Talking with the President and Talkin’ Trash . . . It’s been tough going for Barack Obama, tougher than he likely anticipated. The learning curve in Washington, D.C. is steep. There’s a lot to absorb and understand. Obama, however, displays clear understanding of Bob Dylan, something self-styled writer A. J. Weberman does not. But then, Obama is President of the United States while Weberman has made a name for himself by digging through the trash bins of Dylan and others, such as Norman Mailer and Richard Nixon. He terms his research methods “garbology.”

In an interview with Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, Obama spoke of a presentation he hosted at the White House earlier this year. Entitled “A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement, the performers included Joan Baez, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Smokey Robinson and Bob Dylan. Wenner asked how it went with Dylan. His answer proves Obama understands Bob Dylan very well.

Here’s what I love about Dylan: He was exactly what you’d expect he would be. He wouldn’t come to the rehearsals; usually all these guys are practicing before the set in the evening. He didn’t want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn’t show up for that. He came in and played “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” A beautiful rendition. The guy is so steeped in this stuff that he can just come up with some new arrangement, and the song sounds completely different. Finishes the song, steps off the stage — I’m sitting right in the front row — comes up, shakes my hand, sort of tips his head, gives me just a little grin, and then leaves. And that was it –then he left. That was our only interaction with him. And I thought: That’s how you want Bob Dylan, right? You don’t want him to be all cheesin’ and grinnin’ with you. You want him to be a little skeptical about the whole enterprise. So that was a real treat.

The reflections by the president, quite the wordsmith himself, are astute. On the other hand, comments made by A.J. Weberman to The Daily Caller are beyond reason; they have no basis in fact. But somehow he concludes that racism guided Dylan’s behavior that evening. Weberman said “Dylan’s hatred for blacks seems to have overtaken his desire to, you know, receive this kind of prestigious welcome.” Now that’s following a line of thought. Someone with “hatred for blacks” agrees to perform at a celebration for civil rights in which many of the participants are black and is hosted by the nation’s first black president.

The Daily Caller referred to the Weberman interview as “interesting.” Harebrained is more like it. He decoded several of Dylan’s songs, including “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” to support his idea that Dylan has racist feelings. Weberman goes far beyond credulity as he reveals his interpretation of the line, “The pump don’t work, ’cause the vandals took the handles.” He says, “The pump, pumping money into the economy, giving blacks money, doesn’t work ’cause the vandals, the liberals, took the handles. The ax handles, like Lester Maddox used to give out pickaxe handles in his chicken place to beat blacks so the whites can beat up blacks over the head with them. Get it?” Would you like to run that by us again, A.J.?

Recorded in January ’65, several months after Lester Maddox defied the Civil Rights Act by refusing to serve black people in his Atlanta restaurant, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is an exhilarating and joyful romp. Dylan is fully plugged-in here. It’s one of the most infectious rock songs ever. In his book,  Like A Complete Unknown, John Hinchey offers perspectives on the song, as well as the others on Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home album. Unlike Weberman, Hinchey’s thoughts are straightforward and rational.

A serio-comic bohemian’s survival guide, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is an exploding digest of alternately gnomic and plain-spoken tips on eluding the traps society sets for our freedom. As such, it is a fitting introduction to a set of songs that portray society as the enemy of the artist.

An Ax to Grind . . . People who lived through the rantings of Lester Maddox, a hard-nosed segregationist, would hardly identify him as a friend of the artist or any free-thinking sort. By his actions, he was among those setting traps for those pursuing freedom. He solidified his political career appealing to the fears and bigotry in mid ’60s Atlanta and the rest of Georgia. Such ugliness helped him win the governor’s office.

The going got most ugly on July 3, 1964, one day after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. Title II of the Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination in hotels, motels, restaurants, cafeterias, theatres, and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce. Three black students from Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Seminary decided to drive over to Lester Maddox’s Pickrick cafeteria to see how accommodating Maddox would be under the new law. The three students and another black man had come by earlier in the day, but the restaurant was closed for the afternoon break between lunch and dinner. The students said they’d be back at 5:30. Maddox was waiting for them, but not as the gracious host. In his 1968 book, The Riddle of Lester Maddox, Bruce Galphin, then an editorial associate with The Atlanta Constitution, provided a riveting account of the cafeteria showdown.

Proprietor Maddox, face flaring, strode toward the car bearing the three Negroes, Lester Jr, ax handle over his shoulder, followed closely behind. The Rev. George Willis Jr. of Youngstown, Ohio, driver of the car, opened his door. Maddox kicked it shut. The Rev. Albert Dunn of Hillsboro, Texas, emerged on the right, donned his jacket and walked toward the Pickrick.

By then Maddox had drawn his pistol and was shouting at them to leave. A vein in his forehead throbbed in agitation.

According to whose testimony is to be credited, Maddox shouted, “Get out of here and don’t ever come back,” or “Get off, get off or I’ll kill you.”

