Ever since they began coming of age, the Baby Boom Generation has dominated our national conversation. Why? Well, it’s mainly because the millions of servicemen coming home from WWII couldn’t wait to get down to procreation. They did so with stunning fervor and efficiency in an era before widespread birth control. There were 75.8 million people born in the US between 1946 and 1964.
We want free cable too, so get to work!!
That’s an awful lot of self-indulgent whiners whose demands appear to be growing larger and more strident even as our ability to satisfy them is on the downslide. But fear not, this is not a dry political piece. If you want to know how we got to this, just examine the life and times of a flagship icon of the boomers, Bob Dylan. Dylan, deservedly one of the most revered musicians in the world, is not himself a boomer, but these episodes in his life strongly parallel the experience of America’s hugest and flakiest generation.
Bigger than him, WAY BIGGER.
Like every teenager you ever met, Dylan started out wild and defiant. Coming out of that hotbed of dissent, Hibbing, Minnesota, little Bobby Zimmerman changed his name, telling some it was in honor of Dylan Thomas and telling others it was after a relative. Like Kanye West, Dylan was mean to other artists and contemptuous of the press way before he was successful. So when his music caught on, he was hailed by millions as the new voice of a generation-the first “new Dylan” if you will. Dylan was anti-war, really edgy, and kinda cute too. He was bigger than any American Idol. So then he did what most people do at some point: he bit the hand that was feeding him.
In 1965 America was in the middle of the Vietnam War and the folkies were at the vanguard of the growing protest movement. At the Newport Folk Festival in July, concertgoers were expecting the Dylan of “Masters of War” and “Blowin’ in the Wind”. What they got instead was “Maggie’s Farm” and “Like a Rolling Stone” and he was playing an electric goddamn guitar! The folkies were enraged and Dylan became the center of controversy all because he plugged in. Never mind that it changed music forever. If the fans were Bobby’s parents you just might hear them saying, “How could he do this to us after all we’ve done for him?”
I guess that bris was a mistake.
In the years following, Dylan had his troubles. He crashed his motorcycle, he got divorced, and he released some albums that weren’t too well received. No longer had the young, golden boy, Bobby pulled another signature boomer move-he found Jesus.
In 1978 Bob, took some instruction from members of the Vineyard Church and all of a sudden, he was more like Jerry Falwell than Bob Dylan. He released three albums of religious themed music. He refused to play his secular music and his old fans were shaking their heads. Turns out they needn’t have worried. Again mirroring the actions of many boomers, Dylan lost Jesus just as suddenly and mysteriously as he had found him. There’s no evidence that Dylan either quit smoking or tried to lose weight while he was a Christian-that would have been REALLY irritating!
“You know I HATE marble cake!”
So, the 80s find Dylan coasting on his reputation somewhat. In 1992, his record company threw a concert celebrating his thirty years in the recording business. The event took place at Madison Square Garden in New York. There they all are: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Roger McGuinn, on stage together with goofy smiles, sharing microphones like they only do at these feel good events, everyone taking a verse on “My Back Pages” but there’s Dylan, behaving just like your grandpa at his birthday party, staying aloof and above it all as everyone desperately tries to please him. When Clapton muffs a lyric you can see Bob’s eyebrow rise, but otherwise he never gives a clue that this isn’t just another gig like the hundreds before it or the hundreds to come.
In 1998, Dylan was back at the top, releasing the Grammy winning Time Out of Mind. He was asked to perform at the Grammy ceremony and he agreed. The producers arranged for some dancers to be on the set to set the proper mood.
Dylan jumped into “Love Sick” when a skinny guy jumped out of the background, ripped off his shirt and began dancing spastically next to Bob. He had SOY BOMB painted in black on his chest. Dylan in his prime would have broken his guitar over the guy’s head and picked up where he left off. But like most middle aged guys, instead he pretended all is well while the guy got his sorry ass on camera at the icon’s expense. He was carted off when the security goons figured out he wasn’t supposed to be there, but Dylan, always the sarcastic wit, had nothing to say.
Civil rights? Really??
When the boomers got tired of their kids they moved away from them. Dylan is no exception. Bobby’s got a compound in Malibu. You’d think that now that he is eligible for Social Security and has survived his turbulent life that he would be a decent, friendly neighbor. You’d be wrong. In 2008, some of Dylan’s neighbors complained loudly over a smell emanating from his property. It turns out that the great friend of the poor and downtrodden has a porta-potty sitting out front of his place for the use of his staff. (Hell, you can’t let those people in the house!) The city dragged its feet so some of the neighbors intend to sue because they say Bob is violating their civil rights.
Yeah? Well I’m RoboCop-get in the car!
Dylan has lived a long life. He is older than the boomers and more accomplished than most of them. But even he can’t escape the indignities of age. The times have passed the man by who sang “The Times They Are-a Changin’”. Witness this:
In 2009, Dylan, still working from the boomer playbook, tried to recapture his youth by going on tour with two other broken down icons, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp. He decided to take a walk in a minority neighborhood a short distance from his hotel on the Jersey Shore. Apparently sensing something suspicious, two young cops stop Bobby and ask him who he is. The name doesn’t ring a bell for either of them. When the old guy can’t produce an ID, they politely escort him back to his hotel where everyone vouches for him and all is well. Imagine you are Bobby-they don’t know who I am? Me, Bob Dylan?? You can bet it wouldn’t have happened to Mick Jagger…
Author: Nick the Knife — Copyrighted © roadtickle.com