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In the spring of 1963 Studs Terkel introduced Chicago radio listeners to an up-and-coming musician, not yet 22 years old, "a young folk poet who you might say looks like Huckleberry Finn, if he lived in the 20th century. His name is Bob Dylan."
I remember, a million years ago, hearing my dad listen to “A hard rain’s a-gonna fall” and I was just old enough and had heard it just enough that I started howling “a hard raaaaaain”, and my dad laughed.
I’ve been listening to Dylan tunes in some form or another for as long as I can remember, and I still don’t understand most of them. I remember frisbee golfing in high school in Glencoe and immediately after driving nearly collapsing to the ground at the realization of what “the sun’s not yellow, it’s chicken” means.
But through all that time, two things have always been true:
- This guy is so deep, so profound, that every line can and should be analyzed or taught in a graduate level philosophy class
- Very few of Dylan’s songs are really about any one thing, but more a compilation of lots of bits and pieces that together paint a picture.
This interview has, to some degree, blown my mind. My two Dylan axioms have been somewhat shaken.
First of all, holy wow Dylan wrote this stuff when he was young. I mean young. Sure, he’s brilliant and has an understanding of things that I don’t, but hearing him try desperately to articulate such “profound” feelings reminds me more of listening to a stoned Dead-head than a philosopher or a poet (like Allen Ginsberg). I don’t mean to belittle him, I’m just quite surprised.
Anything worth thinking about. …that means about everything. Hehe.
Second, some of these songs really are about things. After having a chat about Dylan’s friends, and commenting about how he’s changed but they haven’t, he breaks into “Bob Dylan’s Dream,” and it seems so clear:
How many a year has passed and gone / And many a gamble has been lost and won / And many a road taken by many a friend / And each one I’ve never seen again
I wish, I wish, I wish in vain / That we could sit simply in that room again / Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat / I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that
I had never thought about that song in any way other than little pieces, and after hearing the discussion about his lost friends and then that song, it all makes beautiful sense.
Anyway, the whole thing is worth listening if only for the rendition of “Boots of Spanish Leather” around 34 minutes.
(Note: Dylan insists that the “hard rain” is not about an atomic rain.)