Then depending again on the witness, Maddox pointed the gun directly in Willis’ face, did not point it all but kept his finger outside the trigger guard; waved it around; held it at his side or held it straight up in the air.

Willis and Dunn, and the Rev. Woodrow Lewis of Sumter, South Carolina, who never got out of the car, retreated. Maddox grabbed an ax handle from a bystander and smacked the top of the car as it pulled away. Others poked ax handles at the Negroes through the car’s open windows……Willis said the trio intended to return, but expressed concern “about what they would do to my car.”

After reports of the incident were broadcast, Pickrick partisans rallied to the site, offering patronage, and if necessary, more physical support. Many, including women and children, bought ax handles from inside the entrance door.

Rather than comply with the law, Maddox chose to shut down the cafeteria. His defiance brought him a huge following. Klansmen and ardent segregationists in the state viewed him as a martyr to their cause. Thanks to their support and a fluke election, Lester Maddox was sworn in as Governor of Georgia on January 10, 1967, less than three years after his despicable gun-waving antics in his cafeteria’s parking lot.

The Line It Is Drawn . . . Lester Maddox, who passed away in 2003 at the age of 87, was less politician than he was showman or carney-barker. Even after becoming Governor, he continued to sell souvenir ax handles (he preferred calling them “pick handles”), watches, clocks and t-shirts emblazoned with his image. He had a souvenir shop at Underground Atlanta, a short walk from the state capitol. Less than a mile in the other direction was the Omni Coliseum. On the evening of January 21, 1974, while Maddox may have been selling trinkets at his shop, Bob Dylan and The Band gave the first of two concerts at the Omni. In the crowd was Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, who succeeded Maddox. For those present, it was an awe-inspiring night: A Georgia governor at a Bob Dylan concert.

The times, they were a-changin’, but not fast enough. Maddox was still popular in Georgia. Since state law at the time kept Maddox from succeeding himself as Governor, he ran for the office of Lieutenant Governor. He won with 73.9% of the vote.

Maddox was a pitiable sort, his antics inspiring political cartoonist Cliff Baldowski (known to readers of The Atlanta Constitution as  “Baldy.”) in ’68 to draw a flustered Maddox moaning, “The stupid newspapers print every stupid thing I say.” His followers were equally pathetic. They supported him as he inveighed against Martin Luther King, Jr. and others working to see America live up to its promise. They bought into his bluster as he stood by a coffin symbolizing “the death of free enterprise and private property rights” shortly after he closed his restaurant rather than serve blacks, or as he called them, “integrationists.”  A sign above the coffin proclaimed “Freedom, Liberty and Independence” died on July 2, 1964, the day the Civil Rights Act was signed. Maddox put the blame on “Bloody and Ungodly Communists” as well as President Johnson and the United States Congress.

Many Georgians and people elsewhere fell for such nonsense, all the while claiming ax handles were not racist or hateful instruments. They would have known better if they had talked to Marjorie Meeks Brown, who at the age of 16, was among the black students attacked by 200 middle aged and older white men in Jacksonville, Florida on August 27, 1960. The students, conducting sit-ins at the segregated cafeterias and department store lunch counters, were beaten with baseball bats and ax handles. Fifty years later, Jacksonville observes the day as Ax Handle Saturday. It serves as a day of reflection on many of the sad days that fill our history books. Maddox supporters, and others like them, should consider those days with heavy hearts. They should ponder why hate took such a hold. Interestingly, many of the people in those times looked at the national press with contempt for exposing the malevolent actions in their region. Bitterness over the coverage remains to this day. Painful as it is, they should be grateful to those who revealed the ugly truths. Candor moves people in the right direction.

To get to the truth in our past, one can go to the history books. It also helps to seek out people with vivid memories of those days of turmoil and change. Candor and clarity will be the result, quite unlike what “researchers” such as A.J. Weberman determine, searching through the trash.

Jeff Cochran

Jeff Cochran

Jeff Cochran worked in advertising at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 27 years before accepting a buy-out in the Summer of 2008. In the seventies/early eighties, he handled advertising for Peaches Records and Tapes' Southeastern and Midwestern stores. He also wrote record reviews for The Great Speckled Bird, a ground-breaking underground newspaper based in Atlanta.

  1. Johnny’s in the basement
    Mixing up the medicine
    I’m on the pavement
    Thinking about the government
    The man in the trench coat
    Badge out, laid off
    Says he’s got a bad cough
    Wants to get it paid off

    “Johnny’s in the basement” Lyndon Johnson is dealing with people who are low (edited for appropriateness) “basement” slang; the last place and lowest level, as in competitive standings “Mixing up the medicine” confusing what has to be done to remedy the racial situation “I’m on the pavement” I’m in a public area, I am part of the general public “Thinking about the government” thinking what fools are running the United States Government “The man” male servant and subordinate “in the trench coat” in a belted raincoat similar in style to a military officer’s uniform, also “trench” as in trench warfare “Badge out” wearing a button supporting the Civil Rights Movement “laid off” not on his normal job, in the federalized National Guard “Says he’s got a bad cough” says he owes something morally for a past injustice “Wants to get it paid off” and he wants to make amends for it by accompanying Negros into previously segregated schools.

