VFR and Dylan
(Note: Several comments have been added since this was originally posted.)
Your website is the best on the web. Just one complaint: Why do you constantly refer to hippie, leftie, Dylan as some sort of Western prophet. He’s put his dagger into the West’s back, just like all the other degenerate, hellish, long-hair rock and rollers.
Thank you very much.
- end of initial entry -
I can see how the Dylan quotes might be annoying and seem inappropriate for a conservative website. On my most recent quote of Dylan, I was saying Dylan was a lefty who would only sing a protest song for a black, not a white. The reason I quoted “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” in its entirety was, here is this eloquent, moving song about injustice, but such songs and other art are only used in favor of nonwhites and against whites, while the terrible crimes being done to whites have no “conscience of a generation” like Dylan speaking for them. What I was doing there was saying that the young Englishman whose life was destroyed by those thugs who got six years in jail deserves exactly the same poetic compassion and outrage that Hattie Carroll got.
I do not view Dylan as a prophet or feel I am presenting him as one, or even approving of him as a figure overall. Dylan is not so much a prophet as a dramatist of “situations” who has a unique ability to make things come alive. So many times his lines have this amazing quality of perfectly fitting some situation I’m writing about. And, as a writer, whatever comes to my mind that fits, and that “works,” I use it. For example, the verse containing
Achilles is in your alleyway…about Giuliani, the politician who has repeatedly dressed as a woman, and his “conservative” supporters who see him as the ultimate warrior and defender of our nation. How could I not use that? Or the verses from “I Threw it All Away,” that I used about Saddam Hussein after his execution, with the lines,
And he’s hungry like a man in drag.
How come you get someone like him to be your guard?
Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand,The dictator of the Land of Two Rivers had literally thrown it all away. How could I not use that?
And rivers that ran through every day.
Or the attacks on me by the website SANE, that literally made me wonder, was I crazy or was SANE’s David Yerushalmi crazy? How could I not use this as an epigraph to the blog entry:
Replying to SANE Or my takeoff on “All I Really Want to Do,” in which I changed the last line of each verse from “Is baby be friends with you,” to “Is be far away from you.” I didn’t use that because Dylan is a prophet. I used it because it perfectly expressed how I feel all of us ought to feel about Muslims.
We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight
Ask himself if it’s him or them that’s really insane.
Also, as I said once to a reader who criticized me for quoting the Beatles, quoting a writer does not convey overall approval of that writer and everything he stands for. It means that something by that writer is true and worthwhile.
Thanks again for writing.
Carl Simpson writes:
I really liked your explanation of your reasons for using Dylan quotes on VFR. Like Jack, I initially had some misgivings or odd feelings about their use on a traditionalist site. I have to admit they’ve been extremely apt in every case I’ve seen them on VFR, though. It’s also given me something of an appreciation for Dylan’s talent as a writer.
As a classical musician, I’ve never been able to stomach Dylan’s dreadful out-of-tune caterwauling which he and some of his fans apparently think of as singing. Listening to Dylan reminds me of the the late Florence Foster Jenkins’ legendary horrific rendition of the Queen of the Night’s aria from Mozart’s “Die Zauberfloete”—which has been used as a musical gag gift for decades. This has nothing to do with style, either, as there are plenty of folk singers (like Alison Kraus) who are quite musical and have an excellent sense of pitch. So, it’s been interesting to discover that Dylan’s talent lies in his very artful use of words. I have VFR to thank for that discovery.
Thank you Carl.
As Joan Baez said once (and it’s in the Scorcese documentary “No Direction Home,” which I highly recommend), for some people, Dylan’s voice and words enter their core and affect them deeply, for other people, he has nothing to say. And if he doesn’t, he doesn’t.
For me the main thing about Dylan is the life-giving quality of his best songs, that never wears off over the years. That is not to approve of him overall.
Diane L. writes:
Let’s not forget Bob Dylan’s pro-Israel song, Neighborhood Bully.
True. That’s a genuinely conservative song (which I’ve quoted in its entirety), about the right of a nation to exist despite what the whole world says to the contrary. If only Dylan could have done the same for the U.S.
Mike B. writes:
A lifetime ago Dylan was my troubadour, saying for me the things I couldn’t. Now, as an adult, in your own way, you are the one who says for me what I cannot.
