The writer of this piece recently attended a concert by the great Nobel Prize winning performer, Bob Dylan. It was an amazing event. His show was scheduled to begin at 8:00 pm and run for 108 minutes. At the appointed time he appeared on stage with his band and immediately began performing and continued to do so for 108 minutes. There were no introduction. Dylan did not need one and he did not take the time to introduce he band members. He did not interact with the audience with chit chatting about his grandchildren or what happened on the motor home enroute to town. The show was nothing but Bob Dylan and his band performing.
Many Vietnam Veterans remember Bob Dylan as the social change folk singer who recorded the song “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Written in 1963, just before the public began to disapprove of America’s involvement in Vietnam, the song features a simple melody played by Dylan’s acoustic guitar and harmonica. The lines “There’s a battle outside/and it’s ragin’/it’ll soon shake your windows/rattle your walls” are an obvious reference to the Vietnam War. He was a genius articulator of the universal spirit animating social thought.
In the early 1960’s Dylan decided that this was not what he wanted to be. The new Woody Guthrie was mutating into something else – something that made some of his early acolytes uncomfortable. For Dylan is not only the most renowned protest singer of his era but also its most renowned renegade. In mid-1964, he explained to critic Nat Hentoff: “Me, I don’t want to write for people anymore – you know, be a spokesman. From now on, I want to write from inside me …I’m not part of no movement… I just can’t make it with any organisation…”
For more than fifty years Bob Dylan has been an entertained of note to millions including a lot of Vietnam Veterans.