New Heathens

In Defense of Dylan

I try to keep my work out of my blog, but Bob Dylan changes everything, right?

Last week I wrote a fun piece called,  "The Legal Side of Bob Dylan" about a Fordham University conference on Dylan's influence on the American judicial system. The gist seemed to be that Dylan made the right career choice. He's a great songwriter, the panel concluded, but he'd be a beatable trial lawyer because there are factual inaccuracies in some of his songs (for example the real Hattie Carroll from Dylan's "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" had 11 kids not, as Dylan sang, 10.)

Then Maureen Dowd's column "Blowin' in the Idiot Wind" criticized Bob Dylan for playing a concert in China with a list of tunes approved by the government. All those incandescent Dylan songs about freedom and justice, she said, were just a pose. Dylan tailored his artistic expression --- his setlist! -- for a bad government! What a phony.

As if just giving us those songs wasn't extraordinary enough.

Respectfully, I submit that any artist who could write songs like "A Hard Rain's Gonna' Fall" and "Ballad of a Thin Man" and then perform them with the blessings of a communist government is more subversive and righteous than any lawyer or columnist.

You've been with the professors
And they've all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have
Discussed lepers and crooks
You've been through all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald's books
You're very well read
It's well known.

But something is happening here
And you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones ?

(Postscript: Read Dylan's response here.)

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