Bob Dylan & the Culture Industry’s Destruction of Dissent

Edward Curtin reviews the movie, “The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story.”

By Edward Curtin 

“He wears a mask and his face grows to fit it.” – George Orwell, “Shooting an Elephant”

The lobby of the temple of time travel called the Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, was suffused with a nostalgic vibe tinged with the whiff of encroaching death when I walked in for “The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story.”  

I had earlier asked the ticket agent if most of the tickets for the two sold-out preview shows were being purchased by old people; she told me no, that many younger people had also bought tickets. However, I didn’t see any. All I saw were gray or white heads and beards, not with “Time Out of Mind,” as Dylan titled his 1997 album, but with time on their minds, as they shuffled into the dark to see where their time had gone and perhaps, if they were not mystified by their fetishistic worship of Dylan, to meditate on who they had become and where they and he were heading in the days to come. 

I imagined most were aware that Dylan had said that he’s been singing about death since he was 12, and that his music is haunted by images of love and time lost as bells toll for those traveling the road of life in search of forgiveness for their transgressions. 

Still from “Rolling Thunder Revue.” (YouTube)

How, I wondered, would this Dylan documentary “story” fashioned by Martin Scorsese, whose own work is marked by themes of guilt and redemption, affect an audience that might never have taken the roads less traveled of their youthful dreams but “fell” into the conformist and oppressive American neo-liberal way of life?  Would this film, in Dylan’s words, get the audience wondering “if I ever became what you wanted me to be/Did I miss the mark or overstep the line/That only you could see?” 

Would nostalgia for their youth be a liberating or mystifying force, now that forty plus years have transformed American society into a conservative, postmodern, shopper’s paradise where commodity capitalism has reified all aspects of life, including art objects and artists such a Dylan, imbuing them with magical powers to redeem those who buy their products, which include songs and celebrity “auras”? 

I assumed many of those around me had fetishized Barack Obama as a savior even while he was waging endless wars and killing American citizens, bailing out his Wall St. and bank supporters, and jailing more whistleblowers than any American president in history, and that Dylan had accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom from this icon of rectitude who had served to quell all thoughts of rebellion and whose war victims were not counted by those who bought his brand since God was on his side.

Here in this darkened dream factory in a hyper-gentrified “liberal” town, my mind was knotted with thoughts and questions that perhaps the film would address.

The Man Who Isn’t

I knew that no one would answer my questions, but I asked myself anyway. Moreover, I knew there is no Bob Dylan.  He is a figment of the imagination – first his own and then the public’s.  Perhaps behind the character Bob Dylan there is a genuine actor, and I hoped to catch an unintended glimpse of him in the film, but I knew if he appeared it would be obliquely and through a gradual dazzling of truth, as Emily Dickinson would say.  An unconscious disclosure. 

For if the real Bob Dylan took off his mask and stood up, his ardent fans would receive it as a slap in the face, and their illusions would transmogrify into delusions as the spell would be broken.  To tell the truth directly is a dangerous undertaking in a country of lies.

Still from “Rolling Thunder Revue.” (YouTube)

Dylan, the spellbinder, has, through his public personae, hypnotized his followers with his tantalizing and wonderful music. “Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me,” wrote D.H. Lawrence in his poem, “Song of a Man Who Has Come Through.”  This sounds like Dylan’s artistic credo. His masks (personae = to sound through) have served as his medium of exchange.  He has been faithful to his tutelary spirit (if not to living people), what the Romans called one’s genius that is gifted to one at birth and is one’s personal spirit to which one must be faithful if one wishes to be born into true and creative life.

If one sacrifices to one’s genius, one will in return become a vehicle for the fertile creativity that the genius can bestow.  A person is not a genius but a transmitter of its gifts.

Like Lawrence, Dylan has served as a vehicle for his genius. His many masks, unified by Bob Zimmerman under the pseudonym Bob Dylan, have served as ciphers for the transmission of his enigmatic and arresting art.  But while the music dazzles, the “real” man behind the name can’t stand up – or is it won’t? – because, as always, he’s “invisible now” and “not there,” as his songs have so long told us.

 I wondered if my theater companions understood this, or perhaps didn’t want to.  Could that be because their own reality is problematic to them?  Do generations of his fans sense a vacancy at the heart of their self-identities – non-selves – as if they have been absent from their own lives while reveling in Dylan’s kaleidoscopic cast of characters? 

Do Dylan’s lyrics – “People don’t live or die people just float” – resonate with them? Lacking Dylan’s artistry, are many reluctant to ask why they are so intrigued by the legerdemain of a man who insists he is absent? Has a whole generation gone missing?

I am only familiar with the musician who acts upon a special social stage, and I love his creations.  Because Dylan the performer has the poet’s touch, a hyperbolic sense of the fantastic, he draws me into his magical web in the pursuit of deeper truths. He is an artist at war with his art and perhaps his true self, and therefore forces me to venture into uncharted territory and ask uncomfortable questions.

His songs demand that the listener’s mind and spirit be moving as the spirit of creative inspiration moved him. A close listening to many of them will force one to jump from verse to verse – to shoot the gulf – since there are no bridges to cross, no connecting links.

A Magic Show

From the start, “The Rolling Thunder Revue,”a fused compilation of film from a tour throughout New England concocted by Dylan that took place in 1975-6 as a rollicking experiment in communal music making,announces that we are goingto be played with and that Dylan and Scorsese are conjurers whose prestidigitations are going to dazzle us.

Scorsese in 2010. (Siebbi, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The film is gripping and cinematically beautiful. The opening scene is taken from a very old film in which a woman is sitting in a chair and a man throws a cloth over her.  When he pulls the cloth away, the woman has disappeared. Call it playful magic, call it fun, call it entertainment – we can’t say we haven’t been warned – but after decades of postmodern gibberish with the blending of fact and fiction, fake news, endless propaganda, and the fiction-of-nonfiction, one might reasonably expect something more straightforward in 2019, but these guys get a kick out of magic tricks and conning people, which they do in this film. 

I could understand it if it served some larger purpose, but as the film shows, it doesn’t.  Later in the film, Dylan says, as if he needed to pound the point home, “If someone’s wearing a mask, he’s gonna’ tell you the truth.  If he’s not wearing a mask, it’s highly unlikely.” This may be true for him, but as a general prescription for living, it is bullshit.  Of course, lies are commonplace, but isn’t it best to strive for truth, and doesn’t that involve shedding masks. Then again, what does he mean by a mask? 

Society trains us all from an early age to lie and deceive and to be socially adjusted persons on the social stage, and since person means mask, do we need some white face paint to obviously mask ourselves to tell the truth?  Why can’t one take off the masks and be authentic?  Why can’t Dylan? 

In an interview in 1997 with the music critic Jon Parles, Dylan said while he is mortified to be on stage, it’s the only place where he’s happy.  “It’s the only place you can be who you want to be.” These are the sad words of a man living in a cage on a stage, and only he might know whyYet we are left to guess why Dylan is unhappy off stage, but such guessing is the other side of the social game where gossip and pseudo-psychoanalysis sickens us all as we try to decipher the personal lives of the celebrities we worship. Maybe we should examine our own looking-glass selves.

