Biographical Poetry posted December 3, 2023

This work has reached the exceptional level
Knockin' on Heaven's Door.

Bob Dylan

by Debbie D'Arcy

Born and raised a Zimmerman,
this boy from Jewish kin,
from early years his muse would span
and stir his art within.
For Guthrie* would inspire, it seems,
his love to sing and play.
Though Blowin' in the Wind, his dreams,
they would come true one day.
This poet sensed that Folk was real,
reflected life much more.
In Chimes of Freedom, he'd reveal
the fervour at his core.
And Heading for the Light he'd go
to NYC with zeal
to see his idol and to grow
those skills that would appeal.
A Shooting Star whose verse would start
a cult that swept the stage,
infusing songs with blazing heart -
A Shakespeare of his age.
For, in those times of woe and war,
this rebel with a cause -
in Rough and Rowdy Ways, he saw
the pain that gave folk pause.
A Hurricane, a wake-up call,
a prophesy of doom -
he'd rage A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall,
intone his song with gloom.
His fans would crave his truthful spin,
his honest Tears of Rage.
In Changin' Times they sought within
a prophet and a sage.
But fame would be a curse as well,
confine this rising star
and Desolation Row would swell
when he dared change guitar.*
For though Desire in him would burn,
the rat race left him torn
and Like a Rolling Stone, he'd yearn
for Shelter from the Storm.
On Heaven's Door, he'd knock anew,
to seek the promised land,
to serve and find a life more true 
in Ev'ry Grain of Sand.
Forever Young, he'd blend his style
with tender romance too.
He'd urge his Lady Lay awhile,
in praise: If Not for You.
His art would rock with driven beat,*
would never be defined;
a generation at his feet,
with truth he strove to find.
Impassioned by his carr'on call
that Things have Changed so fast,
this seer forever standing tall
was Born in Time to last!

Post Number 100
A Milestone Post



Picture courtesy of Google free pics
Song titles have been used for the poetic purpose of the biography and may not necessarily relate to the context of the songs or the period. They may also be slightly altered or shortened to accommodate the meter. Release dates in brackets.

Stanza 1 Robert Allen Zimmerman was born in 1941 in Minnesota. His parents were part of a small Jewish community. In his early years he listened avidly to blues and country radio stations before developing his taste for rock and roll. He was forming bands and performing whilst still at school.

Stanza 2-3 Blowin' in the Wind (1963); Chimes of Freedom (1964 This song is about an epiphany, a dazzling signpost in a storm as to where he was heading)
Woody Guthrie was his idol whom he described as the true voice of the American people. To Dylan the folk movement reflected deeper feelings than the more superficial rock and roll (though this genre would later blend into his songwriting).

Stanza 4 Heading for the Light (1988)
He dropped out of college in 1960 and, the next year, travelled to New York to perform there and visit Guthrie who was seriously ill in a psychiatric hospital with Huntington's disease.

Stanza 5 Shooting Star (1989)
His career took off. Complete with harmonica and guitar, he changed his name to Bob Dylan, an act that brought him annoying criticism for not staying true to his roots.

Stanza 6 Rough and Rowdy Ways (2020 39th studio album)
The backdrop of the Vietnam War and racial inequality fired him up in his music and his politics and, with, advocate and lover, Joan Baez, he took part in demonstrations, most noticeably in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (advocating for civil and economic rights of African Americans).

Stanza 7 Hurricane (1976); A Hard Rain's a-gonna Fall (1963)
There were veiled references in his work to an impending apocalypse, gaining particular resonance with the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962).

Stanza 8 Tears of Rage (1975); The Times they are a Changin' (1964)
His mixture of moral authority and nonconformity was, perhaps, the most timely of his attributes although it met with some criticism from those who preferred the softer and more palatable versions from Joan Baez. That said, his popularity gathered momentum in an age in which the assassination of Kennedy had left the population in shock and in need of political guidance and honesty.

Stanza 9 Desolation Row (1965)
By the end of 1963 he began to feel constrained and manipulated by the folk and protest movements. He resented feeling defined and this pressure from the public was exemplified when he was booed and criticised for performing on an *electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival (1965), thus breaking out of the purism of the folk genre. In My Back Pages (1964), he bids the kind of black and white lies that fuelled his past a sardonic farewell!

Stanza 10 Desire (1976 17th studio album); Like a Rolling Stone (1965) Shelter from the Storm (1975)
His frustration turned in on itself and he began to feel a need to drop out of the game, to escape the pressures and expectations of his fame. One such enforced occasion occurred following a near-fatal motor cycle accident when he spent almost a year in seclusion. He subsequently made very few public appearances and didn't tour for almost another 8 years. His writing and recording still continued.

Stanza 11 Knockin' on Heaven's Door ( 1973); Every Grain of Sand (1981)
After a painful split from his first wife, Sara Lownds (1977), he again reinvented himself, declaring in 1979 that he was a born-again Christian and even refusing, at one stage, to perform any of his previous secular songs.
Every Grain of Sand is a nod to William Blake's famous poem. He paints a picture, touching on spirituality and redemption, of a vast and mysterious landscape that is constantly in a state of flux, alluding to the shifting sands of time and the impermanence of all things. He famously quoted that 'You've gotta serve somebody' to which John Lennon angrily retorted: 'Serve yourself.'

Stanza 12 Forever Young (1974); Lay Lady Lay (1969); If Not for You (1971).
A man of many parts, he'd sing with deep emotional connection about fatherhood, love and romance.

Stanza 13 He was closely linked to the *Beat Generation (including Jack Kerouac and Dylan's good friend and sometimes mentor, Allen Ginsberg), a literary movement that began after WW2 and known for its liberal attitudes to life. His angry refusal to be categorically defined is illustrated in Stanza 9.

Stanza 14 Things have Changed (2000); Born in Time (1990)
From the 60s, his song has been about change in the world and the need to open our eyes and connect. And yet, he's always had a struggle with himself that the changes are, in fact, in ourselves, finding that path of peace and understanding in a crazy world. Arguably, it's not about getting away from the world that bothers him but getting away from the sins of himself.

Divorced from his second wife since 1992, he has 6 children. He is still writing and performing. Among his numerous awards, one is for the Nobel Prize in Literature for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition. He has sold more than 145 million records, making him one of the best-selling musicians ever.

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