Music has always been a very big part of my life. Songs were a way for me to express my mood or feelings at each given time. I love music with lyrics a lot more then just instrumentals – though if you list to John Coltrane and Duke Ellington – words are seldom required. I grew up listening to artists like Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, Elton John (with words always by Bernie Taupin) and so many more – too many to mention.
I was born in 1966 in Brooklyn, New York. That was smack in the middle of one of the most influential decades of the 20th Century. There were assassinations, a “Police action” Vietnam, a lot of hatred and a lot of love. Bras were burned, rocknroll grew up with a bit of an American twang and a British Accent.
I was thinking about what growing up knowing that once you turned 18 years old, you would be drafted into the Army did to ones mindset and outlook. Of course rebellion was ripened by the prospect of being sent away at 18 years of age. The war in Vietnam where kids were going and not coming back, or coming back but never in one piece again, in body and or spirit, was a war that the American people did not rally around. The kids who went there to fight were never appreciated, celebrated, the way they should have been. It wasnt the war that they chose but they went because it was their obligation to serve their country. No arguing about whether the war (or police action or foreign conflict whatever they call it – its a war by any name) was just or not – they went and fought because of their moral and ethical aptitude.
Back to my soundtrack – just wanted to give you a quick backdrop to what was happening while I was a baby. With all the anxiety around during that time period no wonder my generation suffers from anxiety attacks and depression – it was probably instilled in us along with the bottled milk and blaring headlines. There were some Miracles in the 60’s – the Equal Rights Amendment, the trip to the moon, me being born, and of course the “Miracle Met’s of 1969” to cap it all.
One of the best things to come out of all this craziness of the 60’s was the graduation of Rock-n-Roll. In my house the only one in my family with a record player at the times was the oldest kid in our family, my brother Maurice. He also supplied the records and unwittingly influenced our musical tastes. On that turntable played, amongst others, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Bob Dylan.
Dylan circa 2009
While the rest of these artists remain on my “Most played” list on my ipod – I have to say that Mr. Dylan has had the biggest impact for me and has been the soundtrack to many of my life events My brother let me use the turntable as long as I never touched the disc itself – lest it scratch and cause skipping or repeating on playbacks. The three albums left there most were; Dylan’s “Bringing it all back Home,” (side A) Simon and Garfunkels “Bridge over Troubled water” (Side B) and the Beatles “Sgt Peppers Lonely hearts club Band” (Side A). I learned each word, each musical twist and turn and incorporated each skip, scratch or repeat. I would lay there on my brother’s bed and hold the album cover – reading it as the songs played. They all had lyrics on them besides the Dylan album. But that had this write up on it that I read many times – but have since forgotten. I should look that up!
I remember Side A starting with Subterranean Homesick Blues and end with “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” I knew and still know each second of each song – even the scratches from the original vinyl – I still expect to hear them each time I hear the songs. For instance during the first verse of “Bob Dylans 115th dream” (after the retake) he sings,
“I was riding on the Mayflower, When I thought I spied some land,I yelled for Captain Arab, Arab, Arab,Arab,Arab,Arab – I’ll have you understand…
Well every Arab after the first was one Arab too many. It was because of the scratch on the record…My brother blamed it on me and whether I was guilty or not – that didn’t matter. It didn’t stop him from letting me listen. Nothing could have – music was my outlet, inlet and cathartic therapy that till this day saves me with its consistency and its ability to translate into different languages and emotions each time – well, I listen to my Ipod. Where I once needed 4 or 5 boxes to store my “Albums, CD’s” I now carry in the palm of my hand thanks to Steven Jobs. Sorry Jon Bon Jovi – You must have forgotten what its like to not have people carrying things for you.
Dylan had some off years in the late 70’s to the mid 80’s (Well off for me – I am not into Christian Rock – so I am prejudiced to this as I have only heard the songs once or twice) when he released “Infidels.” With songs about religion, loneliness and regret. Of course what kind of album would it be without his usual ability to forsee problems before they occurred or is it that life is nothing but a series of repeating events in different times? He speaks about the Unions how it “Sure was a good idea, until greed got in the way.” And how Satan comes as a man of peace;
My favorite song though is “Neighborhood Bully.” A blunt and honest take on the persecution of the Jewish people and the state of Israel – calling Israel a “neighborhood bully,”
“Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone
Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
He’s the neighborhood bully.”
The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothing like me yet.
It was on September 11, 2001 when I actually picked up his Album “Love and Theft” as the ashes from the towers were still raining down on Brooklyn. The lyrics to the song, “High Water (for Charlie Patton)”
“High water risin’, six inches ’bove my head
Coffins droppin’ in the street
Like balloons made out of lead”
So many events in ones life – so many songs we all hear. We can relate to some and others songs can get our heart beating to the rhythm we need to get through the days and nights – or as Mr. Dylan put it in the last song on “Empire Burlesque”
“Oh, time is short and the days are sweet and passion rules the arrow that flies
A million faces at my feet but all I see are dark eyes”
So many other songs have had so many different places in my life and have been cited by me as Bob Dylan’s words. My favorites are all over the place and I could go on for pages and hours – I’ll spare you – for now.
In my life I have made choices that were unpopular and criticized. I have been looked at as if I was out of my mind or simple minded at best. I have never really cared what others have thought about me or my decisions. I walk, I write, talk, sing and act the way I act because that is who I am. I used to think there was something wrong with me but now I have come to understand that I am the way I am – well, because that is who I am.