Intelligence Data

 I'm not sorry for nothing I've done. I'm glad I fought, I only wish we'd won.

Pretty wry for a spry guy, this Bob Dylan character. The codger's got plenty kick left in him yet. Feel like a fightin rooster, feel better than I ever felt, but the Pennsylvania line's in an awful mess, and the Denver road is about to melt. Plenty parables too. There may be no second acts in American life, but at 60, Dylan could care less. Like Miles Davis and his shadow, that asshole Pablo Picasso, Dylan has given us one long act to chew on, and one long song: a peerless and exquisite display of craft, nerve, and wit. His riddle-rhyming trail is marked by the silence, exile, and cunning of the hermetic populist—Joyce, Pynchon, Reed, Clinton. Occasional lapses of taste and crises of faith, periods of doubt, self-derision, and personal revival too. Rare among American artists, he shouldered the burden of a great and precocious gift. He crashed but did not burn out after the '60s. Now contemporary evidence, a new release called "Love and Theft," suggests that the poet of his generation is once again prophet of his age.

The current saber-rattling is probably giving him more than a slight case of déjà vu right about now. This is where he came in, way back when, our freewheelin' troubadour, with his "Talkin' World War III Blues," his "Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," his "Masters of War." Before 9.11.01, "Love and Theft" was an abstract expressionist painting Dylan could never have intended to carry a topical frame. Funny what a little moonlight can do: Now poets are bringing us the news. Before that fateful Tuesday, "Love and Theft" could not have been so easily read as Dylan's contribution to the literature of the apocalypse. Now so nakedly he seems revealed, bounding out of the wilderness in high prophetic mode: I see your lover man coming, across a barren field. He's not a gentleman at all, he's rotten to the core, he's a coward and he's steel. My captain he's decorated, he's very well schooled and he's skilled. He's not sentimental, it don't bother him at all how many of his pals he's killed. We could have gleaned as much intelligence data from the RZA, the GZA, and the Ol' Dirty BZA, but who besides your Five Percenters and wigga types were paying serious attention to a buncha crypto-alarmist niggas from Shaolin? Get your shit together before the fuckin' Illuminati hit. Nostradamus gave advance warning, they tell me, the Book of Revelations, Rastafari. The eons-old Mayan Calendar of Cosmogenesis predicts a cataclysm will reset the world calendar to zero in 2012. The astronomical lore of the pyramids, left behind over 10,000 years ago, informs us that the earth's axis is about to reverse, flipping the planet back to the Stone Age whether we bomb the Taliban there first or not.

Tames the proud, sees the cowards coming.
photo: David Gahr
Tames the proud, sees the cowards coming.


Bob Dylan
"Love and Theft"

This may be the dawning of the age of Aquarius but some of you know we're still in the Age of Pisces—a time of severity and strife, suffering and service, a time whose ruler Neptune is the planet of mystery, illusion, and deception. Four jetliners. Nineteen allegedly surly Middle East passport-carrying muhfukuhs with knives and box cutters breeze past security when your lone black ass can barely make it through with house keys and pocket change. Where was racial profiling when we really needed it? None but the truly twisted will find even grim solace in that observation. If there's a hell below we're all gonna go, Curtis Mayfield croons from the wings. The Jamaican family of my man Michael Richards, a brilliant sculptor whose final resting place was his studio on the 92nd floor of tower one, can attest to that, as can that of my man, Guyana's Patrick Adams—former proud security presence here at the Voice and still missing.

Dylan's impact on a couple generations of visionary black bards has rarely been given its propers—Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, Marvin Gaye, Charles Stepney, Terry Callier, Gil Scott-Heron, Bob Marley, Tracy Chapman, Chocolate Genius would not for a second hesitate to acknowledge coming under his spell. Like Joni Mitchell, Gil Evans, and Charlie Haden, he's left deep, yeti-sized footprints in this thang we call Black Music. It's a matter of record, of sublime and divine social intervention.

Like Miles, Dylan, born May 24, 1941, is a Gemini, the sign ruled by Mercury, messenger of the gods. According to Goldschneider and Ellfers, those born on the day of the magnifier and clarifier also fall under the sway of Venus, but are far more skilled at communicating love than giving it. They tend to favor the dispossessed over the privileged, but must guard against sarcasm and harsh criticism of their friends and also against their own fanaticism and zealotry. I'm gonna teach peace to the conquered, I'm gonna tame the proud. Those of Yoruba persuasion might recognize Dylan as an Elegba-Eshu vehicle, those of the Dahomean faith as Legba, devotees of the vodun syncretism as Legba-Pied Cassé. Trickster gods, cosmic jokers who control the crossroads. Dylan ain't just whistling "Dixie" when he pursues archaic, fallen, and decayed American musics. There's souls in them thar hills. And a taste of our cowpoke president's newspeak as well: George Lewes told the Englishman, the Italian, and the Jew, you can't open up your mind, boys, to every conceivable point of view. They got Charles Darwin trapped out there on Highway 5. Judge says to the High Sheriff, I want him dead or alive, either one I don't care.

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