This isn’t a metaphorical dream: I did dream of Bob Dylan. It was days after he received the Nobel Prize for Literature, an honor he shares now with names like Harold Pinter, Mario Vargas Llosa, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway.
Those are writers whose works we read in school. We did not read Bob Dylan; we listened to him. But now that the reputedly highest honor a writer in any language can get has been given to Dylan, we look back and find that we have been listening to the words of his songs
Bob Dylan is no ordinary singer. As a singer, he does not sing melodiously. In fact, when his songs are covered by other musicians, we begin to hear a catchy rhythm, an infectious beat, and a melody sweet even, and bitter in the romantic mode unheard in the original version.
Bob Dylan does not sing; he rants. That is why we have listened to him and we continue to worship his music, or play the tune not in a party, but in a protest, sing those angry lines not for people, but against mighty establishments.
This will sound presumptuous but allow me to presume anyway. I got to know Bob Dylan through another singer. Not by talking to this great folksinger but by listening also to her songs and her words. It is through Joan Baez that I always think of Bob Dylan as the “Unwashed Phenomenon”.
The good thing about calling Bob Dylan with a name that refers to his unkempt rebel of a personality is that, I believe, his fans and he himself will not mind. But call him by his real name—Robert Allen Zimmerman and all his rage and all his passion against a monolithic society and the cruelties it can nurture and the wars it has spawned will disappear.
Bob Dylan is Bob Dylan. This is the person who asks Mr. Tambourine Man to play a song for him: “Let me blindly here to stand 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.” Like most, if not all, of his songs, “Mr. Tambourine Man” was seen as a metaphor for something else other than the man on the title. Some thought it was about a drug deal. Dylan then explained that the song is really about, well, Mr. Tambourine Man.
Bob Dylan has sung how “the times are A-changin’” and how “the times have changed.” The singer-writer-composer-actor has denied his songs are protest songs. For all his denial, some songs became anthem to antiwar movement. Think of “Blowin’ in the Wind”.
In my dream, Bob Dylan was right in front of me. “Goodness,” I muttered to myself upon recognizing him. I should have a photo with him. In my dream and in reality, the camera of my mobile phone is not too high end. I looked around and saw a woman: it was Patti Smith, who received the award for Dylan and who sang, and stopped halfway because she was nervous, but came back to finish the song. As I kept on worrying about, perhaps, a selfie with Bob Dylan, he stood or moved out of where we were. I looked at Bob Dylan leave and as I continue to watch him, I saw that he was a dwarf!
I am not keen about knowing the meaning of the dream. I wish Bob Dylan has asked Joan Baez to stand for him. It has been rumored that they were lovers. After the breakup, Joan Baez, it is said, composed the song, “Diamond and Rust”. In that song, she called Bob Dylan: “Already a legend/The unwashed phenomenon/The original vagabond.” Then she said: “You strayed into my arms/And there you stayed.”
But they could deny all this, as Bob Dylan denied the rage in those songs. I can understand that now. Why borrow the rage of others, the pain in their songs? We should sing our own anger. That would make us laureates all…and not dwarfs.
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