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Now I know why Dylan struggles to talk

September 29, 2005

A few months back Bob Dylan was interviewed by Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes. I wondered, as you might have, why this literate, fluent, prolific poet had such trouble verbalizing in a conversation. I thought he either didn't care to talk or he was a bit snobbish. After watching the Dylan documentary "No Direction Home" I now realize how wrong I was.

Dylan in the film, recorded 40 years ago, behaved much in the same manner.
Now that I think of it, when I've seen him in concert, he's also been a bit awkward between songs. You can notice it on his live CDs as well. So, what's up?

Let's take a look at ourselves. I'll bet you're pretty good at doing something.
It might be your work, a hobby; maybe you excel with children or pets. I'll also bet that you struggle with other things. Things that come easy for many people. Bob Dylan is gifted with poetry and melody. He does not have the same natural talents as a speaker. It's not stage fright, because he's also a bit shy in normal conversation. Dylan is who is he is. We marvel at phrase after phrase in many songs - at times our heads spin trying to follow him. When he talks it's so different, that it's ironic. A friend of mine thought he might have been drunk or doped up. I don't think so. Singing comes easy for him. He works hard, but poetry flows out of him. Talking about himself is the hardest thing for him to do.

Ever seen John Gorka? When he belts out that rich baritone using just the right words and no extras, it's easy to become impressed. When Gorka talks he's shy, awkward, and appears confused. That's just John. I'm tickled with the gifts we've received from both, and countless other artists. I've also lost my expectations and even my requirements that all singers should be as eloquent as Judy Collins, Nanci Griffith, or Bruce Cockburn.

There was a scene in the final hour of "No Direction Home" where Bob is backstage with his band following a concert in England. They are discussing reviews and wondering why the press doesn't understand him. Dylan was bewildered that one writer had exaggerated by saying that "EVERYBODY had walked out." He tried to joke with the rest of the gang about it, but he was clearly wiping his eyes. To see him cry after all that he has given to us made me feel ashamed. I don't know about you, but I no longer care if Bob Dylan stumbles in conversation. In fact I'm going to work a little harder to be less judgmental about anyone.

Posted by Jim Blum at September 29, 2005 1:28 PM


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