The Mask Falls

Despite being a masked man, there are times in this fascinating film when the lion in Dylan breaks out of the cage, and while the face paint and costume remain, one can see and hear a sense of short-lived liberation in his performances.  His performance of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” is so true, so passionate, so real, so intense that his true face shines through in its genuine glory.  The same for his performance of “Hurricane” and a few others.  It’s all in his face and body, his articulation and energy, his fiery eyes. The performances refute his claim that only a masked man can speak the truth.  As Joan Baez mordantly says, “Everything is forgiven when he sings.” 

There is something elegiac about the film, for many of the people in it are now dead and their film presence – that eerie afterlife that technology confers – conveys the ephemerality of fame – and life. Allen Ginsberg and Sam Shepard are dead, and many of the others are in their twilight years.  But to see them young and frisky and bouncing around on stage and off, giving off sexuality and joy in the music and the trip they’re on, one can’t help be gripped by the passing of time and the contrast between then and now when depression and it’s pharmaceutical fixes has so many in its grip. 

Dylan’s craggy, lined face in interviews for the film belies the young man we see perform and laugh, and though he stills performs and is addicted to being on the road so often – quite a feat for a 78 year old – the juxtapositions of the images underscores the power of Dylan’s musical messages.  “Once upon a time,” Dylan croons these days, “somehow once upon a time/never comes again.”

When one puts the then and now into historical and social perspective – which is essential since works of art are rooted in time, place, economic and political realities – one is jolted further. It’s almost as if this Rolling Thunder Revue tour was the last gasp for a dying political and artistic culture that represented some hope for change, however small, while also being a symptom of the encroaching theatricality of American life, what Neal Gabler aptly calls in the title of his book, “Life: the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality.”

Obama presents Dylan with a Medal of Freedom in 2012 at the White House as Sen. John Glenn and novelist Toni Morrison look on. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The Triumph of Techno-Entertainment

Trace, if you will, the transformation of the United States from 1975-76 until today.  It’s as if the theatricality of the tour was announcing the end of straightforward dissent and the ushering in of endless postmodern gamesmanship that is still with us. Masks. Games. Generations disappearing into technological and consumer fantasies where making money, watching television, and entering the system that destroys one’s soul became the norm, as the American empire ravaged the world and Baby Boomers found life in their cell phones and on yoga mats, as Herbert Marcuse and his compatriots of the Frankfurt School warned.

The culture industry absorbed dissent and spit it back out as entertainment in the service of the maintenance and consolidation of the power of the ruling class. How to transform a depraved society when the culture industry has corrupted so many people at their cores is where we’re at now. “The carpet too is moving under you,” Dylan intoned in 1965, “It’s all over now, Baby Blue.”

I looked around the movie theater before the film began and the rows were lit up by old folks staring at their little lit-up rectangular talismans.  It was enough to bring me to despair. I was reminded of being in the circus in Madison Square Garden as a child where the kids were swinging sticks with cords attached with lights at the end that lit up the place. 

They say the circuses are all closing, but I think not. “It’s not dark yet/but it’s getting there.”

In an exchange between Dylan and Sam Shepard, who was on the tour as some sort of writer, Dylan asks Sam how he writes all those plays, and Sam says he does so by “communing with the dead.”  “The Rolling Thunder Revue” is like that, a medium between a time when passion still lived, and today when death, dying, and nostalgia are the norm for so many whose passion has fled into things. Capitalism has conquered consciences with commodities.

Home Before Dark?

Dylan had his fallow period after the late seventies. To his great credit, he found new life, starting in the late 1990s with his “Time Out of Mind” album and continuing through his recordings of the great American songbook of love ballads, the terrain of Frank Sinatra and Bennett.  Listening to him sing these great songs he did not write, I find his masks have fallen away and that a sad, lonely man emerges.  A man filled with regrets and melancholia.  An old man lamenting in a movingly raspy voice lost loves and haunted by what was and what might have been.  A death-haunted man voicing raw emotion that is palpable.  An uncaged man. 

So much about Bob Dylan is paradoxical, or is it contradictory?  Hypocritical?

Friedrich Nietzsche, another man of many faces, who advised us to “become who you are,” once wrote, “There are unconscious actors among them and involuntary actors; the genuine are always rare, especially genuine actors.” 

I don’t know if the man behind the name Bob Dylan is a “genuine actor” (genuine being cognate with genius, both suggesting the act of giving birth, creating), for I have never met him.  I hope he has met himself. He hints that someone is missing, whether that is the fictional actor or the genuine one, is difficult to discern.  Is he becoming who he is, or is he lost out on the road “with no direction home”?  He is always on the go, leaving, moving, restless, always seeking a way back home through song, even when, or perhaps because, there are no directions.

Still from “Rolling Thunder Revue.” (YouTube)

“The Rolling Thunder Revue” is a nostalgic trip.  No doubt, audiences of a certain age will experience it as such.  Such an aching for home comes with a cost: the acute awareness that you can’t go home again. When the nursing and funeral home beckon, however, one can perhaps take a chance on truth by examining one’s conscience to ask if and why one may have betrayed one’s better youthful self and settled for a life of comforting conformity and resigned acceptance of the “system” one once raged against.

Younger people, if they are patient and watch the entire film, will experience a profound aesthetic shock that may give them hope. To see through the camera’s eye the youthful Dylan’s face as he gives some of the most passionate performances of his life will thrill them so that a shiver will go down their spines and their hair will stand on end.  “And this is what poetry does,” writes Roberto Calasso in “Literature and the Gods,”“it makes us see what otherwise we wouldn’t have seen, through a sound that was never heard before.”  To watch just a handful of these performances makes the film worthwhile.

Become Who You Are?

At one point, today’s Dylan says that he has always been “searching for the Holy Grail.”  I suppose one could interpret that as meaning eternal youth, happiness, redemption, or some sort of immortality.  He has surely created a capitalist’s corporate empire, though that doesn’t seem to satisfy  him, as it never has genuine poets.  But maybe to become very, very rich and famous has always been his goal, his immortality project, as it is for other tycoons.  One can only guess.

I prefer not to.  But without question, Dylan has the poet’s touch, a hyperbolic sense of the fantastic that draws you into his magical web in the pursuit of deeper truth.  In ways, he’s like the Latin American magical realist writers who move from fact to dream to the fantastic in a puff of wind.

He is our Emerson.  His artistic philosophy has always been about movement in space and time through song.  “An artist has got to be careful never to arrive at a place where he thinks he’s at somewhere,” he’s said.  “You always have to realize that you are constantly in a state of becoming and as long as you can stay in that realm you’ll be alright.”

Sounds like living, right.

Sounds like Emerson, also.  “Life only avails, not the having lived.  Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state, in the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to an aim.  Thus one fact the world hates, that the soul becomes.” 

Like Emerson, Dylan creates a sense of restlessness in the listener that forces one to ask: Who am I?  Am I?  He has said “that a song is like a dream, and you try to make it come true.”  In a similar way, Scorsese has created a dream with this film.  It takes us back and forth in time via an hallucinatory experience.  A sort of documentary with a wink. 

It is quite a story, powerful enough to induce one to ask: Who are we becoming in this American Dream?  Will we keep sleeping through the nightmares we create and support, or will be return home with Dylan and embrace the radical truth he once gifted us with and dare to “tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it/And reflect from the mountains so all souls can see it” that our country continues to kill and oppress people all around the world as it did once upon a time very long ago? 

