Wednesday, January 28, 2009

dignity was the first to leave

dignity is one of my favorite latter day dylan
songs. originally recorded in 1989 for oh mercy,
it's official release would wait five more years,
appearing in '94 on greatest hits vol.3, then a
live version from 1995's mtv unplugged set.
twenty years ago, bob dylan was on the verge.
to many he was on the verge of has been, what
was no longer, let alone what might be.
but there was something else in the wind, that
being the unexpected success of the traveling
wilbury's and oh mercy. while not a return to
any of the previous vintages, it could be called
a "brand new bob dylan."
dignity is a tune that draws you in with a driving
rhythm, and lyrics of world weary searching:
"I went down where the vultures feed
I would've gone deeper, but there wasn't any need
Heard the tongues of angels and the tongues of men
Wasn't any difference to me"
the vultures had tried to feed on dylan many times.
maybe that's part of the reason he kept moving,
changing, even keeping some of his best work from
release, perhaps sabotaging some of his later studio
recordings, to remain, in a way, under the radar.
dignity and the electric blind willie mctell(left off of
infidels) are only two prime examples. because even
in the 80's a new bob dylan album MEANT SOMETHING
to the critics and fans who wanted the most out of bob
every time, and probably expected a return to the glories
of past achievements. this kind of hunger was something
that the free man in bob dylan never wanted any part of.
it could be said that dylan had been looking for dignity
throughout his career, only to find that his art became
another thing entirely in the rabid hands of the public.
and i guess i'm just as guilty as anyone on that score.

"Someone showed me  a picture and I just laughed
Dignity never been photographed
I went into the red, went into the black
Into the valley of dry bone dreams

So many roads, so much at stake
So many dead ends, I'm at the edge of the lake
Sometimes I wonder what it's gonna take
To find dignity"
in other words,"name me someone who's
not a parasite, and i'll go out and say a
prayer for him."

if you want to read an excellent book on
the recordings of bob dylan, check out
"Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions" by
Clinton Heylin. it's still in print and was
recently updated into the new millenium.


  1. "Name me someone who's
    not a parasite, and i'll go out and say a
    prayer for him."

    Though I love Dylan at almost all points of his career (late 80's, non-wilburys excluded) his most mind blowing stuff came without a doubt in the 60's. Its just staggering stuff from the folk protest songs (They're all protest songs I know) to Bringing to Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde.

    To talk ourselves into thinking the later, great periods are the same is self-delusional.

  2. i don't disagree with your point. i do however
    think it does bd a disservice to reduce his later works to afterthoughts. even he readily
    admits that he "can't write like that anymore."(ie: it's alright ma or desolation row). in fact you help me make my point, in that EVERYTHING pales in comparison to those records you refer to. yet every dylan record since has been held up to that yardstick. and
    that expectation can send an artist searching
    for "dignity". finally, imagine a music world
    where dylan stopped after blonde. we would never know the things we missed.