A too extravagant compliment from Mike. But he points to something that justifies this traditionalist site quoting Dylan. Dylan (whatever his own intentions) was a leading inspirer and creator of the counterculture, rejecting society and its norms. Then Dylan and the counterculture he had helped create became officially established, which is a contradiction in terms. As a result, today it is traditionalists like ourselves who are the outcasts, the rebels, who must maintain a secret “counter-existence” against the overwhelming liberal orthodoxy (whether called liberal or “conservative”) that surrounds us, and find a way to keep ourselves spiritually alive against the required beliefs, customs, attitudes, schooling, propaganda, and behaviors of the surrounding society. How many VFR readers have mainstream jobs where they must conceal their true views? So, in a funny way, Dylan’s words from “Subterranean Homesick Blues” fit us more than today’s so-called counterculture which has become the dominant culture:
Ah, 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
Better keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle …
Neil P. writes:
I like the guy and don’t have a problem quoting him. But let’s not forget that he sang and co-wrote “Hurricane,” which claimed that boxer Ruben Carter (who was clearly guilty) was set up by whites:
All of Rubin’s cards were marked in advance
Actually, there was evidence that Carter’s crime was an anti-white hate crime.
The trial was a pig-circus, he never had a chance.
The judge made Rubin’s witnesses drunkards from the slums
To the white folks who watched he was a revolutionary bum
The evidence is that Carter was guilty, that he lied to everyone and fooled Dylan.
Also, I just found out that “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” was rather exaggerated. William Zantzinger (the spelling of whose name Dylan changed slightly in the song to make it more euphonious, I think) did not strike Hattie Carroll a fatal blow with a cane. He got into an argument with her and struck her with a toy cane on the shoulder. But Hattie had a bad heart, and in the upset caused by this confrontation she became ill, and the next morning she died. Zantzinger was sentenced to six months in a county jail to keep him out of the state prison where authorities feared he would be endangered from the black inmates. He also of his own initiative gave Hattie’s family $25,000.
None of this is to defend Zantzinger who struck a black woman apparently out of racial animus. But it is a very different picture from Dylan’s poetically beautiful, but not factually accurate song.
Also, Dylan’s song “Joey,” about the gangster Joey Gallo, is a complete whitewash of a monster. The only way to enjoy the song is to take it as a poetic legend, a kind of Robin Hood story, not as fact.
James N. writes:
I’m a very big Dylan fan. Not to use material from the treasure trove because of his politics, or more exactly what you think his politics are, would be to make the political, personal. It would bind your ability to appreciate art or poetry ,both of which may be eternal, to a transient situational awareness.
That’s what Trotskyists are famous for. No one asked what Mozart’s politics were when he was producing symphonies.
“A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” and “Desolation Row” are both traditionalist masterpieces, by the way.
Matthew H. writes:
Bob Dylan seems like a reasonable and decent fellow and his lyrics show craft and thought. Another Sixties icon, John Lennon, occasionally said sensible things. Most of the first rank creative artists of that time were intelligent, ambitious people whose work was sometimes exceptional. But what was it that made them so distinct from the popular entertainers who preceded them? What was it that made the very mention of their names, even now, forty years on, inspire suspicion from any who love the traditional culture that they did so much to overthrow? It is not just the hair, the beat or the volume. It is that they were, and at the time were recognized as, the vanguard of a powerful revolution in moral sensibility. This was a revolution that, as time went on, morphed into a tsunami of sewage over the orderly, middle-class status quo ante.
So now the name Bob Dylan, whatever his virtues as an entertainer or commentator, serves as an icon for the whole set of cultural novelties bequeathed to us by his and succeeding generations: The filthy bell-bottoms, grafitti and cheap nihilism, on to the drug epidemic, the AIDS-infected sodomites and the 25% of American women with HPV. And on and on. A heavy burden, surely, and certainly not all Dylan’s fault. But he was there at the birth and he, for a time, lead the parade.
Alan Ginsberg once said, “We’ll get you through your children!” All the artists of the Sixties seemed to intuit and be inspired by his sadistic assertion. What they could not have understood (with some exceptions, Ginsberg himself among them) was where it would lead. Shame on them and shame on us.
This does not discredit every word Dylan ever uttered, but, to me, his name and those of his various contemporaries will always signify the cultural blight from which our civilization shows scant sign of recovery. It is this, I think, and not any particular lyric which raises traditionalist eyebrows at the mention of Bob Dylan’s name.
I do not disagree with Matthews’ main point, which he has stated very well. But I would suggest that when Dylan is quoted at this site he is being presented within a traditionalist context and framework, and that alters his meaning. By quoting him the way I do I am not simply feeding into the sensibility of the dominant counterculture.
Mike B. writes:
In addition to “Hurricane ” and “Joey,” Dylan glamorized killers with “George Jackson” (a man he really loved) and a cover of Guthrie’s phony Robin Hood, “Pretty Boy Floyd.”