Our chance won’t come again.

Edward Curtin teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His writing on varied topics has appeared widely over many years. He states: “I write as a public intellectual for the general public, not as a specialist for a narrow readership. I believe a noncommittal sociology is an impossibility and therefore see all my work as an effort to enhance human freedom through understanding.” 

This article is from his website


85 comments for “Bob Dylan & the Culture Industry’s Destruction of Dissent

  1. R. Duncan
    July 4, 2019 at 14:33

    Bob Dylan was/is a musician, poet, singer and entertainer. The merits of his work can be debated all day long and it
    all just ends up “personal taste”. Looking to him to be some kind of “cultural revolutionary savior” and then finding him wanting is ridiculous. He has done what he has done. Who he “really is” actually is no ones business. Look to yourselves for the “cultural revolutionary” not to entertainers. Entertainers can only inspire and entertain and it is not their job to
    “lead the revolution” or to “reveal their true selves”. As Peter Hammill of Van Der Graaf Generator wrote in a song called “Energy Vampires”; “I bought all your records man, doesn’t that mean that I own you?”

  2. lordkoos
    July 3, 2019 at 14:30

    Dylan is far from being the only performer who feels happiest and most at home when on the stage. I know there are many who feel the same.

  3. Vegetius
    July 3, 2019 at 12:18

    That the elite of the Boomers took any of these people (Dylan, Ginsberg, Marcuse) seriously goes a long way towards explaining their total failure as a generation and the terrible mess they are leaving their children to clean up.

    • Paul Lazot
      July 3, 2019 at 14:39

      What nonsense. What little positive social developments have occurred in the last 60-70 years (the ending of the Vietnam War, the rise of political consciousness, the civil rights struggle, environmental consciousness, organic food, and so on.) have been the results of the efforts of the “alternative” minority of the Boomer generation.

      To blame them for what was a vast concerted effort on the part of the country’s economic and political elite to undo their achievements is beyond stupidity. The PTB assassinated every positive leader of the boomer generation. You cannot blame an entire generation cohort for the crimes of the powerful.

      Learn how to think, and then try to find out what you can do to make things better.

    • zer0
      July 3, 2019 at 17:27

      As Vonnegut wrote, Bob Dylan’s songs have about 1 coherent line and the rest is gibberish.
      I like Dylan, but am not in love with him. He was, for better or worse, a kind of musical dreamer. While prolific, his style is fairly consistent to almost be boring, though obviously changes as fame attracted other musicians with which he co-wrote produced music. And he was never a good singer.

      I don’t fault my parents’ generation for the current ills (as a Millennial). Rather, I fault them with their style of absentee parenting and fomenting a vision of the world where everyone does good and is moral and one should trust authority figures. Basically, priorities.

      And I have to say, what explains the most about Boomera, IMO, is the media charade of the ills of Millennials written by themselves and their cohorts in the mainstream media. Almost all negative. Why? They themselves, a generation that, in essence, allowed the elites/upper class to sacrifice their own progeny through means of debt, consolidation, taxation, lobbying, offshoring etc. would have the gall or energy to admonish their own children is fairly ironic. Just as ironic as an older generation writing about their moral superiority by looking at addictions of the newer generations they themselves caused (phones, opioids/pharma drugs, sugar, etc).

    • Jim ross
      July 8, 2019 at 10:47

      You definitely do not understand the revolutionary nature of Dylan’s music.He won a Nobel prize in literature for gods sake so some people take pretty seriously. His song like a rolling stone was a game changer not just in terms song form but in terms of content. The mistake most people make is assuming that he is political. Dylan was a Rorschach lyrically. It was this fact that made him one of the most important figures of post ww2. The songwriters of the 60s heard what Dylan was doing and turned it into the antiwar movement that reverberates in the right wing backlash that is still angry at the loss of power that the 60s brought to the dominate power of the time. We are still struggling with power dynamic brought on by the hippies of the 60s who were almost to a person heavily influenced by Dylan. He was never political himself he was a songwtiter but what he gave the other musicians of the 60s a new way to express themselves and it. was this that brought on woodstock. All I can say is that in terms of songwriting Dylan was revolutionary, there was nothing’s like him before. He influenced the songwriters of the period and they in turn influenced those who would become hippies. Dylan as far as I could tell was pretty apolitical, in fact on a personal level he was a bit reactionary.

  4. Dave Clennon
    July 3, 2019 at 01:47

    Like many others, I was fascinated by Bob Dylan, 1964-68. But, when I look back on his long career, I see the growth of a pretentious young windbag into a revered cultural demigod. He’s good with melody and he’s a clever rhymer, but his greatest skill is shrewd, canny self-promotion. He wrote maybe ten good songs. His lyrics, for the most part, are portentous-sounding, opaque nonsense. “The answer … is blowin’ in the wind”? “It’s a hard rain’s a gonna fall”? “The times, they are a changin'”? It sounds important, and it sounds “poetic,” but if you get closer, it smells like horse shit. Then there are those more intelligible, but mean-spirited classics like “Positively 4th Street” (mysogyny) and “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Like a Rolling Stone” (more mysogyny). The fake-folky phrasing, “rain’s a-gonna fall” and “they are a-changin’,” should have been a tip-off. If the mysterious meaning of Bob Dylan’s ART is blowing in wind, it’s going right over my head. And I guess it’s unpatriotic, and maybe blasphemous, to argue with unprecedented financial success.

  5. G major
    July 1, 2019 at 20:03

    What a disaster:

    1. Dylan never laughed once through the entire Scorsese interview at the heart of the film. Why? Life treating you so hard, is it?
    2. Allen Ginsberg was eventually edited out of the performances and became a baggage handler. Are you f-ing kidding me?
    3. When the lead guitarist Mick Ronson was asked about Bob, he replied that he never met him. He’s on stage with him every concert!

    So Bob, after the motorcycle accident way back in the 60s, your work has been in decline. And nowadays you can’t sing to save your ass. Just stop.

    • David
      July 6, 2019 at 17:57

      G major is right. He can’t sing to save his ass. I went to a concert a few year ago and was stunned by how badly he sings. It could only be described as excruciating.

      I’m embarrassed to say that in my youth I was impressed by Bobby Zimmerman. I’ve since done a reassessment. I’ve concluded that he is a fraudster. His genius isn’t in his music, it is in his self promotion. Dave Glennon nailed it.

  6. July 1, 2019 at 00:59

    Many fans of the early 1960’s protest folk singer-songwriter, Bob Dylan, lost interest in his post-1966 singer-songwriting work, after Dylan seemed to become more commercially-motivated than he previously had been; and after he pretty much stopped writing protest folk songs and topical folk songs (except for the post-1966 topical folk-rock songs”George Jackson” and “Hurricane”), with poetic lyrics that reflected artistically the personal, social and political concerns of the civil rights and anti-war Movement activists and supporters who had been emotionally moved by his pre-1966 song-writing and campus concerts.

    Yet since the late 1960s, most music journalists and music writers who write for corporate music industry publications like Rolling Stone magazine or the book publishing or newspaper and magazine subsidiaries of the global corporate media conglomerates rarely produce articles or books that evaluate Dylan’s post-1966 work in a negative way or present an unflattering image of the pre-1963 Woody Guthrie clone-turned post-1966 multi-millionaire hipster capitalist rock star.

