Monday, February 20, 2006

Dylan is the New Nostradamus

Nostradamus was a mystic French dude who lived a long time ago (16th Century) and wrote a bunch of vague prophecies that people have claimed predicted events before they happened, such as World Wars, the rise of Hitler, the atom bomb, even 9/11. He wrote his prophecies as poetic quatrains, so they are not unlike song lyrics.

I don't think Nostradamus was a prophet, nor, as much as I admire Bob Dylan, do I think he can forecast the future. But some of Dylan's lyrics are so freaky in hindsight that one wonders if we even need a cult of Nostradamus anymore. Dylan could be the new Nostradamus.

Take for example, his last studio album, "Love and Theft," which came out on, oddly enough, September 11, 2001. Here are some lyrics from the song "Honest With Me":

"I'm stranded in the city that never sleeps..."
"The Siamese twins are comin' to town/People Can't Wait, They're gathered around/
When I left my home the sky split open wide/I never wanted to go back there-I'd rather have died"
"Some things are too terrible to be true/I won't come here no more if it bothers you"
"I'm here to create the new imperial empire/I'm going to do whatever circumstances require"

Out of context, these lines don't necessarily mean anything, but anyone who listened to this the week it came out would have immediately thought of New York in the opening line, thought of the twin towers with the line about Siamese twins, and thought of violence and terrorism in some of the other lines. There is even a line in the song about "crashin' my car trunk first into the boards" that hits a little too close to home given the context.

On the same album, a couple songs eerily deal with flooding in the south, such as "High Water": "High Water risin', the shacks are slidin' down/Folks lose their possessions--folks are leaving town" and "High Water Risin, six inches above my head/Coffins droppin' in the street/Like baloons made out of lead/Water pourin into Vicksburg, don't know what I'm going to do/'Don't reach out for me' she said/'Can't you see I'm drowning too?'/It's rough out there/High water everywhere"

He also has a song called "Mississippi" in which he sings:
"Every step of the way we walk the line/Your days are numbered so are mine/time is pilin' up, we struggle and we scrape/We're all boxed in nowhere to escape"
"Got nothing for you, I had nothing before/Don't even have anything for myself anymore/Sky full of fire, pain pourin down"
and the refrain is: "Only one thing, I did wrong/Stayed in Mississippi a Day Too Long"

If that wasn't all weird enough, comes his eery lyrics that presage the Dick Cheney shooting incident by over 30 years. It was revealed today that the land that Cheney was hunting on was called the "Armstrong property." The original Armstrong was a Texas law enforcement official who bought the property in the late 19th Century with reward money he got after capturing the notrious outlaw John Wesley Hardin.

That name might not mean a lot to many people, but a Dylan fan recongizes it immediately. Dylan slightly changed Hardin's name, mythologized the facts of his life a little bit, and wrote a song called "John Wesley Harding" which also become an album title.

The song opens with the line: "John Wesley Harding/Was a friend to the poor. He trav'led with a gun in ev'ry hand." O.K. quite a bit of a stretch to say this predicted the Cheney incident. But listen to this unbelievable second stanza:

"'Twas down in Chaynee County/A time they talk about/With his lady by his side/he took a stand/And soon the situation there/Was all but straightened out/For he was always known/To lend a helping hand"

Weird huh? Now listen to this final stanza, which a cynic would say describes Cheney's ability to get away with whatever he wants to get away with:

"All across the telegraph/His name it did resound/But no charge against him/Could they prove/And there was no man around/Who could track or chain him down/He was never known/To make a foolish move"

2 Comments:

Blogger Chad B said...

That is interesting, not that I believe ol' Bobbie could be considered the next Nostradomas, which I think his prophecies are a big joke anyway. But did you notice the coincidences of the songs by yourself, or had they be brought to your attention from somewhere else?

10:47 PM  
Blogger Azor said...

There are so many Dylan freaks on the Internet, and there is a website with daily links to anything on the Web having to do with Dylan (expectingrain.com) that I don't have to come up with any Dylan theories on my own. They are all out there already. Just yesterday I spent (wasted?) 20 minutes reading an academic journal article about how Dylan represents a simultaneous affirmation and rejection of minstelstry, and how he fundamentally embodies the 60s paradox of authentic class identity vs. free autonomy, setting up a binary between folk music and rock music along those lines. LOL.

2:09 PM  

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