James N. writes:
This was written in 1962, before anyone knew!
Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it,
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’,
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’,
I saw a white ladder all covered with water,
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken,
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children,
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard,
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.
You and Zimmy are the only two people who can write about the white ladder all covered with water.
I’m not sure what you mean—that the white ladder covered in water is symbol of the swamping of the white race?
Also, the line about the highway of diamonds with nobody on it has always struck me as one of the most beautiful, evocative, disturbing lyrics expressing an aspect of modern life, with all its technology, wealth, and power but empty of humanity.
James N. replies:
Don’t you think so? Besieged by guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children?
That’s what I heard in 1963, and so it seems to me today.
David G. writes:
I like the use of Dylan on VFR. Of course, that reflects my interests as well as age (55). Dylan really cannot be summed up merely as a leftist hippie. Lyrically, he was influenced more by traditional folk music, Woody Guthrie, Delta blues singers, Beat Generation writers and symbolist poets such as Arthur Rimbaud than by anything California produced during the Haight-Ashbury era. Stylistically, at least in the 60’s, Dylan always struck me as more of an aesthete than a hippie.The fact that he was more talented than any of the Beats, whose books still sell with regularity, is only one reason why he is worth familiarizing oneself with.
The exploration of the larger panorama of players around Dylan is not without its rewards, as well. Names like Phil Ochs, Dave Van Ronk, and Koerner Ray and Glover are largely forgotten today and that is too bad in many ways. While many ‘50s and ‘60s era folk singers had a leftist slant they also helped to preserve and expand the American songbook and there is some great stuff to be found on those old recordings. The enduring aspect of Dylan is that he enhanced, if not transcended, every musical genre he worked in and actually had something to say about the human condition, much of it apolitical:
Life is sad, life is a bust or, from “To Ramona”:
All you can do is do what you must
You do what you must do
And you do it well
I do it for you
Honey baby can’t you tell
I’ve heard you say many timesIf one insists on the political, what better expression contra multiculturalism is there than that?
That you’re better than no one
And no one is better than you.
If you really believe that,
You know you have
Nothing to win and nothing to lose.
Readers of VFR recognize that liberalism has been in the ascendancy since at least the late fifties coming to fruition in the sixties and culminating in the terrible self loathing that we are living with today.This social reality has engendered the traditionalist/conservative response whose mission, in part, should be to remind a younger generation of what life was once like before toleration and diversity became the country’s raison d’etre. VFR, functioning as it does well outside of the MSM, and heartily opposed to the liberal zeitgeist, could use this seemingly counter-intuitive Dylan line as its tag: To live outside the law you must be honest. And when Lawrence Auster finds himself embroiled with SANE it’s hard to resist the Dylan line,
Now I been in jail, when all my mail showed While you can find a lot of social protest in Dylan and some left wing nonsense, you can also find genius. And any form of genius is always, at the very least, interesting.
That a man can’t give his address out to bad company.
I’m laughing at David G’s great use of “Absolutely Sweet Marie.” Dylan is a genius at describing situations.
Will D. writes:
Are you familiar with the website http://www.rightwingbob.com/ ? I was waiting for one of the commenters on your Dylan thread to mention it.
Charles G. writes:
I think your one reader is totally out of line to suggest that Dylan is inappropriate as a source of material for your site. While he is certainly identified with 60s radicalism by much of the media, anyone who has read interviews he has given or even taken a close look at the lyrics of his own songs should immediately see that the “protest period” Bob was only the briefest of phases in his long career, and even then was mainly a calculated and necessary means of breaking into the New York folk scene of the 1960s, rather than a product of sincere political beliefs. Remember, “Restless Farewell” was essentially a goodbye to the folk crowd, and it came as the closing track of what was only his second original album:
Oh ev’ry foe that ever I faced,(He performed this song for Sinatra’s 80th birthday too. It’s available on YouTube.)
The cause was there before we came.
And ev’ry cause that ever I fought,
I fought it full without regret or shame.
But the dark does die
As the curtain is drawn
And somebody’s eyes
Must meet the dawn.
And if I see the day
I’d only have to stay,
So I’ll bid farewell in the night and be gone.
Dylan’s work transcends any political movement or period of time—but I guess you already are aware of this!
It is remarkable, isn’t it? Except for a couple of songs about George Jackson and Ruben Carter, Dylan’s songs have had nothing to do with liberal politics for the last 43 years. Yet for many people his leftist political aspect is still the most salient thing about him.
Mike B. writes:
Here is another line which comes to mind for people such as us:
Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 16, 2007 12:00 AM | Send
And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine.
But it’s alright, Ma
It’s life, and life only.