    In his 1989 book, Dylan, Bob Spitz, indicated some reasons why most corporate music industry journalists and writers may have tried to cover up Dylan’s post-1966 artistic and political deterioration in their writing about Dylan’s life and career during the last five decades:

    “…Like the ancient court historians, Bob’s biographers obediently wrote the story he put in front of them. Otherwise responsible journalists, dazzled by an audience with him, failed to question or examine the accuracy of his statements; incredibly enough, they just printed what he said verbatim. Leafing through the thousands of pages of articles and transcripts about Bob–from Nat Hentoff’s New Yorker profile in 1964 to the most recent Rolling Stone interview–one is struck by the sheer number of untruths and epic exaggerations that have found their way into print. Few performers have been more protected by literary sycophants–critics and reputable journalists who either participated unwittingly or have allowed their own fortunes to be so intimately intertwined with Bob Dylan that the work they produced serves primarily as a library of memoir and self-promotion…

    “Needless to say, this creates extraordinary difficulty for a biographer. The vast writings that constitute a loosely assembled Dylan archives provides a scant factual foundation upon which to build. Not surprisingly, many journalists refused to lend assistance…fearful that either their past willingness to collude with Bob would be exposed or their cooperation with me would bring recriminations…After this book was in its final stages, I was offered access to Bob as well as permission to explore certain resources under his tight control and to quote from his lyrics in exchange for an agreement allowing him to examine and amend the finished manuscript. Similarly, these were photographers whose work I was denied access until I submitted to this demand. Not wishing to provide yet another literary whitewashing, I refused…”

  7. JRo K
    June 28, 2019 at 17:13

    I guess the author “wasn’t there”. He doth presumith too much about what others feel and love about Dylan, and he imagines way too much, like an armchair psychoanalyst, what Dylan’s emotions are in “real life”. The movie was fantastic. Dylan is a true vessel of genius. The original filmography taken on the tour is stupendous and portrays deeply what could not be seen and relished from afar sitting in an audience or from a recording. It enhances memory with close-up experience. This critique is off balance if you ask lme.

    • TowerofBabel
      June 28, 2019 at 19:29

      This is a more harsh critique of commodity culture from Chumbawamba. But did they sell out too? Everything is political even poetry–especially real poetry. In other words poetry has a shelf life.

      Give the Anarchist a Cigarette

      Albert! Who?
      Bobby! Who?
      For god’s sake, burn it down
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of help
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of…
      Give the anarchist a cigarette
      ‘Cause that’s as close as he’s ever gonna get
      Give the anarchist a cigarette
      Bobby just hasn’t learned it yet
      Give the anarchist a cigarette
      The times are changing, but he just forgets
      Give the anarchist a cigarette
      He’s gonna to choke on his harmonica, Albert
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of help
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of…
      Give the anarchist a cigarette
      A candy cig for the spoiled brat
      Give the anarchist a cigarette
      We’ll get Albert to write you a cheque
      Give the anarchist a cigarette
      He’ll be burning up the air in his personal jet
      Give the anarchist a cigarette
      You know I hate every Popstar that I ever met
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of help
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of…
      Give the anarchist a cigarette
      Burn, baby, burn
      Burn, baby, burn
      Give the anarchist a cigarette
      Burn, baby, burn
      Burn, baby, burn
      Give the anarchist a cigarette
      Burn, baby, burn
      Burn, baby, burn
      Give the anarchist a cigarette
      Burn, baby, burn
      Burn, baby, burn
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of help
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of help
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of help
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of help
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of help
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of help
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of help
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of help
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of help
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of help
      Nothing ever burns down by itself
      Every fire needs a little bit of…

  8. DH Fabian
    June 28, 2019 at 16:53

    No, we aren’t going to “embrace the radical truth.” The stakes are too high. We must focus on being what we must be, doing what we are told to do. There’s no tolerance for failure today.

  9. Anon
    June 28, 2019 at 11:03

    They say the circuses are all closing, but I think not. “It’s not dark yet/but it’s getting there.”

    Moving article. It saddens me to see how things turned out.

  10. Marcos Rebello
    June 28, 2019 at 05:05

    I find these words right on the mark. It feels as a second fall of the angels, and this should scare everyone.

    “Trace, if you will, the transformation of the United States from 1975-76 until today. It’s as if the theatricality of the tour was announcing the end of straightforward dissent and the ushering in of endless postmodern gamesmanship that is still with us. Masks. Games. Generations disappearing into technological and consumer fantasies where making money, watching television, and entering the system that destroys one’s soul became the norm, as the American empire ravaged the world and Baby Boomers found life in their cell phones and on yoga mats, as Herbert Marcuse and his compatriots of the Frankfurt School warned.

    The culture industry absorbed dissent and spit it back out as entertainment in the service of the maintenance and consolidation of the power of the ruling class. How to transform a depraved society when the culture industry has corrupted so many people at their cores is where we’re at now.”

  11. June 28, 2019 at 01:01

    Damn if I didn’t read this on my “little lit-up rectangular talisman.” Is that really worse than reading it in a magazine? It’s different, the feed is a lot faster and more customized, but I like that. And I never fetishized Barack Obama. He’s still, as Glen Ford wrote in 2008, “the more effective evil.”

    • TowerofBabel
      June 28, 2019 at 18:59

      I think this article is referring to the more “affective” evil. But, who is to judge the vacuousness of modern neoliberal culture–a culture based on idolatry (commodity)? We all live in it. And we can’t awaken from it, apparently.

    • Michael Fiorillo
      July 3, 2019 at 11:15

      True, perhaps, but a magazine doesn’t track you in real time and report everything back to Mammon and Ozymandias…

  12. Robert Mayer
    June 27, 2019 at 14:06

    Tnx CN, Edward…saw Bob 1st time… (think ’66), Pittsburgh Pa… Share w/ CN readers:
    When he changed from accoustic2 electric guitar, appx. 1/2 “folkie” audience Walked Out! “The Times They Are A’Changin'”… STILL!

  13. Momad1
    June 27, 2019 at 13:33

    Bravo! I think this has caught the essence of Dylan perfectly!! That wandering, wondering Minstrel who so captivated me as a Teen is Still out there, searching, as are all Truth Seekers!!

  14. Fran Macadam
    June 27, 2019 at 06:51

    It’s Curtin for Dylan as his Tabla Rasa. Much more is revealed about the reviewer than the Dylan he can’t understand, and misunderstands. Fallow period of the eighties? That means it was incomprehensible to Curtin that Dylan’s conversion produced some of the most original, inspiring and authentic permutations of Gospel music yet.

  15. Bettina Anne
    June 27, 2019 at 01:10

    Whoa…how about this. ITS a semi documentary, capturing a moment in time. THATS it! Bob Dylan, plays music and writes because he enjoys it, and his spirit moves him. What we take away from Dylan’s music, poetry etc…is OUR reality, not his.
    Bob Dylan, keeps on moving on, because a rolling stone..gathers no moss.

    • Allan
      July 4, 2019 at 10:13

      Bravo! Keep on keeping’ on.

  16. June 27, 2019 at 00:58

    I am lived and living his lyrics soul connections

  17. Jeanne
    June 26, 2019 at 20:53

    Wonderful read. Thank you.

