Dylan Generations Apart

Over the past several months, the usually reclusive musical legend Bob Dylan has been finding it hard to be like a complete unknown as the buzz about the singer-songwriter has escalated to deafening heights.

America is engaged in a celebration of Dylan’s career as one of the most influential figures in music history. With a series of commemorative books and CDs already made available this month, PBS’s award-winning American Masters series will close the unofficial ceremony with the two-part film No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, directed by Martin Scorsese.

The film will explore Dylan’s life and music from 1961 to 66, recounting his rise into pop culture. Although Dylan is notorious for shying away from the media, it will feature in-depth interviews with the man himself and those who knew him during that period, as well as never-before-seen live footage. The film is available on DVD.

“Bob Dylan is a true cultural worldwide icon,” said Nigel Sinclair of Spitfire Pictures in a press release. “This is the first time Bob has given this unprecedented access, which…should provide an unparalleled portrait of Dylan’s indelible mark on the culture of the 20th century.”

The craze about Dylan’s career started up last October when he released a memoir entitled Chronicles, Vol.1, which stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 19 weeks.

Since then, Drive-Thru Records has put together a two-disk tribute album called Listen To Bob Dylan, which includes covers by Cerys Matthews, Something Corporate and Jason Mraz, The Bob Dylan Scrapbook 1956-1966 was also published, complete with rare photos and reproductions of memorabilia, and Bob Dylan: Live at the Gaslight 1962 and the soundtrack to No Direction Home: Bob Dylan both came out featuring unreleased material.

It’s been a long time coming. More than 40 albums and countless concerts later, including the infamous Newport Folk Festival where Dylan went electric, Dylan’s influence can still be felt today. His music is recognizable even generations apart: the out-of-tune vocals, the unorthodox guitar parts and the poetic, powerful lyrics.

He is remembered as an enigma, a man who was reluctant to be in the spotlight, yet found himself as the voice of his generation-as well as the man who introduced The Beatles to pot. Dylan experimented in the realms of folk rock, rock ‘n’ roll and gospel and was one of the first artists to use album covers for artistic expression.

But above all he is credited for focusing the music world’s attention on the power and beauty of lyrics in songwriting. (In fact, his have been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature seven years straight.) Songs like “The Times They Are A-Changing'” and “Blowin’ In The Wind” showcased his ability to pen songs of protest and peace, love and finding yourself, amid the madness of the civil rights movement and war. He imbued in pop culture the possibility of music as a strong, meaningful vehicle for change.

Be sure to check out the two-part series “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” on Sept. 26 to27 at 9 p.m. on PBS.

Rafael Sangiovanni can be contacted at r.sangiovanni@umiami.edu.