Why is this important?
Following the Great Depression and the end of World War II, America found itself the most wealthy, most politically powerful, and culturally influential country on Earth. By the mid-1950’s, America had an infrastructure for instantaneous, continuous, nationwide communication as well as a nationwide interstate highway system. A generation of youth, the so-called baby boomers, had grown-up in relative economic prosperity, had been educated to expect, felt entitled to, and had seen glimpses of the full promises of peace, democracy, freedom, opportunity, and civil rights. When that generation came of age, many, many of them looked around and saw injustice. The result was the social turmoil of the 1960’s. Bob Dylan was the reluctant voice of that generation.
Yes, I did see the Martin Scorcese documentary on PBS the last two nights, or most of it anyway. I missed the first 10 minutes of the first night and the first 40 minutes of the second. The rest I taped. I had to drop off my oldest son at basketball practice and pick him up. I watched what I was able to and then watched all of what I had taped, the next day. There is another public broadcasting station that will be broadcasting the whole thing in another few weeks or so, so I can see the parts I missed. I will write about it at length, later, but for right now just let me say this. What really impressed me was that, in polemical contrast to most stars, Bob was startlingly humble and unassuming throughout.
I confess that during the performances of his more classic songs, I cried. I love the version of Desolation Road that is in the documentary, including the alternate lyrics. It was so fresh and warm. Visions of Johanna was so authentically intimate. And that was a song I had never been into before. I don’t want to try and list all the performances I loved because I would leave some out by mistake.
While I’m at it, let me mention that I did read Chronicles when it came out. I do intend to post a review here; it just hasn’t fallen into place yet. I had purchased Live At the Gaslight, the week it came out, and today, I went down to Starbucks and bought No Direction Home CD.