  18. Scott Hawley
    June 26, 2019 at 19:50

    This “review” is a work in itself. The simultaneous analysis of corporaate propaganda and its erosion of the critical/creative faculties along with the desperate attempts of the players to grab hold of the rapidly disolvong practice of “disent” throws into relief this edge of death we all now live on. “Capitalism has conqured consciousness with commodities.” Yes indeed my friend. Thats where the new sruggle starts.

  19. Litchfield
    June 26, 2019 at 16:29

    Beautiful essay.
    I hope to see the film.

  20. Joshua M
    June 26, 2019 at 15:22

    Absolutely masturbatory piece of text. Another mediocre writer (to be generous) harvesting page clicks through, and contributing nothing of substance to, discussion of Bob Dylan.

    • tecumseh
      June 26, 2019 at 16:15

      Your comment is a perfect description of your comment. Sorry that this article went over your head

      • Tiu
        June 27, 2019 at 04:53

        If you’re familiar with the story of Laurel Canyon and the origins of the hippy era, you might just look at Dylan et al slightly differently. It certainly changed my outlook – even though I still enjoy the music.
        (I tend to agree with Joshua M about the article.)

      • Joshua M
        June 29, 2019 at 00:03

        As you wish, Ed.

    • June 28, 2019 at 10:30

      Thank you Mister M

    • June 28, 2019 at 12:13


    • Bobby Z
      June 29, 2019 at 03:03

      “Mediocre writer”? In your case, takes one to know one.

  21. Drummer Dan
    June 26, 2019 at 14:56

    Our only chance is actually VERY slim, if not non-existent. In our capitalistic society it’s all about the money, and with the radical shift of income inequality our chance is getting slimmer. Getting paid is more important than getting it right, no thanks to the amoral right.

    • June 26, 2019 at 20:13

      And the amoral “Left” too. Its hard to tell the differnce any more.

    • Tiu
      June 27, 2019 at 05:03

      Money’s one way to described it. Consumption and image also seem to be driving forces, driven by an expanded selection of media portals compared to the early years of the hippy era, with a much more sophisticated primal manipulation being applied, moneytized and harvested.
      Gotta keep the herd moving in the desired direction.

    • DH Fabian
      June 28, 2019 at 16:58

      Don’t worry. Liberals are all geared up to wage a revolution to maintain the status quo for the middle class heroes of capitalism. So, we’ve got that.

  22. Mary Perez
    June 26, 2019 at 14:00

    Moving and truthful reflections on our past, our present; thoughts that could help many young people today. Belonging to that older generation, and having taken that road less travelled, I fully enjoyed this article. I hope to read more by Edward Curtin and will certainly look up some of his writings.

  23. Babyl-on
    June 26, 2019 at 13:21

    I have two memories on this subject. When I first heard the album “John Wesley Hardin” I felt it was Dylen’s last album or rather first album as just another entertainer. At some point during that period it became clear to me that Dylan was “in it for the money and fame” I haven’t paid much attention to him sense.

    The other recollection I have is seeing the album “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” for the first time, a friend with me said “they look too clean” as I have thought about it sense I think of the release of that album as the beginning of the Neoliberal era. The Beatles were right wing, hated taxes and were clearly interested in nothing but the money and fame. When the USG went to them and said they could and would take it all away they capitulated in a heart beat.

    The Beatles/Dylan phenomenon were largely promoted heavily by the empire and, certainly in the case of the Beatles remains the most devastating attack on culture by commercial dynastic wealth in US history. The Beatles were not even good enough to be called musicians, yet they so dominated the cultural milieu (along with the imperial push to dominate culture through rock & roll) they destroyed the careers of many great musicians – they were a powerful weapon for imperial cultural domination.

    People who seek cultural and political change work to advance their cause, entertainers entertain.

    Dylan certainly had his finger on the zeitgeist, I too was moved by his songs, in his early carrier and I don’t question his initial sincerity but it became clear a long time ago his intention was to be an entertainer and not a fighter for any higher cause.

    • Tecumseh
      June 26, 2019 at 16:22

      What a bunch of paranoid tripe. You’re obviously not a musician. All musicians know that the Beatles were fabulous song writers and fantastic players. Go and look at their performances in 1965. They’re tight as a machine. They revolutionized popular music.

      Your expectation that they should be political revolutionaries is your own. They were musicians. The idea that they were right wing is ludicrous. Look at John Lennon’s history in the 1970s. Look at the causes they donated to. Efforts to stop the Vietnam war, legalize marijuana, free political prisoners, combat famine. Paul McCartney is a vegetarian. George Harrison was a huge advocate for fighting poverty.

      John Wesley Harding is a brilliant album. How you can hear the advocacy folk songs on there and think that it’s nothing but entertainment is beyond me. I pity the poor immigrant. I am alonesome hobo. Not to mention all along the watch tower.

      You just sound bitter.

      • June 26, 2019 at 22:54

        thank you tecumseh for your response to that mass of infantile tripe, or bullshit, from a tone deaf person with a beat like a retired cop and the politics of tmz.

    • TowerofBabel
      June 28, 2019 at 19:52

      I partly agree. The neoliberal era was based of truth and lies. The truth was that individualism was important to the creativity and vitality of human society. The falsity lies in the radicalization of the individual (and individual interests). That becomes the social pathology that we see today, everywhere in neoliberal societies. So it is a paradox. Bobby was beautiful but the world based on spectacle and idolatry–left him stranded. I’m not going to blame him. He is human. We are all part of it.

  24. Surrealisto de Fierros
    June 26, 2019 at 12:14

    That the great genius of Bob Dylan should need stoop so low as to doing Frank Sinatra covers says more about his lost self confidence than anything else. Sinatra would & could never compare to Dylan insofar as a “bard of the ages” monicker could fall upon him. & Dylan’s musicianship itself is beyond Sinatra’s, who was merely a singer, & mostly of songs other people wrote, at that. So it’s rather sad & pathetic, to me. Poets are at their best in their youth to begin with, Dylan is no exception.

  25. Mike
    June 26, 2019 at 11:58

    The linguist Danial Dorr gives one way to think about our lives: living in a collective social reality that is experienced individually and apparently privately that we must act upon using language to organize ourselves in the necessary cooperative efforts to both survive and change it. Language enables us to band together, but all the infinite currents of material reality force us into endless attempts to grasp life as it moves constantly on, through and around us.

  26. Drew Hunkins
    June 26, 2019 at 10:32

    “…affect an audience that might never have taken the roads less traveled of their youthful dreams but “fell” into the conformist and oppressive American neo-liberal way of life?…”

    Great point. Baby Boomers did some great things in protesting the Vietnam War (largely under the threat of being drafted, and it was often upper middle class kids at very good public universities), but other than that too many Boomers sold-out. I’m a Gen Xer so perhaps I’m holding a bowl of sour grapes, but I see the Boomers as a group who did much to subvert the Dem Party to the point where it really hasn’t passed one substantive beneficial piece of legislation for the masses since 1966!

