Watching Bob Dylan at Warren Theatre (with Gloria) today was a unique opportunity: one could almost come to terms with how resigned life can be at times. The voice that once commanded, spoke with confidence; the words that were written with optimism and sung with amazing vigor; the celebrity that refused interview to Time magazine because it was elitist and the worker who sung paying tribute to Woody Guthrie when what Woody stood for had almost been forgotten.
Now, Bob Dylan could be the antithesis to all that he once used to be. Is he plain retired? Or is he mocking at the cynical past and contented present and predicting a gloomy future? Is he just singing for the sake of it?
Classical argument is all about it. A singer, after all, is a singer and can aspire to be a better singer. Arundhati Ray is a good writer and need not be an activist. She vehemently protests. But Dylan has been silent. Almost stoic.
Rolling Stone magazine would agree in its recent write up on him, when Dylan is said to be merely a songwriter doing his job of thinking what’s the next good song going to be. A singer who is just waiting to churn out another album.
What next? An entertainer hiring a band of secretaries to keep track of album sales and advertisement deals? To own a Dylan Mansion perhaps and call it Tambourine Land? Or to model for Victoria’s Secret?
I don’t know what he thinks, but it’s a fact that he was a voice of the spirited 60’s that went unbridled and sang unchained and attacked the establishment unabashedly. Dylan is no Dylan without “Time’s they are a changing.” The argument behind who should be the interpreter of the author’s work is still a Gordian knot to crack. But to say that the creator of the work alone is the sole authority would be a naivety. Worse still, to underrate the role of the audience/readers in catapulting the creator where he/she is now. When the matter is about glory, the audience are active participants in acquiring the said position for the celebrated. As participant, I have a role. And a question.
What has changed Dylan?