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Here is a litmus test for cultural intelligence: If you think Bob Dylan can’t sing, you fail. There is singing, and there is singing. Listen to ‘House of the rising Sun’, on his very first album. He really can sing.
Malcolm Gladwell speaks of innovators, people who are always different. They wear odd clothes in ways that others don’t and wouldn’t. They start fads, but they don’t follow them. They never follow the herd. Whatever it is that makes most people want to be like others, and join in with others, they don’t have. It is a life strategy. Think about it. Always being different avoids comparison. You can win when only you are playing.
“What others think about me, or feel about me, that’s so irrelevant. Anymore than it is for me, when I go see a movie, say Wuthering Heights or something, and have to wonder what Lawrence Olivier is really like.”
This is Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan. He still insists on being him, whether you like it or not. He has a born focus on his own, inner experience, and with his trained skills of melody and lyric, he expresses what he finds there. He wants no contrivance, no preconceived, or planned song. He doesn’t want us to understand him. He doesn’t think we should try to understand him. He just wants us to listen to the songs. “It’s all in the songs.” He wants us to be open to what they do to us, not what we are told to think they mean, or are supposed to mean.
“If a song moves, you, that’s all that’s important. I don’t have to know what a song means. I’ve written all kinds of things into my songs. And I’m not going to worry about it – what it all means.”
Hey Mr. Tambourine man/ Play a song for me/Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship/My senses have been stripped/My hands can’t feel to grip/My toes too numb to step/wait only for my boot heels to be wandering/I’m ready to go anywhere/ I’m ready for to fade/Into my own parade/Cast your dancing spell my way/I promise to go under it.
“I can write a song in a crowded room. Inspiration can hit you anywhere. It’s magic. It really is beyond me.”
“My songs are personal music, they’re not communal. I wouldn’t want people singing along with me. It would sound funny. I’m not playing campfire meetings.”
My hearts in the highlands with the horses and hounds/Way up in the border country far from the towns/With the twang of the arrow and the snap of the bow/My heart’s in The highlands, can’t see any other way to go
“John Donne, the poet-priest who lived in the time of Shakespeare, wrote these words, ‘the Sestos and Abydos of her breasts. Not of two lovers, but two loves, the nests’. I don’t know what it means, either. But it sounds good. And you want your songs to sound good.”
Nobel Prize in Literature, 2016.