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Bob Dylan is a man out of time

Bob Dylan doesn't belong here.

Not here, but here — as in 2012. And he'd admit as much. Throughout his career, Dylan has always had sentimentality for a world before his time, romanticizing the lives of Robert Johnson and Hank Williams. "I was born very far from where I was supposed to be," he said in Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home.

In the music video for his latest single, "Duquesne Whistle," Dylan struts about an urban sidewalk at night, looking aloof yet paranoid, with a posse of Latino gangsters, a drag queen and a Gene Simmons impersonator — a group of strange outcasts. And the scene is intercut with a story about an earnest boy's attempts to woo a pretty stranger on the street.

Bob Dylan is a man out of time.
John Shearer
Bob Dylan is a man out of time.

Location Info

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1STBANK Center

11450 Broomfield Lane
Broomfield, CO 80020

Category: Music Venues

Region: Northwest Denver Suburbs

Details

Bob Dylan, with Mark Knopfler, 7:30 p.m. Monday, October 29 and Tuesday, October 30, 1STBANK Center, 11450 Broomfield Lane, Broomfield, $45, 866-461-6556.

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The boy sees himself as charming and persistent, busting into show-tune dances and offering the girl a rose, but she shows her obvious fear of him by trying to outrun him and get to her car. The boy chases after her and attempts to get into the car with her; he receives a faceful of pepper spray and is eventually jailed, kidnapped and severely beaten.

Characteristic of anything having to do with Bob Dylan, the video overlaps two worlds of time. The overconfident boy harks back to the WWII era, when it was considered endearing for a boy to "chase" a girl (à la Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart) and women were perceived as not knowing what they wanted and needing a charming guy to tell them; meanwhile, the pretty girl being pursued is of the modern era, when a strange man waiting outside your workplace is a potential threat, and you have the right to get violent with him if he chases you down.

For an aging rock star, displacement must be a rich topic of inspiration. After all, Dylan is primarily known as the king of the '60s, the most influential artist of the most influential decade in modern history. Today, though, his voice is shot, he's culturally irrelevant, and every other song he writes is about death. Once known for lyrics about politics, drugs, revenge, God and heartache, his most consistent theme of late has been either his own mortality — as in 1997's Time Out of Mind — or the death of others, as on his latest album, Tempest, which includes songs about the deceased John Lennon and the sinking of the Titanic.

Seeing Bob Dylan in 2012, you get the sense that you're witnessing a man who has reconciled with his mortality. In the '60s, when Dylan was more relevant to his own time than anybody, all he cared about was the past. Now, more relevant to the past than anything, he seems concerned only with his future.

Yet instead of hiding this fact — say, airbrushing his flaws with pitch correction and plastic surgery — Dylan has, as always, embraced that which displaces him from the present. His voice sounds like an alligator gargling whiskey and gravel, his music like it's emanating from a riverboat casino in 1920s Mississippi. He's always been a man of masks, and for the last two decades, his mask has been that of a walking corpse, a ghost, a lost spirit that doesn't belong in its own time and is trying to find its way home.

 
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6 comments
JackFrost
JackFrost

To say that Bob Dylan, of all people, is "culturally irrelevant", requires an immense amount of ignorance. I am a longtime, ardent fan of Dylan. I have heard every song he has released, and I can tell you authoritatively that the subject matter of his work reaches far beyond fatalism and an obsession over his own mortality. If we currently live in a culture where wisdom, and aphoristic insight into the human condition and matters of the heart have no value, perhaps it is the culture itself which has become irrelevant. 

plpllawson
plpllawson

Dylan is still relevant to generations of people across the planet.He's grown more gracefully than any of the 70s. 80s, 90s, or new millennium short lived shooting stars.

 

Most this crap in todays scene will never be remembered in ten years, much less 50.

 

 

 

 

jtcolfax
jtcolfax

I think his voice is better now, than Ever.

Josiah.Hesse
Josiah.Hesse

 @JackFrost I agree that Dylan is still making some very listenable albums. The argument isn't whether his music is good; it's whether he's relevant to modern culture -- e.g. being able to look at society at large and see how he's effected things in the last few years. Which he hasn't. In the 60s and early 70s he changed fashion, politics, drug-culture and, perhaps most of all, songwriting. Today people like Obama, Justin Bieber, Joel Osteen, Jon Stewart and Mark Zuckerberg affect mass culture. For good or ill, that's the way it is.

JackFrost
JackFrost

 @Josiah.Hesse  @JackFrost  We'll have to agree to disagree here. If by, "modern culture", you mean youth culture, then you might have a valid point, although with current bands like Blitzen Trapper and The War on Drugs, (just to name a couple) who's music is so transparently derivative of Dylan's, being so popular among today's  hip crowd, it's hard to agree. Furthermore, Tempest peaked at # 3 on the Billboard charts just a few months ago. Not bad for a guy who is culturally irrelevant  Another thing I'd like to mention is that culture relevance is not qualified by what the youngest members of our society dig. It is both linear and cyclical, and the amassed influence of the past is the very foundation upon which current trends rest. Culture is by definition, collective. I could go on and on, but I hear that Duquesne Whistle blowin' and I must be goin'. Besides, you know what they say about opinions, right?

 

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