An African hears Dylan for the first time

29 Mar

Among that dwindling proportion of steel city posts I deem non-political, two are dedicated to Bob Dylan. In a 2019 response to an ad hominem attack by Germaine Greer, Bob Dylan – one killer of a poet, I began:

When people tell me they can’t stand Dylan, I get it. Really I do. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea … But when someone assures me Dylan is a mediocrity I know I’m in the presence of a philistine …

More relevant here though is one I’d written four years earlier. I began Highway 61 Revisited revisited with this:

I was fifteen in ’67 when, two years after its release, I first heard … Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. It took a day or two of the intense back-to-back listening that comes natural to the teenage obsessive before I had it word and note perfect to play in my head on the bus, on my bike, in mental flight from classroom tedium. Culturally isolated – my working class peers had yet to go beyond BeatlesStones and Motown – I’d nowhere to turn for clarification on the finer points. Who was selling postcards of which hanging? Why did Jack the Ripper sit at the head of the Chamber of Commerce? What was so great about a woman who, if you fell down dying, was bound to put a blanket on your bed?

I was intrigued, then, by this posting from four weeks ago by a Nigerian woman yet to be born – as in all likelihood were her parents – when this milestone in the history of rock was recorded.

Here she is, listening to that milestone – or rather, its best known song – for the very first time. How did she get on with it?


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