festival where Dylan had Michael Bloomfield and Al Kooper backing him with an electric fury, we see the paroxysms of anger that Dylan sparked off with his newӔ sound.

None of this really made much sense as blues players had always played Newport and did so with electric amplification.  But now it was the prize golden boy Bob Dylan who was seen as the great white hope of the social protest movement that sought not social change, but social distortion.  In many ways at Newport Dylan really started to find his voice.  But the deep complexities inherent in his opportunistic way of dealing with things began to catch up with him.  His lyrics became increasingly obscure and opaque while his sound began to reach for great levels of aggression and violent force.  The fan base lamented the loss of the clear platitudes of Hollis Brown,Ӕ Masters of WarӔ and Hattie CarrollӔ while Dylan was looking to break whatever image of himself he had created. 

Dylan created his own icon only to break it and fashion yet another one.

The newӔ Dylan was supercharged by the drugs and other forms of excess that became a ubiquitous part of the rock and roll lifestyle that had been enabled by the wealth and social prestige that accrued from the folkieӔ Bob.  Dylan had bought his freedom at the price of being chained to an image of himself that he could not easily be rid of.

Throughout No Direction HomeӔ we see the ways in which Dylan fought his own iconic status.  He would berate, belittle and abuse those around him.  A far cry from the lovable and frightened folkie of 1962, the 1965 Dylan was a megalomaniac who insisted that he was not a figure of any political significance and insisted that he had never been a protest singer.  Upon receiving an award from the Civil Liberties Union he averred that he was not worthy of it and had not done much to be a part of the political movements that he was supposedly a part of. 

Dylan was thus not merely a reluctant leader he was, as the director D.A. Pennebaker showed in his seminal film portrait of Dylan ֓Dont Look Back,Ҕ a self-centered and arrogant son of a bitch who had gotten too big for his own britches.  But all this controversy only served to skyrocket Dylan into a higher stratosphere of stardom and cultural celebrity.

With the release of his song Like a Rolling StoneӔ in 1965, a song that at its very core was a taunting lament of pure nihilism, Dylan was indeed the biggest musician in the world at least the most influential.  Every other musician ֖ including The Beatles sought to imitate Dylan.  And the revolution that Dylan accomplished in 1965, though not examined by Scorsese in any real depth, is one that did indeed change the landscape of music and its place in our culture.  Until ֓Like a Rolling Stone there was a very strict separation between what was considered ԓhigh culture and what was considered ԓlow culture in the pop world.  The Beatles had drawn from the well of Tin Pan Alley lyricism and the stately melodic teen pop of Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry and the southern roots of Ray Charles, but they had not adapted their music to the bohemian art culture of the intellectual fringes.  Dylan, now a very wealthy and well-known singer-songwriter, tapped into this intellectual world, a world that he had not really been schooled to participate in as a real equal, and raised the specter of that art to a new commercial and popular height.

So what Dylan did was to trade one form of artistic purism for another, one type of elitism for an equally exclusive elitism.  In the new bohemian art Dylan ditched the populist edge and social engagement of the old folk traditions.  Such traditions could continue to be found in Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez and, in a modified way, in the hybrid syncretism of The Byrds and BritainԒs brilliant Fairport Convention, the latter two groups having diligently explored the deepest recesses of the crystalline beauty of the folk traditions which produced an astonishing sound a sound that Dylan, as we have noted, never had much interest in developing.

So in his various aesthetic moves undertaken in the years that are covered in ֓No Direction Home (1962-1965) Dylan is shown as a pioneering trailblazer.  But Dylan in this context can equally be seen as an innovator whose own best moves were properly interpreted and enriched by others.  In this sense Dylan was a professional songwriter in the tradition of Irving Berlin and Cole Porter whose songs were best performed by others.  But now the idea of immediate relevance and personal confessionalism was taken to new levels of importance.  Dylan took the American pop song and made it more lyrically complex.  The question remained what were the causes and meanings of this new complexity.

And in this we can point to the arrogance and hubris of Bob Dylan as a self-anointed messianic figure; the harbinger of a new cultural moment.  To cite a pertinent example: Fairport ConventionԒs version of Dylans ғIll Keep it With MineҔ is a gem of rare emotional insight.  In the case of the Dylan attitude, the song, like many others, can be read as a model of solipsism and self-pretense.  Dylans love songs Җ Just Like a WomanӔ and DonӒt Think Twice Its All RightҔ  might be seen as brave statements of ֓telling it like it is but can equally be seen as indulgent and misogynistic in their demeaning and cheapening of female autonomy and self-respect.

Dylan was ultimately a paradox that was driven by equal parts genius and equal parts (c)rudeness.  He laid out the human condition in a way that was new and unprecedented in popular culture; the image of a person who spoke in a complex ideas and imagery but who was not tied to any conventional way of understanding what it meant to be a human being.

In the cognitive world of Bob Dylan human beings were in a state of primal conflict that precluded the values of a traditional humanism which would in effect promote altruism over selfishness, integrity over expediency.  The model of leadership that Bob Dylan made famous was one in which celebrity and wealth triumphed over humility and self-abnegation.  In the thunderous musical epics that Dylan made classics, the world was opaque rather than transparent, knowledge was a sham and immediacy of perception and self-gratification was the prime desideratum.   
The world that Bob Dylan and his new minions inherited was imperfect to be sure, but its imperfections were relatively minor in comparison with the new sense of individual empowerment that Dylan proclaimed from his pulpit.  The old God that Dylan thundered against Ԗ and that he would amazingly return many years later to as a Lubavitch Hasid in one incarnation and as an Evangelical Christian in yet another in his ֓Highway 61 Revisited was replaced in the 1960s counter-culture that Dylan was so much a part of by a new God that was a God of indulgence and corrosive selfishness.

