Author Archives: RWB

Age of Light Update

Back in the year of our Lord two thousand and eight, on November the fourth, Barack Obama was elected to the presidency of the United States. Bob Dylan happened to be playing a show in Minnesota that night, and came back for his final encore obviously having heard the news backstage on how the electoral contest was going. He introduced his band as he normally did and then made some off-the-cuff comments, which were covered back then in this space in excruciating (although highly accurate) detail.

So, in total, he said:

I wanna introduce my band right now. On the guitar, there’s Denny Freeman. Stu Kimball is on the guitar too. Donny Herron as well, on the violin right now, playin’ on the steel guitar earlier. George Recile’s playin’ on the drums.

Tony Garnier, wearin’ the Obama button — [applause] alright! — Tony likes to think it’s a brand new time right now. An age of light. Me, I was born in 1941 — that’s the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. Well, I been livin’ in a world of darkness ever since.

But it looks like things are gonna change now …

Change was the thing: it was “hope and change,” the theme of Barack Obama’s campaign, as older readers might remember.

Dylan’s remarks caused quite a hoopla, hailed ’round the world as an optimistic endorsement of the new president, who would clear away all of that post-Pearl-Harbor darkness for Bob and for everyone.

We took a different view here, as expounded upon in that post way back then. In short we thought Dylan was being ironic and philosophical rather than triumphalist.

Things always change, of-course. And things have changed. An age of light? With all respect to Tony Garnier’s touching optimism, I think there is now probably exactly no one who would say the past eight years have been an age of light (albeit that we may have wildly varying reasons for saying so).

I was greatly struck, and still am, by Bob Dylan’s performance at President Obama’s White House in February of 2010 (just one year into that presidency), billed as a “Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Era.” He showed up and played only one song, “The Times They Are a-Changin'”; not as a celebratory duet with Joan Baez (who was also there that night) but in a new, spare, and quite melancholy arrangement.

There’s a lot that could be said, on January 19th, 2017, but it would be way too much. Those times, they sure just do keep on a-changin’. (And that I can tell you.)

Stick with me, baby

RWB has left the buildng. However, you can search the archived content of this website via the search box below.

The Times They Are A-Changin'

I’m moving all regular operations over to my other website, The Cinch Review. It will now include a category I’m calling Dylanosophy; just to be different, and because it might describe the best of whatever it is I do in that regard. I’m doing this because (a) it’s long past time to put all my internet scribblings in one place and (b) my motivation to comment on everything happening in the Dylan universe is just not strong enough to justify this venue any more. Too often I would be repeating myself, which I don’t like to do — it’s all in the archives somewhere, and I don’t have any plans to take down the archives (although I’ll probably move a few items over to the new spot). I’d like to do Dylan-related things only when I have something to say, rather than trying to keep up-to-date for no other reason than keeping up-to-date.


I’m enormously and sincerely grateful for all the eyeballs and support I’ve received here, and I hope whatever bizarre mix of things I continue to launch into the ether will meet your fancy in one way or another.

Goodbye is too good a word, so I’ll just say … bookmark this! Look for new writing in various categories including: Commentary, Reviews, Dogs and Dylanosophy.

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Chinese checkers hold up Bob Dylan shows

Britain’s Telegraph reports that the Chinese government is in fact reviewing the planned Bob Dylan concerts in Beijing and Shanghai, slated to take place in April. As the writer, Martin Chilton, points out, the April 6th and April 8th gigs gigs in mainland China do not appear on the tour dates listed on the official BobDylan.com website. However, they have been listed for some time as confirmed dates on the unofficial but traditionally very reliable site run by Bill Pagel.

Interestingly, the official site also does not list the gigs in Taipei (Taiwan) on April 3rd, or in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on April 10th. (The show in Hong Kong on April 12th is listed on both sites.)

Last year, proposed dates in mainland China did not come off, although I don’t recall that they ever had achieved “confirmed” status on Bill Pagel’s website, leaving the possibility that the business aspects never really gelled. Mr. Chilton observes: Continue reading “Chinese checkers hold up Bob Dylan shows” »

Pete Seeger: Never too old to support the wrong cause

It’s being reported that Pete Seeger, the 92 year-old folk/protest singer, has now joined the BDS movement. Some of you might say: “Well, I’m not really surprised that Pete Seeger would have Bush Derangement Syndrome, but isn’t this a bit tardy on his part?” Unfortunately, this BDS is even worse than that one. It stands for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions,” and is all about ostracizing, punishing and ultimately destroying the state of Israel.

