I’ve been reading a lot more recently, much about Bob Dylan. What I don’t understand is why every song the man wrote must be dissected to the point that there are classes that are meant to figure out the meanings of his songs? Dylan is a brilliant writer. He is the seminal poet of our parents generation & for that matter ours as well. It is not a far off distinction to compare him to Keats or Dylan Thomas. However, does that mean that every word he writes should mean something? I’ve read numerous articles & books extolling his life as one big mystery for us to solve. Perhaps, it’s time to let the man be. Perhaps, it’s time to just enjoy the music without trying to make it fit something.
This is a major theme when it comes to music. Does a song become worthless if it does not suit your purpose of meaning? For instance, what if you loved the song, “Martha, My Dear” from the Beatles’ White Album until you found out that Paul McCartney wrote it about his Old English Sheepdog & not Jane Asher as everyone suspected? Would that change your opinion of the song? I’m guilty of this as well & I’m not saying there aren’t some songs that are directly related to an event or person. Sometimes, though, songs are just good writing about nothing in particular.
Often people need a song to mean something so that they can relate it to their own life & their own personal struggles. It’s a coping mechanism that makes the music so much more personal. Good music is supposed to be personal & much like life itself the search for meaning is essential to our evolution. It’s why people turn to religion, higher knowledge & in some instances drugs. We are all yearning for a higher ethereal plain to find that intricate thing that separates us from the animals so that we don’t feel like this life is just some cosmic clusterfuck in which we just meander through.
Music & writing lends to us others feelings & brilliance so that we may equate that to our own personal experiences. It is in these experiences that we turn to the artist & try to figure out his/her meaning. It is what drove Dylan to create the Motorcycle crash mythology that led to a 7 year touring hiatus. It is what pushed J.D. Salinger underground. That feeling that says I’m just a writer/musician don’t look to me for guidance, look to yourself.