Bob Dylan at the White House
by Will Brennan
People who haven’t heard Bob Dylan sing in recent years
are often befuddled when he first opens his mouth and that weathered, raspy voice emerges. While Dylan was never considered to be a great singer, his voice had undeniable power – singing power, that is. When he felt like it, Bob could belt it out to the rafters. These days, he can’t. His voice is like an old leather jacket, covered in time-carved creases and scratches, but every imperfection is like a marker of the years and winds and storms it’s been through. In singing “The Times They are a Changin’” to a room full of politicians and our relatively new president, Dylan’s voice was by no means strident or preaching, the song was no longer a clarion call to knock down the walls. It became in Dylan’s 2010 rendition a weary, well worn tale that we all know by now, but one that is timeless and needs constant repeating –
as the health care bill stands battered and bruised like a wobbling boxer in the 14th round, the song’s exhortation to senators and congressmen not to stand in the doorway rings as true as it ever did and cuts as deep. Nowadays, political maneuverings are labyrinthine - the forces behind them dark and shadowy. We aren’t so naïve and optimistic as to expect we will extract sudden change from the vise-grip of money and influence. The huge hopes America pinned on our brilliant young president have hit the brick wall of Washington beltway reality and corporate control. In today’s political climate, change will come kicking, clawing and screaming
out of its dark little hole and will not scurry away in the light of day. Bob Dylan’s ragged, battered voice, in singing “The Times They are a Changin,’” rendered as a stately waltz, captured this wearisome truth perfectly. It wasn’t the most polished performance of the night, or the most nostalgic – those honors would go respectively to Yolanda Adams’ gorgeous version of “A Change is Gonna Come,” and Joan Baez’ “We Shall Overcome” sing-along. But it was Dylan’s “Times” that floated over the political crowd like a pronouncement from a wizened oracle – take it or leave
it, listen or don’t, but there it is, as now and so forever
shall it be.
"...been wadin' through the high muddy water"
Muddy Water Magazine
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