Thursday, July 28, 2011

Things I've learned from St. Bob...

"You get older... you start having hopes for other people rather than yourself."  St. Bob Dylan. Sounds about right to me - not that hope evaporates - but you realize it is NOT all about me; in fact, the hope rests in the fact that God is at work in ALL of us - and most especially others. That's one important truth I've learned from St. Bob.  I love all the phases of this cat's works - and I mean ALL the phases - but here are a few quotes that have really mattered over the years:

+ I will learn my song well before I start singing it:  OMG, this is essential in preaching, teaching, living, playing music and trying to be awake.  Sure, you can fake a riff for a chorus or two - and you can drift off for a moment or maybe even a month - but don't think you can create something beautiful and true without lots of practice, ok?

+ You gotta serve somebody:  Like the brother sings, "It might be the Devil or it might be the Lord but you gotta serve SOME body."  It could be your wounds, it could be your addiction, it could be the company store or your fear or your arrogance - it could be your nation, it could be your ideology - or it could even be your deepest love:  but whether you own it or deny it, you will serve SOME body.  So the corollary is: Why not serve the heart of creation that seeks to bring you rest and set you free?

+ Everything is broken:  Which is NOT cynical - just honest - and liberating, too.  If everything, yourself included, is broken, then you aren't in charge.  You can do your part and let God take care of the rest.

+ Every body must get stoned:  Gotta make time for the party - the feast - the joy of life, yes? Because otherwise the bastards WILL get you down and you become your own worst enemy.

+ You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows:  St. Bobby is the ultimate Trickster of rock and roll - he plays and messes with words and images - in order that we not take ourselves too seriously.  This is the path of humor and humility - and the older I get the more I love it - and need it.

+ I've already confessed, don't need to confess again:  Man, I love "Thunder on the Mountain" - some of the best new St. Bobby lyrics around - it was the theme of my installation at First Church.  Especially love, "gonna forget about myself for a while, go out and see what others need."  A call to compassion, joy, commitment and challenge so far as I can tell - with a rockin' back beat, too.

+ How does it feel:  How many layers are there in THAT question?  It is about hypocrisy, deceit, despair, trust, confusion, bullshit, confession and hope all mixed together.  It starts with a thunder crack on the drums and doesn't quit for six minutes and eight seconds.

I started listening to St. Bobby in the 6th grade when I had to do a report on American folk music.  His first album turned me on to Woody and Leadbelly.  His civil rights/peace anthem touched my heart and imagination, too.  And then he got wiggie on us with "Subterranean Homesick Blues," "Maggie's Farm" and all the rest that led to "Just Like a Rolling Stone." I still weep tears of joys whenever "Visions of Johanna" comes up on my IPOD.

I think "Tomorrow Is a Long Time" is one of the sweetest loves songs ever written.  I get chills to "All Along the Watchtower" and continue to find wisdom, vulnerability, a tough street attitude to life and a wounded spirituality, too in his music.  St. Bobby was knocked on his ass when Jerry Garcia od'ed while in recovery.  The pix of him at the Marin Country funeral showed a man rethinking LOTS in his own life - and out of that death came a rebirth of music, presence and insight.

On this gorgeous afternoon in the Berkshires, I am grateful for all I have learned from this wizened, wise and broken saint.


Black Pete said...

"We all serve the Point of Origin, Blythe: even me."

--Quetzocoatl, aka Mephistopheles, Iblis, Shaitan, from the graphic comic series Air, by G. Willow Wilson (

RJ said...


advent two in Pittsfield: music, family, feasting and love

We spent a delightful Advent II weekend with the family feasting, talking, laughing and making music. I am blessed to  share love with this ...