    For all the hope that the Boomers seemed to foster in the ’60s, we still don’t have Medicare for All, we still don’t have a minimum wage that can support a human being, we’re sans an economy that’s not almost totally dependent on the Pentagon and its ancillary industries, strong workplace democracy in the form of health labor unions are virtually non-existent, we have a nation in which close to half the population can’t come up with enough cash for an emergency car repair or dental visit, and we have millions of milennials and Gen Xers wallowing in 6 figure student loan debt.

    In a word, the Boomers sold everyone out, including many of their own struggling brethren.

    • geeyp
      June 26, 2019 at 18:23

      Drew Hunkins – If you weren’t around then, I will gently say you don’t know anything regarding the issues you have mentioned. You never lived with a hot war and the accompanying draft monkey on your rear. That anxiety is just not your experience. Yes, the issues you’ve raised effect many generations and effect me as well. People stood up then for many of these issues and I don’t see your generation doing anything except walking into lampposts with their nose in their cel phone. Trying to stop the 2nd Iraq war was the last hurrah, so to speak. Please don’t dump all your issues on the people who lived and worked hard to improve the country. I think you mean well, just are uninformed on some of this. We didn’t all fall into conformity. And the Democrat party died on Nov. 22, 1963.

      • Paul Lazot
        July 3, 2019 at 14:59

        Great reply, geeyp.

    • June 27, 2019 at 01:47

      Dylan wrote this…..Come you masters of war
      You that build the big guns
      You that build the death planes
      You that build all the bombs
      You that hide behind walls
      You that hide behind desks
      I just want you to know
      I can see through your masks
      You that never done nothin’
      But build to destroy
      You play with my world
      Like it’s your little toy
      You put a gun in my hand
      And you hide from my eyes
      And you turn and run farther
      When the fast bullets fly
      Like Judas of old
      You lie and deceive
      A world war can be won
      You want me to believe
      But I see through your eyes
      And I see through your brain
      Like I see through the water
      That runs down my drain
      You fasten all the triggers
      For the others to fire
      Then you sit back and watch
      When the death count gets higher
      You hide in your mansion
      While the…

      • TowerofBabel
        June 28, 2019 at 20:53

        Where is that Bobby?

    • DH Fabian
      June 28, 2019 at 17:15

      No, it wasn’t the Boomers, a generation that was just as divided as any other. The rightward drift of Democrats began in the ’80s with the younger “Reagan Democrats,” the children of the Boomers., and the party took a hard right turn with the Clinton administration, elected by young Democrats. When the Clinton wing split apart the Dem voting base, middle class vs. poor, young liberals were fine with it, though mystified by the inevitable consequences, and older Dem voters began moving away, dropping out. I guess Sen. Sanders didn’t “need a weather vane to know which way the wind blows.” He dropped his former years of support for democratic socialism/legitimate poverty relief to appeal to young middle class capitalists, who hail him as a voice of the capitalist “left.” He seems to be doing quite well, in this new suit of his. Maybe it fits him, a wealthy man, more comfortably than the old one did.

  27. Paolo
    June 26, 2019 at 10:00

    The sixties sort-of-revolution failed because it was based on too shallow foundations, «a fantastic amount of trendy chemical amusement aid» (Frank Zappa), and stupid slogans like «turn on, tune in, drop out».

    Nostalgia for those times is ridiculous. Till we get rid of it there is no hope for any change.

    It might be that Bob Dylan is the only one who understood it «She put down in writin’ what was in her mind/I just don’t see why I should even care» (Not Dark Yet)

    • Fran Macadam
      June 27, 2019 at 06:55

      Turn off, tune out, drop in.

    • June 28, 2019 at 20:44

      First off, the sort-of-revolution did not fail as you seem to think. Really it was more successful than any of us who gave material support and sustenance
      would have dreamed. The war which was built on lies comes to an ignoble end as the peasants with pitchforks & AK 47s chase the occupiers up to the roof of the outpost of occupation to be spirited away by helicopters to ships offshore. Nixon resigns, and his attorney general goes to prison. And you call this route a failure… What would have to happened for you to deem this bloodless putsch a success… The war machine vanquished to another planet…??? Did I mention that the draft too went the way of the rest of their marshal plans into the dustpile of history. We didn’t change the world, or man’s insatiable list for power. Just the role of our country, against all hope. There is and will never be any final victories. Just more battles against the worst in us.

  28. Rex Chickeneater
    June 26, 2019 at 09:06

    Thoughtful essay but, hey, the movie, the songs, the performer, it’s entertainment, part of a commercial enterprise. The very talented Dylan offers product and we purchase it. No one could fulfill the expectations that people hold about him. He’s someone from Minnesota who now lives in Malibu, not the Messiah.

  29. Steven Kruh
    June 26, 2019 at 06:52

    Interesting rants of a Frankfurt School marxist against the culture industry’s cooption of the aspirations of the human soul and the hopes of a perpetually authentic life. He says it’s all lapsed into depression and its pharmaceutical fixes. He gets the greatness of Dylan, though, as he does D.H..Lawrence and Nietzsche. Words as well on the compelling genius coming from the ancient Greeks and Latins, but nothing of Dylan’s native Judaism–becsuse, I suspect, the author is ignorant and a reactionary. He loathes American power in the world but has not a word for the greater enemies of hope and freedom, as if all else exists just in reaction to (to survive, resist, overcome, deflect) Uncle Sam He seems a sad and cynical fellow. But, not a worthless one! Enjoyable read. And, yes, those Dylan performances were shocking manfestations of genius!! There’s still plenty of it out there on the stages of true living.

    The cynicism and hyper-criticism of these Adorno/Lukacs disciples are relentless;–until there is no air and no joy. Pure intellect. Then, when all hope and light are lost they descend with their Totalitarian panacea. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. The other is to leave the corpse to picked at and reanimated by the conquerers with the scimitar: a nihilism of the desert to unbury that of deconstruction-ruins.

    • June 26, 2019 at 16:14

      I don’t see how you got to totalitarianism from Adorno et al? Dylan’s piety was to advance the banner of Woody, Robeson, Kerouac, Holden Caulfield…. He abandoned it for drugs, despair and decadence. As have we all. The Revolution was always a forlorn hope. This is the end my friend. Are there any believers left?

    • Litchfield
      June 26, 2019 at 16:47

      “Dylan’s native Judaism”

      Has dylan EVER in his work or elsewhere referred to Judaism as having anyh relevance to his life or his work?
      He certainly shed the Jewish “mask” of his real name and pirated that of a Welsh poet instead
      I think Judaism’s only relevnce to Dylan can be as a negative space in his persona, his life, his work.
      Oh, I thought of one possible area of relevance.
      The folk music revival, which Dylan did not invent nor start but kind of “took over” and rode to his own incredible fame and fortune, was closely related to the musical interests of New Deal Democrats of the thirties, many of whom were Jewish and spearheaded the labor movement of the thirties.
      Furthermore, without the collector Alan Lomax there would have been no folk revival, and no Bob Dylan.
      Lomax collected many of the genuine folk songs that Dylan (and some others, such as Simon & Garfinkel) then (skilfullly) cannibalized as he came to personify the “folk revival” to mainstream America.
      Dylan really was a fake, as Curtin writes. I remember the first time I heard of him, ca. 1961, and I thought he was a joke. I was already familiar with the real “folk music scene” in a number of select locales in the USA.
      Dylan was “discovered” by John Hammond Sr. and was a huge marketing success.

