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David Dalton

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The Many Faces of Bob Dylan (PHOTOS)

Posted: 04/25/2012 12:07 pm

If you put the various Dylans over the last 50 years in a row--from earnest folknik of 1962 to the current Vincent Price Fall-of-the-House-of-Usher Dylan--the witness behind the one-way mirror would object that these perps have nothing in common. I mean who are all these guys? Oh, well, you'd have to say, it's a sort of Desolation Row type police lineup.

Bob Dylan, like any genuine American genius is a chameleon. His solution to the question of identity is that of the three-card monte player. Pick a card. Nope, not that one. Sorry, no, not that one either.

To understand as wildly eccentric and inventive a character as Dylan you have to take his self-mythologizing, tall-tale spinning, perverse statements, contrary points of view as seriously as the so- called facts of his life. What other approach would be appropriate to a character who believes he was born in the grooves of a 78 record, and has spent his life--imaginary and actual--dealing with the gap between the two?

David Dalton is the author of Who Is That Man? In Search of the Real Bob Dylan.

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As if the enigma of Bob wasn't mysterious enough, check out his home town, Hibbing, Minnesota. That picturesque Main Street! But you know what happens to towns like this in sci-fi movies. It's just begging for some alien entity to descend and vaporize it. Something really horrible did happen to Hibbing but it wasn't extraterrestrials that did it. Main Street ends at the site of the biggest man-made hole in the world--an existential allegory of industrial greed gone mad if ever there was one. Like a village in a fairy tale, Hibbing cannibalized itself in search of iron ore, in the process undermining the very foundations of the town. When the ore ran in the 50s, so did the jobs, and the town underwent a depression from which it never entirely recovered. If the biggest hole in the world had an effect on Dylan, why hasn't it shown up in any of his songs? Or has it? Or is that what he's been doing, filling it up?
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