Bob Dylan Brushes Up On His Junichi


Bob Brushes Up On His Junichi

by Larry Fyffe

In Greek and Roman mythology, Zeus, the God of Thunder, considers the purpose of Earth’s creation is to make it possible for the gods to listen to the music and songs it’s inhabitants exhibit – whether the exhibition be a happy or sorrowful one. In effect, humans are given the Earth for a song.

Entanglement in earthly experience balanced by Appollonian ‘objectivity’ (looking at matters from different angles), makes Orpheus the best song-and-dance man in the business, outside of the gods themselves. His mother’s a Muse, one of the free spirits who are companions to Apollo, the sun god; Muses inspire human beings to forget their troubles by making music and singing songs.

Songwriter and singer Bob Dylan puts on his Orpheus mask and insists that artists be ‘floaters’; extra careful not to over-entangle themselves in relationships lest they lose the capacity to create innovative art. Necessary is enough freedom for artists to explore different avenues of life so they are in possession of varying perspectives on the human condition.

Bob Dylan embellishes, and even fabricates, some of his own personal experiences to fit the bohemian model expected of modern artists – a ‘boxcar hobo’, Dylan never was although he was a ‘rubber bum’, a hitcher-hiker on the highway.

The Metaphysical conceit, a far-fetched comparison, is a useful literary tool
to hammer home the rather abstract idea of ‘freedom’. In the song lyrics below, Dylan as author and artist takes on the persona of a ‘gangster’, a person belonging to an organization that operates outside the law. Dylan portrays gangsters as toughened thieves who are not totally bereft of human feelings – they’re seekers of love like everybody else:

Not always easy to kick someone out
Gotta wait a while, it can be an unpleasant task
Sometimes somebody wants you to give up something
And tears or not, it’s too much to ask
(Bob Dylan: Floater)

Sometimes the artist-gangster, to maintain his reputation and integrity, must make an offer that can’t be refused:

If you ever try to interfere with me or cross my path again
You do so at the peril of your life
I’m not quite as cool and forgiving as I sound
I’ve seen enough heartaches and strife
(Bob Dylan: Floater)

Some analysts of Dylan’s songs point out that the singer/songwriter steals another writer’s lines in the above quotes but they simply do not comprehend why he does that. Well, the lines are from ‘Confessions Of A Gangster’ by Junichi Saga who writes: “Tears or not though, that was too much to ask”, and “I’m not as cool or forgiving as I might have sounded”.

Other lines pinched from Junichi Saga’s gangster book include:

“My old man would sit there like a feudal lord”, and “It’s up to him whether a session comes alive or falls flat”
(Junichi Saga: Confessions Of A Gangster – translated)

Dylan’s persona sings:

My old man, he’s like some feudal lord
Got more lives than a cat
Never seen him quarrel with my mother even once
Things come alive or they fall flat
(Bob Dylan: Floater)

And these lines:

Some kind of trouble that put him on bad terms with the younger men …..
age doesn’t matter ….age by itself just doesn’t carry any weight”
(Junichi Saga: Confessions Of A Gangster)

Sings Dylan’s persona:

The old men ’round here, sometimes they get
On bad terms with the younger men
But old, young, age don’t carry weight.
It doesn’t matter in the end
(Bob Dylan: Floater)

Dylan’s simply giving an authentic voice to his artist/gangster routine
– something akin to Cole Porter in reverse, so to speak:

Just declaim a few lines from Othella
And they’ll think you are a hell of a fella
If your blonde won’t respond when you flatter’er
Tell her what Tony said to Cleopatterer
(Cole Porter: Brush Up Your Shakespeare)

What else is on the site

1: 500+ reviews of Dylan songs.  There is an index to these in alphabetical order on the home page, and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.

2: The Chronology.  We’ve taken the songs we can find recordings of and put them in the order they were written (as far as possible) not in the order they appeared on albums.  The chronology is more or less complete and is now linked to all the reviews on the site.  We have also produced overviews of Dylan’s work year by year.     The index to the chronologies is here.

3: Bob Dylan’s themes.  We publish a wide range of articles about Bob Dylan and his compositions.  There is an index here.

4:   The Discussion Group    We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

5:  Bob Dylan’s creativity.   We’re fascinated in taking the study of Dylan’s creative approach further.  The index is in Dylan’s Creativity.

6: You might also like: A classification of Bob Dylan’s songs and partial Index to Dylan’s Best Opening Lines and our articles on various writers’ lists of Dylan’s ten greatest songs.

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews


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