Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

In Search of the Real Bob Dylan at 60, Songwriter Still Engulfed in Mythology

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

In Search of the Real Bob Dylan at 60, Songwriter Still Engulfed in Mythology

Article excerpt

Byline: Nick Marino, Times-Union music writer

Bob Dylan's 1963 acoustic soliloquy Don't Think Twice, It's Alright ends with this memorable kiss-off:

So long, honey babe/Where I'm bound, I can't tell

Goodbye's too good a word, babe/So I'll just say fare thee well

I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind/You could have done better, but I don't mind

You just kinda wasted my precious time/But don't think twice, it's all right

To hear Dylan sing it, he's a poet juggling sincerity and irony, a drifter rambling down the road, a romantic wounded by women who couldn't handle him, a musician writing confessional material that other people happen to hear.

It's an indelible character sketch, one that's stayed with Dylan since '63, and one that served as a journal entry after his breakup with lover Suze Rotolo.

Dylan turns 60 tomorrow, and yet the persona of this early work prevails as his public identity.

As a result, Biographer Clinton Heylin spends part of his new book, Behind the Shades Revisited, discussing the overwhelming misperception that the narrators in classic Dylan songs remain stand-ins for the present-day songwriter himself.

Like other Dylan scholars, Heylin thinks the narrators clash with the real Dylan, even though the real Dylan has rambled, has womanized and has written plenty of confessional material from his own experience, including the real-life breakup lament of Don't Think Twice or the protest anthem of The Times They Are A-Changin'.

According to Heylin's text, "The man . . . between 1988 and 1993 was most certainly not the man who wrote The Times They Are A-Changin' or Forever Young."

Heylin quotes Cesar Diaz, who spent five years with Dylan in the late '80s and early '90s, as saying "To me each song is a play, a script, and he'll be that guy from the song for that moment but [then] he'll change back to Bob."

But fans won't let him change back to Bob. Presidents change policy, painters change perspective -- other public figures are allowed to age, to evolve beyond their early work. …

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