I tried, but the hundred Inevitables dogged me all day. By the time I got back to the bunker the medicine man was gone and Beethoven had unwrapped a bedroll with Ma Rainey. I’d missed my chance to give Bob Dylan his props on Birthday No. 70.
No sweat, the songs are timeless. We never have to worry about missing the birthday of “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” from Bringing It All Back Home, as fresh now as it was in 1965. It’s a rap, a blues, an electrified protest song, a vision of the future, a time-lapsed photographic look at how easy it is to fall asleep, Rip Van Winkle-style:
…Get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift
Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid…
Look out, kid, only one thing is different. In 2011, twenty years of schooling is more likely to put you in deep debt than on the day shift.
But Dylan threw in those famous aphorisms and koans to remind us that life needn’t be as dreary as the people who, out of self-interest, dictate what’s good for us and what isn’t. Forget cable news, satellite transmissions, picture phones, Twitter and blogs, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
And don’t follow leaders/Watch the parking meters sounds wise all over again when ten-year-old wars and record unemployment don’t even make the news, and when a president elected because he promised sweeping change turns out to be in bed with the biggest crooks in history.
Dylan didn’t need a crystal ball or polling data to know some things are unlikely to change, that democracy is just a punchline if most politicians are on the take, that the pump don’t work/’Cause the vandals took the handles.
Happy birthday, Bob. Good luck, America.