A few years ago, legendary troubadour-poet-folk icon Bob Dylan passed an important milestone. No, not his 60th birthday. The point at which he's been making bad albums longer than he was making good ones. And for someone as monumentally important to both music and politics, that's just sad. Not that every tune on every album since Infidels (which, in its own right was very strange) has sucked. But rather that they've just been ordinary. Had these albums been cranked out by, oh say, Randy Newman, it wouldn't be so disappointing. In fact, for Randy, it'd be downright impressive. But we're talking about BOB fucking DYLAN here.
I suppose I should be more forgiving. After all, Eric Clapton descended into mediocrity decades ago, and it hasn't seemed to hurt him (or his fans) any. And Jimmy Page hasn't played a daring solo since the late 70s. But somehow I expected more of Dylan. He did, at his prime, set the bar very high. He was, at one point, our society's oracle, and for those of us who've never been able to predict even next year's style of sneakers, being an oracle is no easy job. But for years Dylan surfed ahead of the curl. He was our dreamer and our conscience. He defied efforts to classify or commercialize him (we'll ignore that Victoria's Secret TV ad). When the uniform of the folkies got too constricting, he grabbed an electric guitar. He recorded with Johnny Cash long before it was hip. He's been covered by Hendrix.
I don't know what happened. Maybe we all just lose our edge, but when it's the neighborhood plumber the worst that happens is a few leaky sinks. When it's a nation's socio-political conscience manifest in musical poetry, well, the consequences are substantially worse.
I'm not completely heartless. Just about any song from Blood on the Tracks can still make me cry. And no, despite the title of this piece, I really don't want Dylan to die...tho had he done so, say, just after Street Legal, he'd be godlike today. Instead, he's just another guy punching a clock. He has a new album out. Buy it. In these changing times, we've all gotta make a living.
Slang of the Day
(to) shoot snipes: to collect discarded cigar and cigarette butts