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.

Weekend Edition
November 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jonathan Cook
From an Open Internet, Back to the Dark Ages
Linda Pentz Gunter
A Radioactive Plume That’s Clouded in Secrecy
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Fires This Time
Nick Alexandrov
Birth of a Nation
Vijay Prashad
Puerto Rico: Ruined Infrastructure and a Refugee Crisis
Peter Montague
Men in Power Abusing Women – What a Surprise!
Kristine Mattis
Slaves and Bulldozers, Plutocrats and Widgets
Pete Dolack
Climate Summit’s Solution to Global Warming: More Talking
Mike Whitney
ISIS Last Stand; End Times for the Caliphate
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness, Part Two
James Munson
Does Censoring Undemocratic Voices Make For Better Democracy?
Brian Cloughley
The Influence of Israel on Britain
Jason Hickel
Averting the Apocalypse: Lessons From Costa Rica
Pepe Escobar
How Turkey, Iran, Russia and India are playing the New Silk Roads
Jan Oberg
Why is Google’s Eric Schmidt So Afraid?
Ezra Rosser
Pushing Back Against the Criminalization of Poverty
Kathy Kelly
The Quality of Mercy
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Gerry Brown
Myanmar Conflict: Geopolitical Food Chain
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Robert Redford’s Big Game in Nairobi
Katrina Kozarek
Venezuela’s Communes: a Great Social Achievement
Zoltan Grossman
Olympia Train Blockade Again Hits the Achilles Heel of the Fracking Industry
Binoy Kampmark
History, Law and Ratko Mladić
Tommy Raskin
Why Must We Sanction Russia?
Bob Lord
Trump’s Tax Plan Will Cost a Lot More Than Advertised
Ralph Nader
National Democratic Party – Pole Vaulting Back into Place
Julian Vigo
If Sexual Harassment and Assault Were Treated Like Terrorism
Russell Mokhiber
Still Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco: John Boehner and College Ethics
Louis Proyect
The Witchfinders
Ted Rall
Sexual Harassment and the End of Team Politics
Anna Meyer
Your Tax Dollars are Funding GMO Propaganda
Barbara Nimri Aziz
An Alleged Communist and Prostitute in Nepal’s Grade Ten Schoolbooks!
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Graham Peebles
What Price Humanity? Systemic Injustice, Human Suffering
Kim C. Domenico
To Not Walk Away: the Challenge of Compassion in the Neoliberal World
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Giving Thanks for Our Occupation of America?
Christy Rodgers
The First Thanksgiving
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “We Were Eight Years in Power”
David Yearsley
On the Road to Rochester, By Bike
November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail