Friday, July 07, 2006


Existential Friday: End of Part One

B and I recently watched the two-DVD set of No Direction Home, Scorcese's documentary of Bob Dylan's transformation from folk to rock singer.

Old news -- the film has long been moved out of the "new releases" section of the video store. And if you're a Bob Dylan maven, pretty much everything in it is apparently old news.

For me -- a Bob Dylan fan but not a maven -- it's fascinating. I love the images of Greenwich Village circa 1960, the back-story of the music industry as it transitioned from popular 1950s crooners into (ultimately) Rock, the original footage of both live and studio performances by Dylan, home movies of Hibbing, Minnesota, and great interviews with era musicians.

Most of all, I love the interview footage with Dylan himself, which I'd never seen anywhere. You're tempted to say, looking at this wrinkled 60-something imp with the graying mop of curly hair, that he's wasted, a shadow of his former self. And yet he's his old self. I mean, isn't his former self a shadow?

I'm totally on board with the idea that Dylan is, or was, a genuis. To me, he had a genius for words that are shallow and deep at the same time. He would purposely strive for the resonant phrase that is vague enough to be meaningful to everybody, and then laugh at you for finding meaning in it. The most repetitive theme in a lifetime of interviews is him "debunking" interpretations of his lyrics (or, analogously, of his choice of the name "Dylan").

The shallow/deep character, to me, goes a long way toward explaining how a song like Blowin in the Wind can be the most exquisitely meaningful folk song in the world in 1963 and an unplayable cliche less than 10 years later.

What I find endlessly fascinating is the compressed time span for popular music since Dylan hit the scene. Five years is a small fraction of a life -- how much has changed in the past five years of your life? -- yet it's an age in music. Musicians can go from #1 hit to game show host in five years. In the five year span from 1961-66, Dylan goes from his first album, when he records not one original song and indeed has only even written a couple of songs, to accoustic folk icon, to newly-minted electric rock star. It's a whole career.

Though Dylan's career was longer than most popular musicians -- a 13 year run, if you take Blood on the Tracks (1974) to be his last great album -- his star was never higher than when he performed Blowin in the Wind at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963.

The Newport Folk festival marks the "end of part I" of the two-part, two-DVD movie. Arguably, it was the "end of part I" -- the accoustic part -- of Dylan's career. He was 22.

How many parts are there in a life? Just two? I'm pretty sure my part I ended a few years ago. What about yours?

I recently entered part III. Or I'm still in part II, and the credits are rolling. Sometimes it's hard to tell.

Most movie sequels tend to be worse than the original. Fortunately, this needn't be true in real life.
It's not enough to just say that your part one ended a few years ago. We'd like to hear a description of your parts.

As for me, I can't even begin to answer the question about what part of my life I am in. I just want this part that I am in right now -- this midlife crisis part -- to end already.
Tonya, you haven't even BEGUN your mid-life crisis. You're still too young :)

I'm in Part IV or V... I've lost count. I'm certainly in "mid-life" crisis or angst, who can say? But changing careers for the 3rd time certainly.

eyjlzjcy - (eye-jizzle-juicy) (1) the stuff that's usually in the corner of your eye upon awakening, but before it hardens into crust. (2) someone who is very easy on they eye.
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