Friday, April 3, 2009

On Dylan: Culture Swap, Part II

So much has happened since I first shook hands with my colleague, Kyle Semmel, and agreed to do this Culture Swap on Bob Dylan.

The most eye-opening revelation was how different and not so different Dylan turned out to be. Though he's a Mid-westerner by birth (Duluth, Minnesota, 1941), he moved to New York City and began performing in the folksy clubs in Greenwich village in the early 1960s.

This fact struck me because as a native New Yorker it was in Greenwich Village that I felt very much in my element. So on this fact, there's an affinity with Dylan, on the identity of place.

Since my last post on Bob Dylan, I’ve put a few songs of his on my MP3 player, spent several hours reading and listening about his impressive body of work than spans more than fifty years. And it's impact on the music, literary, film, and art world. And that he's still creating, breathing, building bridges, sharing new ways of spreading his "humanist" philosophy.

Something else I discovered: many of my favorite folks singers—Nina Simone, Odetta—they each covered some of Dylan’s songs. (I'm sure several others have...) It’s hard not to be moved by some of his stirrings lyrics. I currently have his song “Hurricane” on repeat in my MP3 player, which was, of course, about the famed boxer, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. I believe actor Denzel Washington played him some years back. Take a visual listen“Hurricane,”

All of rubins cards were marked in advance
The trial was a pig-circus, he never had a chance.
The judge made rubins witnesses drunkards from the slums
To the white folks who watched he was a revolutionary bum
And to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger.
No one doubted that he pulled the trigger.
And though they could not produce the gun,
The d.a. said he was the one who did the deed
And the all-white jury agreed.

His obvious concern for justice and sensitivity for the underdog is affecting. And to learn that this came from a twenty-something-year-old from Minnesota is remarkable. I have found that georgraphy plays such a big role in one's identity politic. And so much of the "tumult" of the 1960's seems to have taken place in the urban cities and the South. But, no one talks about the Mid-west where Dylan is from. Add to that, so many artists steer clear of being “political.” It’s too costly for show business.

His accolades are unrivaled: best selling recordinga artist of all time. He's done thousands of shows. Written untold scores of songs. In 2008, Bob Dylan was awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for his “profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power."

Dylan's a "Renaissance" man, as he is also an accomplished painter. Check some of his work out here.

So, what was the point of all of this cultural swaping. And, what will become of our collective cultural enlightment, now that I've listened to Dylan and I believe Kyle is listening to a couple of my beloved artists. Does it all end once I click on the "publish post" button?

I think the real value of this exercise is to wake up the humanist in us all. In my first post, I raised the question, can someone who loves Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, and Prince also enjoy Bob Dylan...My answer is a resounding "yes."

Drop me a line if you have a culture swap story you'd like to share with us here in Blog-o-sphere and at the Writer's Center.

Signing off,
Abdul Ali

1 comment:

Serena said...

Abdul: I'm glad to hear that the culture swap is going well and that you have come to the conclusion that you can listen to Dylan and your other favorites too. I love Dylan and Nina Simone. They are great artists.