Bob’s Going to Keep On Keeping On

Bob’s Going to Keep On Keeping On - image shows tour poster

Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour Poster

 

If there is one man who’s going to keep on keeping on, it’s Bob Dylan.

Six decades on the road. At a time when people aren’t busy being born, they’re busy dying, Dylan’s “Rough and Rowdy Ways” tour is arranging dates for the next three years.

What does this say about Dylan? What does this say about art? What does this say about life?

Bob’s Going to Keep On Keeping On - image shows Dylan at the piano

Dylan in Milwaukee 2021. Image Isabel Infantes/AP

To answer the last question first: we only get one – life, that is. We have to live it to the limit. To the edge. Until the day they start hammering the nails in your coffin, look out at the horizon and you know what to do. Just keep on keeping on.

The Never Ending Tour is, itself, a work of art. Art lives on long after the coffin lid closes. There are lines around the block when there’s a new exhibition of Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Dalí. The pyramids at Giza, the Acropolis in Athens and every Roman road carries the footprints of time past. The black and white footage of Dylan singing ‘Blowing in the Wind’ after Martin Luther King Jr gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in Washington on 28 August 1963 is a historic artefact.

What the continuing tour with its new name tells us is that Bobby Dylan ain’t done yet. At sold out concerts across America he’s playing new music from his new album and subverting classics with novel twists, chords and subtleties. No piece of art is every truly finished. Like all great artists, Dylan goes back to his songs, jiggles around with the lyrics and presents them – not as something new, but something familiar made different.

Keep on Keeping on Taking Risks

According to Wikipedia, Dylan has released 39 studio albums, 54 music videos, and 15 live albums. “Rough and Rowdy Ways” is not merely another rung on a never-ending ladder, it is statement, a manifest driven by new ideas and original concepts. ‘It reveals Dylan’s creativity and relevance to a new generation,’ according to Jeff Elbel’s review in the Chicago Sun Times on 4 November 2021.

Dylan thrives on the lip of a chasm, the wicked winds blowing, below, the jagged rocks of the abyss. Like the moth drawn to the candle flame, it is the nihilistic pulse of danger he courts each time he flutters his wings and leans into the microphone. 

Dylan on the road again has nothing to do with the man turning eighty. It’s about being there and being willing to take risks. It’s not about Dylan growing old. It’s about us all growing old and all we can do is get up every day, look out at the horizon and keep on keeping on.

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