Chonicles Volume 1 by Bob Dylan (L.S.)



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" There was nothing easygoing about the folk songs I sang. They weren't friendly or ripe with mellowness. They didn't come gently to the shore. I guess you could say they weren't commercial. Not only that, my style was too erratic and hard to pigeonhole for the radio, and songs, to me , were too important than just light entertainment. They were my preceptor and guide into some altered consciousness of reality, some different republic, some liberated republic." (34)

This passage portrays how important the lyrics and sounds were to Dylan as a songwriter. His music is about more than entertaining the people; he wrote what he knew and was not concerned whether people would buy into his music. He was not even convinced his music would catch on with the American public. It seems Dylan cared about music more than his own personal success.

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This statement relates to the previous quote. Though Dylan did not think his music was going to be played over the radio like a new hit pop song, he still believed he could make music that would change the industry the way Picasso's art changed art values. This is a goal that seems almost unrealistic, but many people have deemed Bob Dylan one of most revolutionary singer/songwriter of all time.

"In the world news, Picasso at seventy-nine years old had just married his thrty-five-year-old model. Wow. Picasso wasn't just loafing about on crowded sidewalks. Life hadn't flowed past him yet. Picasso had fractured the art world and cracked it wide open. He was revolutionary. I wanted to be like that." (55)

" I had tried to visit Woody regularly, but now it was getting harder to do. Woody had been confined Greystone Hospital in Morristown, New Jersey, and I would usually take the bus there from the Port Authority Terminal, make the hour-and-a-half ride and then walk the rest of the half mile up the hill to the hospital, a gloomy and threatening granite building- looked like a medieval fortress." (98)

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The Woody whom Dylan is referring to is Woody Guthrie (pictured right of quote). He was a folk singer during the Great Depression, and Dylan idolized him. This passage says something about Dylan's character and his ability to be supportive and sympathize for someone in need. He did not care about the long trip he had to take to see Woody in the hospital; he knew it was the right thing to do. This is a side of Bob Dylan that the public does not really see in his interviews and on stage.



Bob Dylan Meets Johnny Cash

"About ten years later I was having dinner at Johnny Cash's house outside of Nashville. There were a lot of songwriters there...We sat in a circle and each songwriter would play a song and pass the guitar to the next player to the next player. Usually, there'd be comments made like 'You really nailed that on.' Or 'Yeah, man, you said it all in them few lines.' " (101-102)


This is a quote I like personally because Johnny Cash is probably my favorite musician. The scene which Dylan depicts is a dream like picture. I would have loved to have been at this jam session. Cash was one of Dylan's idols as well, in the video to the left he describes him as a "religious figure"


The two quotes the left are connected. Dylan is talking about losing what made him so different and such a great folk singer. He knew he could not continue playing music that did not mean anything to him. On the following page he talks about rehearsing with The Grateful Dead, but they wanted to play the songs they liked, the less popular songs. These songs did not have any meaning to Dylan (as well as some of his own songs at the time). He did not feel he could sing these songs with emotion, and I agree what makes his music and so many others' music of his time so great is the music had meaning, and those musicians played with feeling and emotion. So instead of feeling like a "goon" (149), Dylan left the rehearsal and walked down the street when he found inspiration again from an old jazz singer in a jazz club. He returned to the rehearsal with this newfound inspiration and went on to play the shows with The Dead without any regrets.

"I think I was only up to the task of about twent or so. The rest were too cryptic, too darkly driven, and I was no longer capable of doing anything radically creative with them. It was like carrying a package of heavy rotting meat. I couldn't understand where they came from. The glow was gone and the match had burned right to the end. I was going through the motions. Try as I might, the engines wouldn't start." (148)

"No one had ever taught me. This technique was so elemental, so simple, I'd forgotten. It was like I'd forgotten how to button my own pants. I wondered if I could still do it. I wanted at least a chance to try. If I could in any way get close to handling this technique, if I could get off this marathon stunt ride." (151)

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Bio

Robert Allen Zimmerman was born on May 24, 1941. He was influenced early in his life by stars such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard. He formed bands, including the Golden Chords, Elston Gunn, and His Rock Boppers, but he found it difficult to keep a band without the proper funds. He began playing folk music in cafes while enrolled at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. After playing with more appropriate names for a folk musician he decided to use the name Bob Dylan after reading a Dylan Thomas poem.

Dylan dropped out of college in 1960 to see his idol Woody Guthrie who was hospitalized in New York. He started playing in the cafes of Greenwich Village. He made many contacts with those on the music scene during this time. After receiving a good report in the New York Times on a performance, Dylan signed a recording contract with Columbia Records. Dylan released some important folk albums and toured with Joan Baez before beginning a mix of an acoustic and electric show. Dylan went on to release successful albums, including his first #1 album "Planet Waves" in which he collaborated with The Band.



What I learned

Chronicles is not full of historical facts, but Dylan does refer to what life was like. For example he talks of how everyone was so cautious of communists. He said it really was a terrible way to grow up as a kid, living scared of the idea they could be bombed at any moment; the way they had to hide underneath their desks. The other way Dylan gives historical information is in the music industry. He shows how he made went from not having a permanent home in New York to the legendary folk singer he is today. He alludes to many contacts he made throughout his career, and this skill was key to his growth in the folk world.

Works Cited

Dylan, Bob . Chronicles Volume One. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Stephan, Ed . Biography of Bob Dylan. imdb.com. 1 Dec. 2008 <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001168/bio>.

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