Sunday, August 30, 2009

שבתאי בן אברהם

As you can see, I've added a few Dylan songs to my playlist recently (unfortunately soon to be replaced, strangely enough, by Jack Black). The truth about the songs on my playlst by the way is that they're not music I've already heard, but songs that I find on that I feel might be "appropriate" for the blog.

One particular song (among others) that's caught my eye is "Blowing in the Wind". It is a very ironic, rebuking and preaching song that uses a pure and simple English. Dylan himself doesn't do it much justice (as he doesn't most of his songs), so I've also got "Peter Paul and Mary" singing it. In regards to what "the answer is blowing in the wind" is supposed to mean, Dylan once confided in an interview when he was 21 (most likely under the heavy influence of narcotics) that it basically means that the answers to those questions should be self-evident and don't require philosophical insights. The song itself ultimately became so popular that it was sung in the Vatican square. Pope John Paul II was forced to accept it, and even interpreted Dylan's words as meaning that the answer is in fact "in the wind", i.e. in the wind/spirit of G-d (the current Pope Benedict XVI also happened to be in attendance and later admitted that he didn't like the idea of Jews playing rock music on the Vatican grounds).

I myself always wondered why people liked his music so much, since to me it just seemed like the monotonous ramblings of a nerdy Jewish kid. Though the truth is that nobody ever contended that Dylan was a great singer, rather that his greatness lie in song-writing and poetry. His early songs especially convey great truths and political activism through the use of poetry; very far from what rock was back then (which were just simple songs about love). The more I looked into it the more I understood the meaning and even beauty in early Dylan lyrics.

Yet I always stress that we should not, like the American, worship the entertainer, the singer, the joker and the athlete, but rather more noble, less well-known heroes. A century ago entertainers had a much more reasonable, lower place in society. But what of song-writers with meaningful music? Surely it can't be said that they're the same as barber-shop singers? The songs of the political activists in the 60's were the fuel for social revolution in those trying times for America. It is for this reason, I think, that singers have adopted the title of "artists", for their music has gone up a level to become their art (as opposed to Classical music and the like, which has always been a form of art). This is true for the folk-singers of the 60's more than any others in that century. Yet today, singers still use that title, even though there is no more meaning in their songs. How can the likes of "Fidy-Cent" and "Solja-Boy" call themselves "artists"? That, I feel, is a term which has become outdated for singers. Today's singers are, as they were a century ago, just singers.

*Title: Dylans' Hebrew name.


YD said...

I agree with your words Mr. Shriki. I can really only enjoy music that I feel has the singer's heart in it. Part of that is because the music I grew up with (90's grunge) is replete with personal sentiment, however depressing and angry they are.

Dylan's legend however, is as much, if not more, based on his audacity. He said whatever he wanted to say no matter who he was upsetting, and said it in a very matter-of-fact way in many of his songs. He cared nothing about what others thought of him.

Oh, and it's Shabtai ZEESIL ben Avraham.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Yeah, I also grew up with 90's grunge (among many other things).'s hasn't been quite the same this decade (a sign of aging perhaps)...

And you know I'd never say "Zeesil"! I wouldn't mention non-Hebrew parts of a Hebrew name if I didn't have to..

inkstainedhands said...

"Today's singers are, as they were a century ago, just singers."

You're generalizing. Instead of discussing the different types of singers and artists of our decade, you took the easy way out by just saying that they are all 'singers' as opposed to 'artists'. I disagree with you there. While it seems that the general public does mostly appreciate the more commercial singers who don't take the 'art' as seriously, there are plenty of artists out there as well, who put their heart and soul into their music and into their performances. I think you have to acknowledge those, instead of dismissing all of today's music so quickly.

Also, it is unclear what you mean by 'today'. This year? This past decade?

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

ISH: It's been said that Zimmerman (Dylan) revolutionized music (that is, folk/rock music). I think it can be said that he introduced songs with great meaning and great poetry to "the mainstream". Not that people like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger weren't, but they weren't as "popularised".

...what am I getting at? ..oh yes; guitar and drums music before them wasn't quite "art". Today? Today it's not a novel concept anymore, though I was obviously contorting the truth; there are obviously people today about whom their music can honestly be called an "art" form. But like we both said, for the most part, popular music today is not any kind of art form...