In 1975 I saw Bob Dylan for the first time.  I was at the time a student at the Yeshivah of Flatbush High School where Bob Dylan had been something of a prophet on the order of Jeremiah.  I went to his concert in New Haven as a Muslim goes to Mecca for the Hajj.  I had been brainwashed to think that this Dylan and his magical words were like a new Torah, the Delphic Oracle of our time.

But as the years went by and I grew up and became more aware of life, of history and of human existence, I found that Bob Dylan had less and less to say to me.  With the exception of the atypical recordings called ԓThe Basement Tapes Ԗ a project that Dylan did with The Band back in 1967 and which have continued to languish in obscurity, but which stand as some of the most impassioned and classic traditional American recordings of the modern period Dylan has become, at least for me, the model of a person who cares not for others, who asserts his own privilege over others, and whose genius is not used to enrich others but to aggrandize he who holds the key to it.

Until today Dylan does not make himself available for public scrutiny.  He continues to hide himself like some sort of monk and has carefully crafted his image through the means of eccentricity and obscurantism.  Seeing him speak freely ֖ a term I would continue to use advisedly in these interviews we see a man who refuses to disclose the truth of who he is even while he continues to profit by and traffic in the convoluted and dysfunctional pseudo-mystical and pseudo-heroic image that he has so painfully maintained.  Rather than come clean and provide some measure of transparency, Dylan continues to play the outsider even while he is perhaps the biggest insider there is in American culture; a man whose claim to legendary status is second to none.

It is we, the idiots in the audience, who are the outsiders.  Dylan is the one who knows who he really is and yet has resolutely refused to present himself as a regular human being to us.  ֓No Direction Home is no different than any other Dylan artifact in this respect.  He continues to dissimulate and continues to shirk any sense of himself as a member of a human civilization that develops and grows because of the dialogic aspect of who we are and how we can give to one another the things that we all need.

Dylan is a man whose iconic status presided over the 1970s and 1980s, decades in which self-absorption became the key to what was thought of as human happiness.  Of course such ideas would be seen as mere caricatures of the things that Bob Dylan was saying in his songs in the mid-60s.  But even in a caricature one can see fragments of the truth.  In a world of selfish and brutal corporations and uncaring governmental bureaucracies, the cognitive and intellectual model of Bob Dylan as an American artist has permeated a world that is greedy, selfish, cold and uncaring Ԗ those very things that became signatures of the Dylan weltanschauung in songs like Lay Lady Lay,Ӕ Like a Rolling StoneӔ and The Times They are a-ChanginӒ all songs that serve as attacks on other human beings and demean the very fragile foibles and failings of average people.

Bob DylanԒs sense of elitism and personal entitlement has been translated into an American culture, that of the modern Baby Boomers, that has made the culture it replaced, Cold War America, seem benign in comparison.  Today we have the corrosiveness of the Dr. Phils and Oprah Winfreys whose own personal ethic would be incomprehensible without certain aspects of the Counterculture.  It is in this invasive psycho-babble that we can see the nefarious role that Like a Rolling StoneӔ has ultimately played: In contrast, lets say, to Burt Bacharach and Hal DavidҒs I Say a Little PrayerӔ  what would once have been considered by the elite counterculture as a piece of romantic idyllic tripe ֖ Like a Rolling StoneӔ promotes a supposed psychological and existential realismӔ that something like I Say a Little PrayerӔ  a short, poetic ode to a love that the elitist would deem ֓vulgar because of its simplicity Ԗ would be seen as lacking.

In the end, our commonplace lives are enriched, as the folk, jazz and bluegrass traditions well knew, by the prosaic elements of the everyday and the commonplace.  Human beings are simple and ask for little in their lives.  The increased pseudo-complexity of the mystical babble of Bob Dylans best-known songs took the simple pop song and turned it into a tortured and tortuous crap shoot that served to dehumanize and trivialize the most sacred values of the human being.  It provided us with new leaders who were able to tyrannize and dominate others in ways that lacked the naivety of previous generations.  Just try to compare Eisenhower to our current crop of leaders.  This is not to argue that Jim Crow or female subservience is good or should be promoted.  What it means to say is that tradition and history have ways of teaching us the ways in which we can change things and need not be erased from our moral lexicon.

Cynicism, a central feature of this new culture, served to trump the humanism of the past.

The great A.P. Carter stalked the rural southern communities for old songs that he could rewrite for a new time and place.  He found those songs, songs that spoke to the simple emotions and feelings of the average person, and overlaid them with some very simple poetry that has struck roots at the very foundation of our culture.  Bob Dylan took those traditions and spun them out into a program of selfishness and obscurantist indulgence that now serves to permeate our culture at almost every level.  Eschewing the homespun simplicity of the old ways, Bob Dylan raised the stakes of the personal and unleashed a new culture of violent narcissism on our civilization from which it has yet to recover.

In his own inimitable fashion Җ Dylan being Dylan he would never admit that he ever did such a thing.

If this be true, just let him give all the money and all the fame back and let us get on with the job of restoring to our culture its humanistic component, providing the real love and charity that the 60s Counterculture tried to destroy.