Friday, September 21, 2007

Bob Dylan embraced by British schools

Here's a leap of assumption: not since the lyrics shared before the printing press, when a majority of poetry was shared publicly by minstrels, has someone with a talent for words and music been included in any English-language literary canon.

Why shouldn't musicians be included in English text books? A friend of mine in Britain alerted me to an article that hints that this trend could catch on -- Bob Dylan's lyrics will soon be taught in British schools.

My parents grew up in the 1960s, but the age of Dylan doesn't limit itself to their generation -- " The Times They are A-Changing" has been used in commercials and adopted by many balcony bards. It is hard for me not to hear it and think of my boyfriend playing it on guitar and singing Dylan's lyrics, or sitting at the dinner table, listening to it with his parents, the strength of my interpretation of the words enhanced by their experiences.

And " Blowin' in the Wind" will always remind me of my mother, who memorized the song on the piano and can play it at a whirling, wonderful speed -- I feel like I'm in a carnival of sound every time she treats us to her rendition.

The lyrics to both of those songs convey a sense of biblical psalm ("How many roads must a man walk down ..." or "the loser now may be later to win") while being directly political.

Though Dylan referred to himself as just a song and dance man, his words have impacted the lives of many, including Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate of England.

Motion wrote Regime Change, a poem protesting the recent invasion of Iraq and if you read it after listening to "The Times They are A-Changing," you may feel/hear Dylan's musical influence -- moments of comment on current affairs that seem at once simply obvious and timelessly eloquent.

How exciting that what students might study in English class may also echo in the soundtrack of their lives. The recordings of Sylvia Plath or Gertrude Stein aren't difficult to share in school, but their poetry never got the airplay Dylan's has. Both commercial and legendary, his work should get good reception in the classroom.

Tabitha Dial is an MFA poetry student at Colorado State University.


Related Links:

Poet laureate writes Iraq lament (BBC News article)

No Direction, Period (a wonderful video parody of Bob Dylan and his influence on the top 40)
Blowin' in the Wind (Wiki article)
Blowin' in the Wind (video)
The Times They are A-Changing (Wiki article)
The Times They are A-Changing (video)
Bob Dylan (profile on
The Bob Dylan Fan Club


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