Identity of the Artist: Bob Dylan’s Chronicles Essay

...Start of the Identity of the Artist: Bob Dylan’s Chronicles Essay...

Early on in his rambling memoir, Chronicles (2004), Bob Dylan expresses a surprising affiliation. I’d read that stuff. Voltaire, Rousseau, John Locke, Montesquieu, MartinLuther—visionaries, revolutionaries…it was like I knew those guys, like they’d been living in my backyard. (p. 30) This “backyard” of the songwriter, identified through much of his career with subversion and rebellion, is a striking revelation, though the “intellectual” content of his most famous early albums may, in retrospect, be viewed as a preparation for it. In various other ways Dylan is surprising. It seems likely that he took on the writing of the book out of a drive to clarify his life-motive, to “set the record straight” with regard to both his artistic heritage and his character as a man. The stereotype of the “misunderstood artist” applies in his case, in a manner to highlight not his inner reality as a mystagogue, or political luminary, but as a man, relatively, of convention—family-oriented, taking pleasure in consumption, in friendship, in home ownership, in success as a parent and provider. With marriage and fatherhood, in fact, Dylan seems decidedly to take the measure of his own would-be character.

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My performance days in heavy traffic had been grinding to a halt for a while, had almost come to full stop. I had single-handedly shot myself in the foot too many times. …You have to deliver the goods, not waste your time and everybody else’s. …There was a missing person inside of myself and I needed to find him. (p. 147) Here the artist appears as an honest workman. His fame established, he recognizes that his live performances have grown shoddy. He takes himself to task, rejects self-indulgence and excuses. “I felt done for, a burned-out wreck” (p. 147). Such comments are not the evasions of a complacent drone, or a degenerate renegade resting on ill-gotten laurels.

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An exact connection between Dylan’s folk-music-and-blue-collar heritage on the one hand, and his rather middle-class approach to life in the wake of his economic success as a “star” on the other may not exist except in the singer’s own psyche. Notwithstanding, the aspiration to a “better life”—understood as an increased ability to purchase and consume—is as much an American “tradition with a capital T” as folk music, or union membership. Dylan makes it clear that, once he has a family (and probably before), there is never any question of divided loyalties, or the assumption of a role seriously at odds with the political status quo. For him, the American scene of his youth “was wide open…not only was it not run by God, but it wasn’t run by the Bob Dylan’s Chronicles 6 devil either” (p. 293). And, on the evidence of his career and allegiances, this negative certainty has proven endorsement enough for him. Bob Dylan’s Chronicles 1 . Running Head: BOB DYLAN’S CHRONICLES Identity of the Artist: Bob Dylan’s Chronicles Name School Professor Course Bob Dylan’s Chronicles 2 Abstract In his autobiographical memoir, Chronicles, Bob Dylan reveals a character that is conventional and politically unradical, despite popular misreadings and the attempts of his activist contemporaries to recruit him as spokesman for radical causes.

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Words: 1178
Pages: 2.9
Uploaded time: May 11, 2022
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