FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Dylan and 9/11

by David Vest

Let’s say you woke up on Sept. 11 and saw the World Trade Towers collapse on television. Later that morning, numbed and confused, you tried to get back to normal life so you went out and bought Love and Theft, the new Bob Dylan album. You didn’t feel much like listening to music, but you put it on anyway. And soon you were asking yourself:

Did he write these songs this morning?!? How could he get this album in the stores within moments after these things happened?

Maybe you picked up the Village Voice, where Greg Tate was asking, “What did Dylan know, and when did he know it?”

Man, he knew it before we were born.

“Things are breaking up out there,” he sings. Unbelievable. But you better believe it.

“My Captain, he’s decorated. He’s well-school, and he’s skilled,” he sings. “He’s not sentimental. Doesn’t bother him at all, how many of his pals have been killed.”

Incredible. He released an album about what’s going on today, and somehow he did it today.

But you’d have felt the same way, wouldn’t you, had he released it on July 5, or August 9 — or March 12, 2012.

This record will sound prophetic a hundred years from now. That’s what prophets are all about. It’s not that they predict what will happen tomorrow. Anyone can claim to do that. It’s that they show you what’s coming down right now.

“One day, you’ll open up your eyes, and you’ll see where we are,” he sings.

You will, too. Might even be today.

And who’s that singing “meet me in the moonlight, alone”? Is it Dylan? Is it some gentleman in a dustcoat (whose voice is dry and faint as in a dream)? Is it Death who kindly stops his carriage? Satan your Adversary? Tiny Tim? Bin Laden? Zorro?

“I know when the time is right to strike,” he sings.

Something’s happening here, and you still don’t know what it is.

But you know one thing: Shakespeare is our co-pilot. And Charley Patton. And Spencer Tracy, too.

“I been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down,” he sings. It’s a bad day in Black Rock, and you’ve stayed in Mississippi a day too long, and it’s your turn to cry awhile.

It’s not that he turns out some new phrases that instantly enter the language like they owned it. It’s more that he shows you what’s been there all the time, if you could only hear it.

High water everywhere. And poison wine, and sugar-coated rhyme.

“The game’s the same, it’s just up on another level,” he sings. And you know there’s no one else on this level, no one at all. You hear that voice and you know that any other voice would be utterly humbled by these songs. Who else is going to sing them? Who else could have built up all that tension in those guitars and never released it, never spilled it, never let it dissipate?

And who but Dylan could have released a masterpiece on September 11, of all days?

“I can see what everybody in the world is up against,” he sings, but not like a man boasting, no, not at all.

Besides, you have the evidence. CP

David Vest is a writer, poet and piano player for the Cannonballs. A native of Alabama, he now lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit his webpage for samples of the Cannonballs’ brand of take no prisoners rock & roll and other Vest columns: http://www.mindspring.com/~dcqv

More articles by:

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail