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Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize

October 14, 2016

img_0894So Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize to which he says . . . well he was doing a concert in Las Vegas last night and has yet to comment.  You can read the tweets from all the elated and aghast literati, most of whom I have never heard of, never read anything by, which I guess says a lot about my qualifications to weigh in on the Nobel Prize for Literature . . . but damn, this just could not be any better.

I have seen Dylan in concert a few times.  I have never gotten the folks who do this autobio interpretive stuff on Dylan . . . like the commentator on the Yupyup podcast I used to listen to who went on about how the Tempest album chronicled the latest in Dylan’s failed relationships with women, or folks who railed against his Shadows in the Night album – but I heard him sing Autumn Leaves live and it blew me away.

One of the times I saw him was at the 2003 Jubilee Jam festival in Jackson Mississippi.  It was an open stage and I got there about one hour before Dylan was set to go on to get a good spot front and center.  I am not a crowd person.  So a couple of minutes before show time and the folks are doing sound checks and things, and the crowd behind me is pushing forward and I am getting claustrophobic, but Dylan finally comes out and leads off with Maggie’s Farm and damn that was good.  And there are all of these 20-somethings with their cell phones recording stuff and yelling . . . I got a bit stressed, finished listening to the song, and then elbowed my way to the back of the crowd for the rest of the set.

But here is really the most exciting part of that concert.  Charles Evers, brother of slain Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers was at Jubilee Jam.   Dylan’s song Only a Pawn in Their Game is about the assassination of Medgar Evers. Donna Ladd, editor of the Jackson Free Press, tried to orchestrate a meeting with Dylan, that seemed like it was not going to happen, but then as Donna Ladd tells the story . . .

When they let us through the fence, the scene suddenly became quiet and reverent with everyone seemingly scared to blink. I stopped next to Malcolm and Holly. Then Bob Dylan appeared wearing his white cowboy hat. He warmly grasped Mr. Evers’ hand and held it for a good five minutes while they talked eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart, man-to-man. They both nodded a lot and seemed emotional. I didn’t try to get closer. This was between two giants of the Civil Rights Movement, and the man they—we—had lost to hatred. I blinked back tears.

Suddenly, Mr. Evers turned around and took my arm, pulling me forward. Mr. Dylan slowly turned his gaze to my face and reached for my hand. I shook it, just looking into his eyes, as Mr. Evers told him who I was, that I had a newspaper and that we’re trying to bridge racial gaps and do good things in Jackson. My heart was in my toes. “I’m honored to meet you” is all I said.

Now that is a magical moment!

At any rate, for everyone who is just so bummed that Dylan got the Nobel for literature, there is Mr. Tambourine Man to show why.  When I was a Freshman at Purcell High School, Brother Glassmayer (a Marianist dude, it was a Catholic school) proclaimed during homeroom when listening to the line “smoke rings of my mind” proclaiming “yes it is about marijuana” with all the conviction his authority as a homeroom teacher could muster.

This, dare I say poem, has the lines:

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

Which I rank right up there with W.S. Merwin’s The Wave or Ferlinghetti’s Moscow in the Wilderness, Segovia in the Snow (which I have as a signed broadside no less) . . . but they haven’t won a Nobel Prize for Lit either.

Which reminds me, I started out as an English Lit major, so maybe I do have some creds there – but I could only muster an 0.7 GPA back then, so maybe not.

I heard Judy Collins talk about how she was at a house in New York when she heard Dylan singing from a closed bedroom early in the morning, and she sat outside the door and listened to him compose Mr. Tambourine Man.  Now that would have been a blast.

So, don’t hum Mr. Tambourine Man or think of Dylan or the Byrds singing the song, but just read this or speak these words below . . . it works for me  . . .

Mr. Tambourine Man

by Bob Dylan

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Though I know that evenin’s empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship
My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip
My toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’
I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way
I promise to go under it

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Though you might hear laughin’, spinnin’, swingin’ madly across the sun
It’s not aimed at anyone, it’s just escapin’ on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin’
And if you hear vague traces of skippin’ reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it’s just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn’t pay it any mind
It’s just a shadow you’re seein’ that he’s chasing

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2016 8:40 pm

    I’m glad you wrote this. Cool memories but also I saw the news headline and didn’t really get it. Now I do. He does deserve it.

    • October 14, 2016 8:58 pm

      So, you can go here and read about the criteria for the Nobel Prize for literature and realize that there is plenty of room to argue both sides or actually about 50 different sides to whether he should have got the award or not. For me, I am on the side that is pleased.

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