      • Steven Kruh
        June 28, 2019 at 16:38

        Firstly, he spent more time in the 80s in Brooklyn with the Chabad Rebbe and his disciples than could even be imagined. I know and I know stories. There’s evidence of it beginning in 1983. Are you familiar with Infidels, the songs and the artwork? And that’s just scratching the surface with Shabbatai Zisl…aka Zimmerman. And the author’s failure to consider that after Auschwitz the ontological, ethical and aesthetic dispotion of West was transformed seems evidence enough of his ideological opacity.

      • Matt
        June 29, 2019 at 00:01

        Yikes, a little harsh on Dylan. There’s no way he could even claim to be of the real “American Roots” folk music, as he was a generation removed. However, Dylan was a devotee to Alan Lomax’s recordings (especially Woody Guthrie) and brought its “folk consciousness” into the Rock & Roll era… his influence was undeniable in the social consciousness of popular music of the 60’s.

  30. Zhu
    June 26, 2019 at 05:40

    My ’60s sucked. I preferred the Stones.

  31. peon d. rich
    June 26, 2019 at 01:45

    We, i.e., white middle class American youth, became self-conscious with Dylan. Radical by contrast to the world we came from. Using forms and feelings deeper and more spontaneous expressions of self. Cooked them down and added his special spice: Bam, up a notch from who we were. Good on that.

    Let’s not fetishize, however (something Curtain attempts to unmask but can’t get around Dylan’s ‘genius’). Charley Patton – there was genius that Dylan recognized, a genius from nowhere here contributing to an impossible self-consciousness: one of new life from a blackness presumed empty. He, and the folk before and after built a bridge to other worlds never seen before. And on this foundation Dylan got rich and remains an enigmatic genius of emptiness where a rich source of self was revealed. Existential smugness of idols, in their twilight

    • Steven Kruh
      June 26, 2019 at 06:55

      Patton was amazing, yes! But Dylan even more so. No need to feitishize the barefoot, violent and impoverished, either.

  32. Mike Lamb
    June 26, 2019 at 00:51

    I recall many of Bob Dylan’s songs having been performed better by other artists such as Jimi Hendrix making Bob Dylan’s song “All Along the Watchtower” into a ROCK ANTHEM.

    And Peter Paul and Mary and Joan Baez’s voices raised to the lyrics of the likes of “The Times Are A’Changing” (and alas over the past 50 years we would appreciate the social policies of the likes of a Richard Nixon with many of today’s democrats seeing the policies of Richard Nixon being too liberal for America).

    But alas, around 35 years ago, before Bill Cliinton and Barack Obama killed the peace movement, I played for a small local peace group a cassette tape of Joan Baez singing Bob Dylan’s song “With God on our Side” and the words that we need for today, but
    America’s Propaganda Broadcast System, in its calls for war, ignores:

    “That if God’s on our side
    He’ll stop the next war”

  33. Anarcissie
    June 25, 2019 at 20:30

    I haven’t thought about Bob much since _Nashville Skyline_ or so. Every now and then one of his lines pops into my mind as particularly appropriate to a given situation, like something from the _Book of Changes_. But go to a whole movie? Come on, we were there once already. However, I did like the movie where they had half a dozen actors play various fantasies of him. And the title of another movie comes as well to mind: ‘Don’t look back.’ Good advice for us all, Mr. Paige.

  34. Tom Kath
    June 25, 2019 at 20:16

    Along with Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan remains one of the truly great Jewish oracles. Oracles do not spell out the truth, but only indicate the possible existence of one. Oracles MUST allow for completely differing interpretations of meaning.

      • Tom Kath
        June 26, 2019 at 01:28

        Thank you Ed. Herewith just one interpretation from me. – The times may not be changing as much as we think?

        There’s a war in the east, so we’re told at least
        There’s a war in the west, some just call it unrest
        We feel shame. Who’s to blame? Well it’s always the same
        And the times are once again changing.

        We have conflict down south, it’s in everyone’s mouth,
        Confrontation up north, refugees and so forth
        Open borders for all, or build a wall, heed the call
        Well the times are once again changing

        There’s resentment and strife between man and wife
        And a hostile fight between the left and right
        Is it Adam or June calls the tune night and noon
        The times are once again changing

        You better learn how to crawl, those who triumphed will fall
        Those who now dictate will soon find it too late
        You’re corrupt, too well supped, and you can’t get it up
        So the times are once again changing

        These times my dears are not measured in years
        They’re recorded in blood since before the great flood
        If you do not belong, then this song will sound wrong
        But the times are once again changing

  35. Abe
    June 25, 2019 at 20:09

    Speaking of Dylan’s “masks”, after the “Born Again” phase trilogy of evangelist Christian albums (Slow Train Coming, 1979; Saved, 1980; Shot of Love,1981), Dylan recorded the album Infidels in April-May 1983.

    According to biographer Robert Shelton in “No Direction Home,” Dylan visited Israel in the summers of 1969 and 1970 and in May 1971, donning yarmulke and prayer shawl at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. He even toyed briefly with the idea of moving to a kibbutz, Shelton says.

    Dylan, whose anti-war positions made him the face of protest against the Vietnam War, also expressing affinity with the most extreme and racist Israeli currents. He confessed in 1971 his great admiration for Israeli racist Kach movement whose leader Rabbi Meir Kahane demanded the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland and whose party has since been banned. Dylan described Kahane as “a really sincere guy, he’s really put it all together”. In that same year, New York Times journalist Anthony Scaduto mentioned Dylan’s “fervent support of Israel and his overpublicised contacts with the Jewish Defence League”.

    Infidels includes the song “Neighborhood Bully”. Parroting Israeli government nationalist narratives, the lyrics portray Israel as an innocent “exiled man” dangerously “outnumbered” by “enemies”. Stephen Holden in The New York Times described the song as “an outspoken defence of Israel”.

    “Neighborhood Bully” was produced in the wake of Israel’s 1982 Invasion of Lebanon, the atrocities at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps where thousands of Palestinian civilians were slaughtered by Lebanese Christian militias with the connivance of the Israeli military, and the destruction of large parts of Beirut by Israeli air strikes.

    The Israeli invasion of Lebanon was tacitly approved by the United States, the United States vetoed a proposed UN resolution demanding that Israel withdraw, and the US provided overt military support to Israel in the form of arms and materiel.

    Meanwhile, Dylan re-visited Israel in 1983 for his son Jesse’s bar mitzvah. He eportedly had spent time at a Brooklyn center of Chabad Lubavitch, an ultraorthodox Hasidic sect that uses music centrally in its rituals. The photo on the back cover of Infidels shows Dylan touching soil on a hill overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem.

    An April 18, 1983 suicide bombing attack on United States embassy in Beirut killed 63 people, including 17 Americans. The casualties were mostly embassy and CIA staff members, but also included several US soldiers and one Marine Security Guard. It was the deadliest attack on a US diplomatic mission up to that time, and was considered the beginning of “Islamist” attacks on U.S. targets.

    Several influential congressmen had been urging an end to the US military role in Lebanon. After the embassy bombing, Sen. Barry Goldwater (R, Ariz.) said, “I think it’s high time we bring the boys home.”

    Meanwhile, Dylan was busy recording Infidels, including his personal Hasbara (pro-Israel propaganda) exercise: “Neighborhood Bully”.

