Bob Dylan as jokerman

LIFEembedDrawImage(2666197); From historian Douglas Brinkley's profile of Bob Dylan in the May 14 Rolling Stone (available online only in the smallest snippets):

Dylan's principal frustration, however, is that he feels misunderstood as an artist: "Popular music has no, whatever you call them, critics, that understand popular music in all of its dynamic fundamentalism. The consensus on me is that I'm a songwriter. And that I was influenced by Woody Guthrie and sang protest songs. Then rock & roll songs. Then religious songs for a period of time. But it's a stereotype. A media creation. Which is impossible to avoid if you're any type of public figure at all."

From Joe Klein's review of Together Through Life, in the May 11 edition of Time:

It didn't have to come to this. He could have died in that motorcycle crash or been shot by a crazed fan or sky-walked out a 10th-story window during a bad trip. But Bob Dylan -- the great American artist of the past 50 years, I believe -- survived, which is perhaps the only prosaic thing he's done in his life. A half-decade older than the oldest baby boomers, 68 on May 24, he has predicted their maturation -- marriage, divorce, finding and losing religion, midlife crisis and regeneration, a second wind, a third.

Even when asked about faith directly, however, Dylan tends toward the discursive. From Brinkley's profile again:

After that evening's show at the Heineken Music Hall -- at around 11:30 p.m. -- I interview Dylan again. Because it is Easter weekend, I decide to push him on the importance of Christian Scripture in his life. "Well, sure," he says, "that and those other first books I read were biblical stuff. Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur. Those were the books that I remembered reading and finding religion in. Later on, I started reading over and over again Plutarch and his Roman Lives. And the writers Cicero, Tacitus and Marcus Aurelius. ... I like the morality thing. People talk about it all the time. Some say you can't legislate morality. Well, maybe not. But morality has gotten kind of a bad rap. In Roman thought, morality is broken down into basically four things. Wisdom, Justice, Moderation and Courage. All of these are the elements that would make up the depth of a person's morality. And then that would dictate the types of behavior patterns you'd use to respond in any given situation. I don't look at morality as a religious thing."

Klein is able to engage the topic of faith well. When Arlo Guthrie became a third-order Franciscan in the 1970s, Klein profiled him in Rolling Stone -- and did an excellent job. Here's hoping he'll have the benefit of an interview the next time he writes about Dylan.

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