Monday, October 20, 2014

Bob Dylan and Nashville Skyline

       When talking about the soundtrack to the Vietnam War, the most obvious name that comes to mind is Bob Dylan.  He was instrumental in creating a soundtrack of social consciousness in the years leading up to America’s involvement in Southeast Asia. In fact, he was often thought of as a youth leader of the counterculture who was not afraid to write about the issues of the times.  Because of this, an entire generation of young people looked to Dylan for inspiration and guidance.  Although we may never know Dylan’s intentions, as his interviews prove only that he was guarded about revealing his innermost thoughts, it seems that Dylan did not want to be considered a leader of the counterculture.  As a matter of fact, Dylan was quoted, “I was sick of the way my lyrics had been extrapolated, their meanings subverted into polemics and that I had been anointed as the Big Bubba of Rebellion, High Priest of Protest, the Czar of Dissent...."  This may be why Dylan converted from his experiment with rock-n-roll to the more simple sounds of country music.  Even the title of Dylan’s album relates the importance of the Nashville connection with Nashville Skyline.  Rolling Stone reviewer Paul Nelson noted that Dylan’s new found happiness shone through on Nashville Skyline, proving that Dylan found his niche in country music, especially evident in the album’s cover art sporting a smiling Bob Dylan.  Perhaps Dylan was attracted to county music’s Jeffersonian ideals, simple living, and uncomplicated American values.  Perhaps Dylan was more comfortable here than being expected to lead a counterculture, especially in an effort to protest the Vietnam War, since Dylan himself alluded to the fact that he was not comfortable being the forerunner of a revolution. More importantly, however, Dylan’s move towards country started another trend, that of other popular folk-rockers to gravitate towards country music, such as The Byrds, less a recently-fired David Crosby, and Credence Clearwater Revival who sought out less political venues to display their talents.  It is interesting that they found this in country, where the “Frontier Myth” is connected to a sense of simple, American values which were more supportive of America’s foreign policy than these groups had previously been associated.

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