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.