FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Dylan and 9/11

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.

November 21, 2018
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Action Would Kill Imperialism
Kenneth Surin
Return to Denver: Clouds on the Horizon
Jonathan Cook
Netanyahu’s Ceasefire is Meant to Keep Gaza Imprisoned
John Steppling
Liar Liar
Bill Hackwell
Paradise Lost
Gary Leupp
“Maybe He Did, and Maybe He Didn’t:” Reflections on Morality in 2018
W. T. Whitney
Criminal Behavior: US May be Developing Biological Weapons
Zhivko Illeieff
How Media, Tech, and News Networks Normalize Trump’s Propaganda
NEVE GORDON - NICOLA PERUGINI
Migrant Caravan: Branding Migrants “Human Shields” Has a Deadly Motive
Wouter Hoenderdaal
Jordan Peterson’s Disturbing Views on Inequality
Dean Baker
Nicholas Kristof and the China Trade War
Colin Todhunter
Approaching Development: GMO Propaganda and Neoliberalism vs Localisation and Agroecology
November 20, 2018
John Davis
Geographies of Violence in Southern California
Anthony Pahnke
Abolishing ICE Means Defunding it
Maximilian Werner
Why (Mostly) Men Trophy Hunt: a Biocultural Explanation
Masturah Alatas
Undercutting Female Circumcision
Jack Rasmus
Global Oil Price Deflation 2018 and Beyond
Geoff Dutton
Why High Technology’s Double-Edged Sword is So Hard to Swallow
Binoy Kampmark
Charges Under Seal: US Prosecutors Get Busy With Julian Assange
Rev. William Alberts
America Fiddles While California Burns
Forrest Hylton, Aaron Tauss and Juan Felipe Duque Agudelo
Remaking the Common Good: the Crisis of Public Higher Education in Colombia
Patrick Cockburn
What Can We Learn From a Headmaster Who Refused to Allow His Students to Celebrate Armistice Day?
Clark T. Scott
Our Most Stalwart Company
Tom H. Hastings
Look to the Right for Corruption
Edward Hunt
With Nearly 400,000 Dead in South Sudan, Will the US Finally Change Its Policy?
Thomas Knapp
Hypocrisy Alert: Republicans Agreed with Ocasio-Cortez Until About One Minute Ago
November 19, 2018
David Rosen
Amazon Deal: New York Taxpayers Fund World Biggest Sex-Toy Retailer
Sheldon Richman
Art of the Smear: the Israel Lobby Busted
Chad Hanson
Why Trump is Wrong About the California Wildfires
Dean Baker
Will Progressives Ever Think About How We Structure Markets, Instead of Accepting them as Given?
Robert Fisk
We Remember the Great War, While Palestinians Live It
Dave Lindorff
Pelosi’s Deceptive Plan: Blocking any Tax Rise Could Rule Out Medicare-for-All and Bolstering Social Security
Rick Baum
What Can We Expect From the Democrat “Alternative” Given Their Record in California?
Thomas Scott Tucker
Trump, World War I and the Lessons of Poetry
John W. Whitehead
Red Flag Gun Laws
Newton Finn
On Earth, as in Heaven: the Utopianism of Edward Bellamy
Robert Fantina
Shithole Countries: Made in the USA
René Voss
Have Your Say about Ranching in Our Point Reyes National Seashore
Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail