“One good thing about music, when it hits you feel ok…”
I was riding in a van along the north coast of Jamaica recently when my wife leaned over to me and said, “One person can change the world. One Love.” We were driving past a mural of Bob Marley in Ochos Rios, and I knew she was right.
People all across the world love Bob Marley. Music aficionados, guitar players, singers, dancers, one and all can feel his spirit. I still tear up when I hear “No Woman, No Cry.” I can even sense the feedback that is coming in the live recording that made the song a worldwide anthem.
Marley had the ability to take music and transcend cultures, nations, and religions. The messages in his song speak of his own battles, his people’s struggle for equality, and the way that love conquers all. Did he make a difference? Did he change the world? You bet he did. Some 37 years after his untimely death, and you still his image on shirts and flags everywhere…not just in Jamaica. But, his influence does loom over the island, and I think it looks down and smiles on the visitors that come to see it for themselves. Pilgrims still flock to the area he was born and to his burial site in Nine Mile.
Back in Ochos Rios, I stared for a long minute at a statue of Marley that we found in city park, and then let my gaze wander out to the water and the distant shoreline. I could feel the ocean breeze blowing on my face, and I knew that in some way, Bob Marley was the reason that I and so many others first heard about Jamaica. He brought the culture and the struggle to us. He made it real and showed it through the music. His memory still shapes and influences the world today.
“So, hit me with music, brutalize me with music.”
I recently received a copy of the latest Bootleg Series by Bob Dylan: More Blood, More Tracks. It’s a great piece documenting the making of Blood on the Tracks. These sets are put out for the purists and artist junkies like me, that eat anything their artistic heroes release. A behind the scenes look at the making of it.
This one’s different. This one stung. Blood on the Tracks has always been one of my favorite, if not my all time favorite albums. Those who don’t have a taste for Dylan, don’t really get it, but his different phases speak to you (me) at different times in my life in different ways. Time Out of Mind helped me get through my grandparents’ deaths. Blonde on Blonde helped me make it through college when I didn’t really fit in. Tempest is an unsung treasure that is special to my wife and I. But, Blood on the Tracks was always different. I felt an affinity and a relation to it that I didn’t with any other of his work. From the first line of, “Early one morning, the sun was shinin’, and I was layin’ in bed. Wondering if she’d changed at all, if her hair was still red,” the album felt like a compass for my life.
Knowing the pain, he was enduring when writing it, could make you view it poignantly. But, rather, he transfers the heartbreak to you, the listener. You FEEL it. If you don’t know what I mean, you probably should stop reading now. But, the songs show a meaning to you the listener. Not necessarily the author’s meaning, but your meaning. “Simple Twist of Fate” still cuts to my soul. I’ll never forget the first time I got the chords right on “Tangled Up in Blue.” “Idiot Wind” is bitter and pure and haunting all at the same time.
I don’t claim to know what’s in Bob’s mind. Heck, most of the time, I can’t claim to know what’s in my mind. But, this music stands the test of time and challenges me to be a better writer, a better story-teller, and a better poet. Dylan never seemed to want to challenge anyone (other than Donovan with “It’s all over now, baby blue”), he just seems to do it. That kind of ease would be great to have. Just translate it in every other area. No competition for being, for taking the best picture, for posting the best dinner. Just know your own greatness.