Bob Dylan’s Transfiguration

Bob Dylan with Joan Baez
Bob Dylan with Joan Baez in 1963, from Wikipedia, photo credit National Archives and Records Administration

“In my case, there’s a whole world of scholars, professors and Dylanologists, and everything I do affects them in some way. And you know in some way I’ve given them life. They’d be nowhere without me.”   Bob Dylan from the Rolling Stone Interview

The Interview

Last week Rolling Stone Magazine officially released their September 27 issue, which included a lengthy interview with Bob Dylan. The interview, which was conducted by Mikal Gilmore had generated some pre-publication press, especially around his quotes concerning plagiarism and U.S. slavery. I actually got my hands on a copy of the R & R mag yesterday and had a chance to read the in-depth discussion between Mr. Dylan and Mr. Gilmore. What I learned was very interesting and also very informative.

Transfiguration

Transfiguration – A marked change in form or appearance; a metamorphosis.     from the American Heritage Dictionary

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the interview is Bob Dylan’s belief…… that he was transfigured, when another person bearing the same name, died in a motorcycle accident in 1964. This is heady stuff indeed, but its inclusion makes for good reading. And that other person, who died in 1964 was named Bobby Zimmerman…..and…he was president of the San Bernadino chapter of Hells Angels at the time of his death. Even stranger still is the publisher’s footnote stating that the Hells Angels guy really died in 1961 almost at the same time that Bob Dylan (formerly known as Robert Zimmerman) got his first big break in the form of a NY Times interview.

The Fifties

Another important fact to note, when discussing the folk bard, is that Dylan was born right before Pearl Harbor and that he attended high school in Hibbing, Minnesota during the fifties. Not only were the 50s a more peaceful time, but also the future folksinger’s early life in the hinterlands of America may have been instrumental in the development of Dylan as a singer and social critic. A quick look and listen to some of the rock’n roll artists of that era will go a long way in learning about how somebody from those years might view the world. If you don’t agree check out this list of the top five R & R hits for that decade.  In descending order it includes Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry, Jailhouse Rock by Elvis Presley, Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets, Tutti-Frutti by Little Richard and Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On by Jerry Lee Lewis. This list says a lot.

Other Interesting Topics

Other areas of discussion that caught my eye include a defense of borrowing and some thoughts on John Lennon. Plagiarism is a term tossed around the literary world a lot. In Dylan’s opinion this happens more often than it should be, for it is in unavoidable dilemma that any folksinger, poet playwright, writer or whatnot cannot create fresh material without borrowing from the past. For me that kind of says it all.

Bob Dylan and President Obama
President Obama rewarding Bob Dylan with the Medal of Freedom at the White House, from Wikipedia source NASA

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Gonzo, the Movie

gonzo sundance
gonzo sundance

I guess I just can’t enough of Hunter Thompson. Since I just finished the book last week, I’ve gone out and rented the movie. If you like Hunter Thompson you’ll probably like the movie. Even if you are lukewarm or so-so about the the departed rascal, you still might enjoy the documentary. The film really is a good glimpse into the times that made Hunter famous.

Complete with interviews by George McGovern, Pat Buchanon, Jann Wenner, Jimmy Carter, Hunter’s two wives and of course Hunter himself, the two hour trip through nostalgia land is a fun ride that will come to its sad climax before you know it.

Accented by film clips of the Chicago Convention riots, Hell’s Angels, Hunter in Aspen and Las Vegas, Gonzo does an in-depth analysis of the man, who made fear and loathing, a pair of household words. Johnny Depp does the narration, but after a short time you kind of forget that Johnny is there, for the content is strong enough to stand on its own. There are even some clips of a pre-teen Gonzo and a fascinating appearance on the TV Game show, To Tell The Truth, where all four panelists guessed that he was the mad journalist who wrote the book, Hell’s Angels.

So if you haven’t got much to do on a weekday night give the two hour DVD disk a spin on your DVD player you’ll like it. Here’s another image of Hunter, taken by Al Satterwhite and used by Vanity Fair.

Hunter Thompson in Cozumel by Al Satterwhite
Hunter Thompson in Cozumel by Al Satterwhite