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Portrait of the artist as a young man

I am tired of music biopics. Walk the Line, Beyond the Sea (and I assume Ray as well though I haven’t seen it) are too formulaic for my taste. Young man dreams of great career in music. Struggles. Makes it big. Women flock to him. Has trouble with drugs or alcohol. Marriage breaks up. Finds success is not the same as happiness. Career on the rocks. Comes back. Or doesn’t.

It’s not Hollywood’s fault, merely the inevitable arc of what is described in the song High Flying Adored from Evita:

High flying adored
what happens now
where do you go from here

For someone
on top of the world
the views not exactly clear

A shame you did it all at twenty-six
There are no mysteries now
Nothing can thrill you
no one fulfill you

High flying adored
I hope you come
to terms with boredom

So famous so easily
so soon
it’s not the wisest thing to be

You don’t care if they love you
It’s been done before
you despair if they hate you
you’ll be drained of all energy

All the young who’ve made it
Would agree

I was thinking of all this after watching Martin Scorsese’s riveting 2-disc (nearly four hours) documentary of the early Bob Dylan. It’s the real thing and focuses on Dylan’s transformation from pudgy midwestern kid to international icon in a very short period of time. The drugs and women stuff is relegated to a poignant set of recollections from Joan Baez that is all the more powerful for what is implied rather than what is said.

One of the fascinating aspects of the film is Dylan’s disinterest as a young man in becoming a political figure or even much of an activist. At one point, interviewed in the present, he reminisces about how people expected the musical performers of the 1960’s to come up with all the answers to the problems of the day or lead the nation. He says something like "I didn’t know how to relate to that. I mean, it’s absurd."

These people feel otherwise. They could use a few more economists and few less actors and musicians. But hey, you gotta have hype.

Another highly entertaining part of the Scorsese film is Dylan’s electric (literally) performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. The reaction of  the old-guard folkies to the heresy of electricity is alone worth the price of admission.

Check out this site on Dylan’s concert history. Worth visiting just for the elegance of the interface.


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