The other day, while engaged in a mindless task, I had Bob Dylan playing in the background. When I say Bob Dylan I mean the Bob Dylan of the 1960s. I was an infant when he was singing songs like “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” As much as I cast the 1960s in a rosy glow, I was in fact a naive child through my portion of them. I knew about the Vietnam War, but I couldn’t point to the country on a map. Likewise, I knew about the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. I also knew that we had walked on the moon. My family at this stage didn’t listen to popular music. I grew up with hymns in my ears and the culture in which I was swimming slowing becoming absorbed through my pores. Dylan was part of the latter.
One of the reasons I don’t often listen to music is that I really listen to it. It is so significant to me that I don’t like to relegate it to the background. While I work from home, for example, I don’t put music on. I find it difficult to concentrate because, truth be told, I’d rather listen to the music. As I had Bob Dylan on, I was doing a task where I could listen as the rest of my body went into autopilot. The angry white men who are running things now, it struck me, were alive in the sixties as well. As much as they seem like aliens who were beamed down after the expansion of human consciousness, they were lurking in the shadows all along. If they sing along to Bob Dylan they’re hypocrites. We need another Dylan.
That’s putting quite a burden on an artist, I know. But Dylan captured the spirit of the times. Even as scientism was growing the reality of the Zeitgeist was obvious. I grew up in the chaotic seventies. The eighties were bland with the Reaganism reaction—angry white men wanted to get rich at others’ expense, and we let them. Not enough time has passed for history to decide on the spirit of the fin de siècle, I don’t think. You see, we seem stuck in a feedback loop. Dylan’s lyrics are as necessary now as they were more than half a century ago. I’m growing weary of angry white men and their petty concerns. Maybe I need to listen to music more often.