Even on the flagship website for the movement, you will have a hard time finding what it is — specifically speaking — that Israel would have to do to satisfy the Boycott/Divestment/Sanction folks. In the end, while it begins with a call for “self-determination” for Palestinians (about which Israel has openly been willing to negotiate for years, but lacking a willing partner) the goals are designed to be amorphous, so that the “movement” can just continue until Israel is completely gone. And so it’s just another iteration of the oldest hatred in the world. Continue reading “Pete Seeger: Never too old to support the wrong cause” »

Masked and Anonymous

Just a passage from Abraham Joshua Heschel’s deeply inspiring book, Man Is Not Alone.

God is unwilling to be alone, and man cannot forever remain impervious to what He longs to show. Those of us who cannot keep their striving back find themselves at times within the sight of the unseen and become aglow with its rays. Some of us blush, others wear a mask. Faith is a blush in the presence of God.

Some of us blush, others wear a mask which veils spontaneous sensitivity to the holy ineffable dimension of reality. We all wear so much mental make-up, we have almost forfeited our face. But faith only comes when we stand face to face — the ineffable in us with the ineffable beyond us — suffer ourselves to be seen, to commune, to receive a ray and to reflect it. But to do that the soul must be alive within the mind.

Responsiveness to God cannot be copied; it must be original with every soul. Even the meaning of the divine is not grasped when imposed by a doctrine, when accepted by hearsay. It only enters our vision when leaping like a spark from the anvil of the mind, hammered and beaten upon by trembling awe.

I noted that particular passage for its (pre-)echo of Dylan’s concept of humans as beings who go around wearing masks, as in his 2004 film.However, it is soaring and galvanizing writing irrespective of any potential Dylan links. And every page of the book is like that. Quite amazing.

My shoes, they come from Singapore

During his recent performance at the Grammys, Bob Dylan was wearing a pair of two-tone, black and white shoes, which caught the eyes of many viewers. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him wear them before, whether on stage or in some publicity photo, but I can’t be specific. Since then, I came across a similar pair of shoes somewhere else; namely, in the episode of Kojak embedded from Hulu.com below. It’s from 1974. Continue reading “My shoes, they come from Singapore” »

Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life

It seems like there’s at least three new books on Bob Dylan published every week, and that in itself is certainly some kind of amazing phenomenon. One in particular that I am looking forward to, however, is Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life by Scott Marshall. It will feature an interview with Bob Dylan’s former wife (from the 1980s), Carolyn Dennis, who was also one of his backup singers for some time. To my knowledge, it’s the first real interview she’s given Continue reading “Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life” »

West of the Jordan, East of the Rock of Gibraltar

It sure is a Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar kind of time, looking out on the Middle East, with regime’s crumbling, protesters being machine-gunned, buildings burning, blood flowing.

Prayed in the ghetto with my face in the cement
Heard the last moan of a boxer, seen the massacre of the innocent
Felt around for the light switch, felt around for her face
Been treated like a farm animal on a wild goose chase

West of the Jordan, east of the Rock of Gibraltar,
I see the turnin’ of the page, curtain rising on a new age
I see the groom’s still waiting at the altar

I had no idea that there were versions of Groom’s Still Waiting At the Altar by Elkie Brooks and by Rod Stewart, but I found them on YouTube this morning. Arguably better than either of those, however, is the one embedded here by a combo calling themselves Ultimate Outlet. Continue reading “West of the Jordan, East of the Rock of Gibraltar” »

On turning the other cheek: Bob Dylan et al

Many Christian churches following the most common Lectionary would have featured a particular segment of the Sermon on the Mount as the Gospel reading today, namely Matthew 5:38-48; this is the part which includes Jesus’ admonition to his followers to “turn the other cheek” in response to being slapped in the face, which is one of those sayings of Jesus which has entered the lingo of believers, unbelievers and … just about everyone else too.

Interestingly, it seems that Continue reading “On turning the other cheek: Bob Dylan <em>et al</em>” »

Bob Dylan (and Lady Gaga) at the Grammys

So what’s to say about Dylan at the Grammys last night?

Exactly twenty years ago, in 1991, Dylan performed at the Grammys while collecting his “Lifetime Achievement Award” (hmm … shouldn’t he either give that back or get another one?). He performed an all-but incomprehensible version of Masters of War. Lots of people said then: “Wow, how washed up is that old guy?” Twenty years later, after Dylan’s performance of Maggie’s Farm at last night’s show, it seems a lot of people are saying much the same thing. And they’re probably just as correct. (So we can expect another twenty years of great music from Dylan.) Continue reading “Bob Dylan (and Lady Gaga) at the Grammys” »