16.10.16

Bob Dylan and the Neighbourhood Bully


The Nobel Prize for Literature committee has had it easy this year. Everybody knows who Bob Dylan is. There is no "looking him up" required. 

One viewpoint, shared among some writers, was that he was too famous and perhaps, since the prize helps sales, it should have been given to a lesser-known nominee who would get exposure and readers would be introduced to new writing. 

Some also believe a song writer's words cannot be literature. There is the valid point about how the creation of a song is not just words and the music arrangement plays a huge, sometimes greater, role. 

There are many analyses there on him “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. And it is probably true. 

Let's face it, all of us have quoted him, hummed his songs and have a favourite or two. Following the award, he has been lauded for speaking up against racism and imperialism. 

His support of Israel is left out. Neighbourhood Bully was an anthem for Israel:

"The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
He’s always on trial for just being born
He's the neighbourhood bully..."

Dylan being a Jew is not germane here, but his being pro-Israel in a political sort of way is. He uses counter-projection of how the bully is not really a bully but is painted as such because "his enemies say he's on their land". 

Dylan even seems to justify the bully's destruction of a bomb factory because those bombs were for him:

"Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he could apologize
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad..."

Peaceniks get their time too:

"Well, he's surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
Now, they wouldn't hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep..."

Towards the end, there is the question:

"Does he pollute the moon and stars?" 

The query at once is a challenging assertion that the bully obviously would not do so and It would do the world good to look upon him well for he took their crumbs "and he turned it into wealth". 

The allegory is powerful in the verses, and some passages could perhaps hold more true for the enemies than the bully.

As Dylan wrote in another one:

"Though you might hear laughin', spinnin' swingin' madly across the sun
It's not aimed at anyone, it's just escapin' on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin'..."