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Bob Dylan on My Mind

April 28, 2021

In my novel “Coda” published by En Route Book last August, my main character, U.S. Senator Bob Hill (R-PA), is at Betty Ford in Palm Springs and anguished by the death of his wife, killed in an accident when he was driving DUI. A stanza from “Tonight, No Light will Shine on Me,” a song by Bob Dylan haunts him as he tries to sleep.

Bob Dylan is recognized as “the” most accomplished musician by his peers. Even Pope John Paul II, a survivor of Soviet communist domination of Poland, is known to have admired Dylan and attended the 23rd Italian National Eucharistic Congress in Bologna in 1997 where Dylan performed.

Dylan’s lyrics touched several generations, but especially my 60s generation with such songs as “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and “Mr Tambourine Man,” songs that are evocative of feelings of college students facing compulsory service in the Vietnam War, a political system experiencing a Presidential assassination and his corrupt successor.

My cohorts on the Right were political conservatives and we sought advanced degrees, possibly to escape the carnage of American life that was the consequence of our cohorts on the Left who went to the streets. The riots in Chicago during the Democrat National Convention in 1968 were a high–and low–watermark of those times.

Fifty-thousand plus young people’s names are inscribed on the wall of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. Every one of those persons listened to Bob Dylan and understood what he was saying.

With that in mind, fourteen years ago in 2007, I went on a fundraising trip by car that took me from Virginia to Pennsylvania and to New York city. I decided to take Dylan’s “Bootleg” series of CDs and listen to them mile after mile.

I came to the conclusion that Dylan was a loner. Unlike his contemporaries, only two or three songs were accompanied by a chorus.

Maybe that was necessary for Dylan’s artful rendering of our thoughts, but I decided that on my next trip I would listen to CDs of Dolly Parton.

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