Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For, he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside raging
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times, they are a changing
Well, there is a battle that’s raging — and it’s about if Bob Dylan’s lyrics can be termed ‘literature’.
I hate Robert Allen Zimmerman. Hate is perhaps a strong word. Jealousy is more like it. I’m not saying I should get the Nobel Prize for Literature (though if the Swedish committee ever considered Chetan Bhagat, then I’m presenting my credentials).
See, I’m trying to write a musical…a full fledged musical, complete with songs and all. Okay, since I’m being honest I’ve been trying to write a song, one song, a single song, for the better half of a year now, okay two. And, I haven’t gotten beyond the first verse.
And the man wrote 522 songs.
I’ve got Bob Dylan’s lyrics scattered all over my floor, for inspiration. No man, I’m not trying to do a Pritam — dude, try ‘stealing’ Dylan’s work. You'll be found out in two seconds.
I mean, how can I say, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”, came from my head? Or, “Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command, your old road is rapidly aging”. Or, “How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free”.
There’s no one pattern to Bob Dylan’s song writing. There’s the regular rhyming, there’s stream of consciousness, there’s the staccato, the line structure of the Beat generation. He has a myriad arrows in his quiver.
The influences are varied — the Bible, Anton Chekov, Walt Whitman, Jack Kerouac.
The literary world has erupted. How can Dylan possibly be termed the ‘Greatest living poet’? Novelist Norman Mailer once famously said, “If Dylan’s a poet, then I’m a basket ball player.”
Come on, LeBron James 11, read this — “I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest/Where the people are many and their hands are all empty/Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters/Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison/Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden/Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten/Where black is the color, where none is the number/And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it/And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it.”
Dylan wrote love songs, protest anthems, anti-war soliloquies, ballads of rebellion, dissent and independence.
The Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, politics and politicians, these were worries that translated into words.
And, to have never suffered from writers’ block. He had dark phases, but he was always prolific — 522 songs and 59 albums in a 50-year career. And, I can barely manage one song. I’m jealous of the man.
Maybe, jealous is too weak a word.
I hate Robert Allen Zimmerman.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org