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Apr 15 2008

Bob Dylan Wins a Pulitzer

by Chris S

Dylan
Bob Dylan has been one of my favorite musicians for the last fifteen years. I “discovered” him twice – once in college when my brother shared with me some of Dylan’s early comic songs (like “Motorpsycho Nightmare” or “Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues”), and once in my late 20s when I became entranced with Dylan’s masterful poetic folk-rock works like “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and “Desolation Row.” Dylan’s career has spanned five decades, and like Picasso, he has gone through many artistic phases, from his earliest days as a disciple of Woody Guthrie, through his dark-shades-wearing aloof hipster/poet phase, through a born-again Christian period of the late 70s/early 80s, and even a country phase (or two). These different faces of Dylan were the subject of I’m Not There, a recent critically-acclaimed film.

Last week, Dylan’s work got more recognition with a Pulitzer Prize. The Special Citation award describes “his profound
impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical
compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”

Here are the lyrics to one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs:

My Back Pages

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin’ high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
“We’ll meet on edges, soon,” said I
Proud ‘neath heated brow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
“Rip down all hate,” I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

Girls’ faces formed the forward path
From phony jealousy
To memorizing politics
Of ancient history
Flung down by corpse evangelists
Unthought of, though, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

A self-ordained professor’s tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
“Equality,” I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My pathway led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

Copyright © 1964; renewed 1992 Special Rider Music
– from http://bobdylan.com/moderntimes/songs/backpages.html

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