One of the most important people in music history, Mr. Bob Dylan still stuns music lovers worldwide with his witty rhymes and colorful guitar sound. With his music being the definition of timelessness, now is the perfect time to revisit his early albums and enjoy the raw melodic expression of Dylan’s unchained stream of consciousness.
Dylan is considered by many an integral part of the Beat Generation culture. His hobo lifestyle and sharp social awareness has always coincided with that of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and other Beat poets. It is no wonder he immediately caught their attention and soon became particularly close to Ginsberg. His profound metaphor had first illuminated the minds of fellow artists, before taking a huge leap to influence masses of young people
in search of freedom and a better world. Dylan lyrically jumped back and forth between themes that haunted his young unveiled thoughts. Read on to discover what boggled Mr. Dylan’s mind way back before he went electric, even before he was labeled a protest singer.
Dylan lived a freewheelin’ “on the road” lifestyle, so it was easy to sing about his immediate experiences. Therefore it is no wonder many of his songs from Bob Dylan and The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan are about highways, making stops at unfamiliar towns, and the overall spontaneity of getting by, relying on one’s luck. Many early songs are inspired by the open road: “Standing on the Highway” where Dylan is trying to “bum a ride”, or even “A Song to Woody” which opens with the lines: “I’m out here a thousand miles from my home walking a road other men have gone down, I’m seeing a new world of people and things, hear paupers and peasants and princes and kings.”
2. Dreams and the supernatural
One of the themes that will stick to Dylan further down the road is the occasional dream or nightmare, as well as various supernatural situations that happen in real life. Dylan often uses these situations to depict a distressed or dreamlike reality. Some of them tend to get comically absurd until one realizes Dylan’s sad commentary on the social horror he is surrounded with.
One particular song that takes an organized picnic to an absurd level is
“Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues” where a company advertises picnic by boat travel, and a man is fooled by the offer, taking his family along. By the end, his whole family almost drowns when the overcrowded boat starts sinking. The absurd lyrics are told between Dylan’s famous pieces of harmonica: “That old ship sinkin’ down in the water, six thousand people tryin’ t’ kill each other, dogs a-barkin’, cats a-meowin’, women screamin’, fists a-flyin’, babies cryin’, cops a-comin’, me a-runnin’, maybe we just better call off the picnic.”
Dylan sings of death and graveyards often, but he never misses to accompany them with a traditional song. It’s Dylan’s way to present the sorrow of the ages. Sometimes men of constant sorrow ask for death before their time, but sometimes death is unexpected and bizarre (like the death of “Pretty Polly” whose lover throws her in an empty grave.) The death of a hobo in “Man On the Street” explores the weird circumstances of death in the big city. “There on the sidewalk he did lay; They stopped ‘n’ stared ‘n’ walked their way.” Which leads us to number 4.
When Dylan sings about people he means ignorant people, hostile people, people in numbers, people who march, people who kill, but mostly people who turn their head when reality faces them. This theme is mostly seen in Dylan’s musings about New York where “There’s a-mighty many people all millin’ all around, They’ll kick you when you’re up and knock you when you’re down”, but it’s not just city folk he criticizes. In “Standing on the Highway”, Dylan goes further to address America’s state of isolation and fear. “Well, I’m standin’ on the highway wonderin’ where everybody went, wonderin’ where everybody went. Please mister, pick me up, I swear I ain’t gonna kill nobody’s kids.”
5. The simple truth
With Dylan, the solution to humanity’s problems is always right in front of us, and ignorance and ignorance alone is the only thing keeping us from hearing the haunting cry of humanity: “Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head, Pretending he just doesn’t see? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”
Bob Dylan’s early music does indeed enlighten minds and penetrate perceptions. When Ginsberg first heard “A Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall” he wrote that he sat and wept. His wonderful collage of harsh realities and supernatural visions will soon be followed by tambourines, hurricanes and will eventually start a social revolution.