    In fact, the Infidels album was released on October 27, 1983, less than a week after the attack on the Beirut barracks of US Marines serving in the Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon that killed 220 Marines, 18 sailors and 3 soldiers. The incident remains the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Armed Forces since the first day of the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War, the deadliest terrorist attack on American citizens in general prior to the September 11 attacks, and the deadliest terrorist attack on American citizens overseas. Another 128 Americans were wounded in the blast; 13 later died of their injuries, and they are counted among the number who died.

    Behind the “mask” of his constructed image as a peace activist and defender of the oppressed, the Dylan who once sang of “where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison, where the executioner’s face is always well hidden, where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten” made his choice decades ago to side with the executioner.

    Dylan continues to ignore Israel’s record of aggression and oppression.

    • Abominable abominable
      June 26, 2019 at 11:44

      Indeed. One could also add that his real claim to fame is not his singing (which is downright awful), but his affiliation pure and simple. No artistyr, no wizardy, no geniality here, just the right kind of nose

      • Abe
        June 26, 2019 at 16:23

        However one views his “artistyr” [sic] or “wizardy” [sic], certain facts about Dylan behind the “mask” are downright awful.

        No sooner are they mentioned than Inverted Hasbara (false flag “anti-Israel” / fake “anti-Jewish”) propaganda troll “Abominable abominable” pops up out of the hole to “add” just the right kind of little “antisemitic” remark about

        Hasbara propaganda “affiliation pure and simple”… indeed.

      • Fran Macadam
        June 27, 2019 at 07:01

        Aw, come off it. He couldn’t help being Jewish, even if you want to say, “Thank God I’m not a Jew.”

      • Frederike
        June 28, 2019 at 00:23


    • mkb0029
      June 26, 2019 at 15:33

      Thanks for this rundown of Dylan’s support for a racist and oppressive Israel.

    • Litchfield
      June 26, 2019 at 18:50

      Thanks for the enlightenment on Zimmerman’s real loyaties. I’ll never think about him the same again.
      A Zionist monster.
      In light of this informaiton the name change takes on a different coloration: as part of a long tradition of Jewish name changing and shape shifting. Virtually all leading Ashkenazim Jews (such as the leaders of terrorist gangs who later became Israel’s political leaders—Begin, Ben Gurion, etc. ) changed their names when they become Israelis.

      • Abe
        June 27, 2019 at 13:10

        However one views his prodigious “shape shifting”, the fact that “Zimmy” serves Israeli Zionism by promoting its heroic-moralistic national narratives and justifying its militarism in a crappy song doesn’t make him a “monster”, just a rank ethnoracist huckster.

        Zionist political violence before and after 1948 qualifies as terrorism by all measures, certainly no less than the violence of the Palestinian Arabs.

        Zionist militants David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin changed their names before the creation of the state of Israel.

        The first (Ben-Gurion) and sixth (Begin) Prime Ministers of Israel, both leads wars of conquest that included acts of terrorism and genocide.

        Israel behind the “mask” has no moral superiority, but Dylan hasn’t written any songs about that.

        • Matt
          June 29, 2019 at 00:14

          I have to be somewhat of an apologist for Bob Dylan. If he was searching to connect with his Jewish identity and was somewhat naive… how is that any different than all the patriotic Americans clinging to an identity of righteousness and exceptionalism? We all have blind spots, even cultural icons.

        • Abe
          June 30, 2019 at 15:46

          Hasbara ‘splainin’ of Dylan’s enthusiasm for his “identity” can’t ‘splain away his more than “somewhat” propagandist anthem to apartheid Israel.

          When Dylan was swooning over the “Neighborhood Bully”, Israel and apartheid South Africa were eagerly engaged in joint nuclear-weapons development and testing. A large group of Israeli scientists were working at South Africa’s Pelindaba nuclear facility. And Israel was one of the most important allies in South Africa’s weapons procurement during the years of PW Botha’s regime.

          An interesting note concerning recent events: In 1981, the South African regime made military history as arguably the first user of modern drone technology when it operated the Israeli IAI Scout drones in combat in Angola. They would only be used in combat by the Israeli regime a year later during the 1982 Israeli Invasion of Lebanon.

          Judaism is not what the state of Israel has made of it, any more than Christianity is what South Africa made of it.

          The huge “blind spot” of American Jews concerning Israeli ethnic cleansing and apartheid can hardly be excused as “somewhat naive”.

        • Abe
          June 30, 2019 at 16:39

          By 1987, Israel was the only developed nation left in the world that still maintained strong, even strategic relations with South Africa.

          Faced with criticism and a possible cut in U.S. aid, Israel “officially” announced that it would sign no more new military contracts with the South African government. In a sanctimonious speech before the Knesset in March 1987, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres declared “There is no room for discrimination, whether it’s called apartheid or any other name”.

          For propaganda purposes, Peres said, “We repeat that we express our denunciation of the system of apartheid. The Jewish outlook is that every man was born in the image of God and created equal.” This “Jewish outlook” obviously did not apply to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem still living under Israeli occupation since 1967 War

          In reality, even as the apartheid regime was entering its final throes, Israel maintained several secret military treaties with South Africa. and continued joint research in missile development and nuclear technology.

          Examining Israel’s secret alliance with South Africa in The Israeli Connection: Whom Israel Arms and Why (1987), Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi noted that the alliance between South Africa and Israel was one of the most underreported news stories of the past four decades and that Israel played a crucial role in the survival of the apartheid regime.

          Israel’s collaboration with apartheid South Africa was mentioned and condemned by various international organisations such as the UN General assembly (several times since 1974).

          But the “somewhat” sanctimonious Dylan hasn’t written any songs about that.

  36. LJ
    June 25, 2019 at 18:57

    The first paragraph was enough, Good Grief. Bood on the Tracks, Blonde on Blonde. That’s enough.

  37. Jack Frost
    June 25, 2019 at 18:41

    I hope I never have to read another long winded self serving review by this writer. He seems to love commas and stringing big words together. I feel sorry for his students. He needs to take a writing class or maybe Bob could give him some pointers…??? I enjoyed the movie…..

  38. Dave McGlinnen
    June 25, 2019 at 16:09

    Dylan whiskey and US Vietnam carpet bombing. What a sad commentary on our lives and distractions.

  39. June 25, 2019 at 16:07

    Edit, my friend. Dylan once said, asked about rap music, “less is more.”

  40. Derrick
    June 25, 2019 at 15:31

    It looks like the thinking in the mid to late sixties (the era in which Bob wrote most of his great music) was, more or less, the same kind of thinking that drove men like Woody Guthrie – that is, that only through collective action do we ‘find ourselves’ and political change come about.

    By the mid to late 1970’s it came to be that what was viewed as truly radical was to change yourself. That collective action was a constraint. Bob was swept in this tide as well it looks like.

    Of course there was a second advertising revolution in this period and a third in the Reagan years that left us more consumer than citizen.

    (I was born in 87, btw.)

    When Bob Dylan did a commercial for Cadillac a few years he became “just another Robert Zimmerman to me” hahahahha.

    Still love his music, though.

    Peace, all.

    • Fran Macadam
      June 27, 2019 at 07:03

      At least it was a Cadillac and not a Lexus or Beemer.

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