Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Happy Secular Feast Day

I've never been madly into Bob Dylan but I understand that some of his songs are treated like secular hymns, mostly by people above the age of 50. He's the singer who sang to a generation but I never felt he spoke to me, unlike someone like Morrissey who actually emotes and communicates in a way that lets you know he's feeling like you feel or have felt.

Today, at the age of 70 Dylan is being revered, even in The Telegraph, as a kind of secular Saint. This is made all the more bizarre by his conversion to Protestant Christianity in his senior years.

Is it possible that Robert Zimmerman (that's his real name by the way) actually believes in the "rapture"? How is he managing to keep the cred with Guardian readers?!

I actually quite like some of his later stuff more. There's a good one called 'Trying to Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door' that is nice. He's a gifted troubadour and poet, of that there is no doubt but Dylan really is held up as an icon of dreamy-eyed, left-wing idealism in the same way that Che Guevara was and still is by aging sociology teachers. Those who loved him are now those working in the upper echelons of society, be it in Government, finance, education, wherever. Dylan is the voice, now of a generation entering their twilight.

In fact, while invigilating yesterday in one classroom at the College where I work, I was surprised to see that the posters in the sociology classroom look like they haven't been changed since the 1970s. There is the psychedelic Che Guevara poster and there's even an original 70s CAFOD poster with Dom Helder Camara on it with his, "When I give to the poor they call me a Saint. When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist" quote. Great quote it is, mind. Has sociology not moved on from CAFOD, Oxfam and Greenpeace? I suppose the 60s and 70s, as well as being the period that took an axe to the Church, was also a period of unprecedented enthusiasm and activism. It must have felt like a new dawn and Dylan was at the cutting edge of it speaking out for a generation who wanted social change, justice for the poor and marginalised communities, but also the pill, abortions on demand and as much sexual licence as they could lay their hands on.

Of course, we don't really have a Bob Dylan figure today. Now we have Lady Gaga, but that isn't really the point. Politics (and religion) have been taken out of modern music and musical commentary. We now live in an age where musicians who are counter-cultural are virtually non-existent. Musicians now are only interested in sex, drugs, celebrity, fame and, most notably, money. The generation of 'free love' was given all the concessions needed to have nothing to protest about. A black man is President of the United States and he will happily provide you with as many abortions as you please. Why's he being lauded in Ireland, again?!

The phenomenom of Bob Dylan, folk, rock and pop did not leave the Catholic Church unharmed either, though it would be unfair to point at him for blame. I don't think he was working with Bugnini for the liturgical reform! 'Folk' masses exploded in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, destroying hundreds of years of liturgical beauty and prayerful worship. Dylan is, I expect, still held in great esteem by the editorial team of The Tablet. Dylan is an aged man whose music will live on and whose legacy to the world of music will be considerable. The World, however, has moved on and for those below the age of 40 or 50, Bob Dylan is about as relevant to their lives as The Tablet is to Catholics below that age. Happy birthday, Robert Zimmerman. Talbula delenda est.

Update: I apologise to anyone over the age of 40/50 who is offended by this post. All I am really saying is that we are still living and dealing with the huge social consequences of the 1960s, few of them good. It is important that as Catholics we live in the present, not in the 1960s and 1970s. It is all the more important if you are a Bishop because only the message of Salvation, of Jesus Christ, is timeless. Only Jesus Christ speaks to every generation.


epsilon said...

Lawrence - the bigotry extended to those of us who are over 60 by many traditionalist bloggers is hugely ironic given that you pay lip service to supporting life until its natural end. The way many of you refer to us, you would think we should shrink away out of sight and sound, instead of engaging with life on a par with anyone else of any age!

Strange as it may seem to you, "Catholic" does not equal "political conservative".

I'll thank you kindly for not dumping us all in a box labelled 'useless' just because we're over sixty and have the cheek to mix and match our allegiances out of sinc with your idea of a proper Catholic.

For all their piety, etc. many traditionalist Catholics fall very short of the mark of being practitioners of the seven virtues.

Barack Obama isn't dead yet - how are you to know that he won't realise his grave mistake in supporting Planned Parenthood? In any case, how culpable are Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, GHW Bush, Clinton, GW Bush (5 out of 8 of whom were republican) for the tidal wave of abortions in America rippling out to the rest of the world since '67?

Rock on Bob!

James said...


The Bones said...

Epsilon, I'm not having a go at old people, just suggesting that Dylan is only relevant to older people.

Because he is a secular left-wing icon, he is probably esteemed by the Tablet. I hate the Tablet and I hope it dies.

I don't want Bob Dylan, you or any other senior person to die.

The Bones said...

I might add, quite why Bl. Pope John Paul II invited him to play at a youth day will always be a mystery.

The Bones said...

It is not necessarily about 'tradition' and I don't see myself as a 'political conservative'.

Dylan is an icon of a generation that deserted God. Dylan became a false idol or icon of popular protest against social injustice in an age which soon legislated the murder of unborn babies. Dylan became anti-Christ. Dylan's most famous music always was anti-Christ.

The 1960s was about the sweeping away of the order - social, political, moral and religious. But it was vacuous - amoral - rebellion without a real sense of conscience.

Quite why Obama's wars are acceptable and Lyndon Johnson's wars were not is never fully explained, but there we go.

Michael said...

Yea epsilon!
Laurence, does your blog have a death wish or hold a policy of Assisted Dying?
Keep alienating the "wrinklies" that visit you (I am a "crumbly"), and offending women with misogynistic posts like the Ladybird one and you will slowly fade away.
How old is the Pope actually and the Queen?

The Bones said...

The Pope is in his eighties.

He doesn't live in the 1970s.

Hence his liturgical reforms.

I think you've misunderstood the point I was trying to make.

Annie Elizabeth said...

Agree largely with your point but had to laugh at the post-script about those "over 40/50" -- do the maths dude! The boomers and Dylan lovers are now in their 60s at least! At a geriatric 41 I have to say that Sonic Youth and the Pixies were more my generational thing...

Interestingly I think that for many people punk and post-punk "no-wave" music provided something (usually negative but sometimes positive in the shape of alternative communities) to fill the "God shaped hole" left behind by the trashing of traditional values throughout the 1960s/70s. I think a lot of people looked around, thought "there must be more than this" ... but were so culturally inoculated against looking to religion for answers that they looked anywhere and everywhere else instead. As Chesterton said: he who believes in nothing believes in everything. The nihilism of punk and post-punk provided -- if not a solution -- then at least a sense of belonging to something other than the problem. Unfortunately a solution ultimately built on nihilism is destined to be a hollow one. Still, better than Dylan: never trust a hippy ;-)

Erk ... sorry, didn't intend to deviate so far from my original point!

The Bones said...

Yes. Maths has never been my strong point. I like the Pixies. Interesting that what follows Dylan's poetry and music is Kurt Cobain.

The Bones said...

I think the lead singer of the Pixies went on to form Frank Black and the Catholics.

Annie Elizabeth said...

Yes, and Kim Deal the bass player went on to form The Breeders... but I don't think this was a veiled positive reference to Humanae Vitae any more than Frank Black's later outfit was any more pro-papist than Shane McGowan and The Popes ...

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