    Look out kid
    It’s somethin’ you did
    God knows when
    But you’re doin’ it again
    You better duck down the alley way
    Lookin’ for a new friend
    The man in the coon-skin cap
    In the big pen
    Wants eleven dollar bills
    You only got ten.

    “Look out kid” look out naïve White boy “It’s somethin’ you did” sarcastic; slavery is your fault and now you must pay honky “God knows when” it might have been two hundred years ago “But you’re doin’ it again” but you are supposedly still oppressing (edited for appropriateness) “You better duck down” move swiftly, especially so as to escape being seen “the alley way” when you walk through the ghetto “Lookin’ for a new friend” then find someone sympathetic to your plight “The man in the coon-skin cap” the (edited for appropriateness) President awarded a special cap as a sign of rank and achievement by (edited for appropriateness) having and exercising considerable authority, control, and influence “pen” with the ability to sign legislation into law “Wants eleven dollar bills” wants to sign legislative bills that are prima fascia bogus because they oppress Whites “You only got ten” rather than the real thing, legislation which will benefit Whites who are the majority of Americans.

  2. Maggie comes fleet foot
    Face full of black soot
    Talkin’ that the heat put
    Plants in the bed but
    The phone’s tapped anyway
    Maggie says that many say
    They must bust in early May
    Orders from the DA

    “Maggie” Communism comes “comes fleet foot” comes from the Negros (edited for appropriateness) who are really whites in blackface, makeup for a comic satire of Black people, especially in a minstrel show “Talkin’” claiming, protesting “that the heat” that the FBI illegally “put plants” secreted listening devices “in the bed” in a place for lovemaking (edited for appropriateness) “but the phone’s tapped anyway” but the Feds have a legal phone tap “Maggie” the Communists “says that many say” believe that with the information of Communist infiltration the FBI gathered through the phone tap “They must bust in early May” they are going to be locked up on May Day a commie holiday “Orders from the DA” on the orders of United States Attorney General Robert Kennedy who ordered the wiretaps in the first place and once worked as an Assistant Counsel to Joe McCarthy.

    “Maggie” as Communism; Tarantula, “maggie pushing you into hot rod driver’s eyes” Communism forcing you into the thoughts of those who employ torture as a means of interrogation, those who shove, or drive, a hot rod up their suspects’ rectum. Lenny Bruce said this about betraying one’s country under torture, “If you can take the hot lead enema, then you can cast the first stone.”

    “Soot” as (edited for appropriateness); Joan Baez in Concert, Part 2 Liner Notes 1962 “Later yet in New York town / On my own terms” in my own language of a certain kind, chosen words: ‘I spoke in poetic terms’ “I said with age” I said as did the members of my generation “The only beauty’s in the cracks” the only ones worth writing about are (edited for appropriateness) “an’ curbs” who are deliberately held back from advancing in society “Clothed in robes of” expressed in academic theories, noble words “a dust” of (edited for appropriateness) “an’ grime” “grime” synonym “soot” black dirt ingrained in a surface. “An’ I searched for it in every hole” and I looked for it in every slum in every deep or isolated place of confinement; dungeon where these defectives could be found.

    “Dirt” and “dust” as slander and excrement; Emmett Till 1962, “If you can’t speak out against this kind of thing” the torture and murder of Emmett Till “a crime that’s so unjust, Your eyes are filled with dead men’s dirt” your thoughts are filled with derogatory gossip about Blacks from years past “your mind is filled with dust” and your brain is filled with (edited with appropriateness) “Your arms” all of your powers; Caribbean Wind 1985, “We went into the wall to where the long arm of the law could not reach “and legs” and your ability to move on groups like the Klan “must be in shackles and chains” must be severely restricted “And your blood it must refuse to flow” and you also must be an abject coward “For you to let the human race sink down so god awful low” for you to let these racist scum exist.

    Look out kid
    Don’t matter what you did
    Walk on your tip toes
    Don’t try, No Doz
    Better stay away from those
    That carry around a fire hose
    Keep a clean nose
    Watch the plain clothes
    You don’t need a weather man
    To know which way the wind blows.

    “Look out kid” watch out White boy “Don’t matter what you did” if you be the big (edited for appropriateness) you can get away with anything since the Supreme Court ruled that the FBI’s surveillance was illegal but the same does not go for your lawbreaking so you better “Walk on your tip toes” be careful if you have a desire for drugs “Don’t try, No Doz” better be cool if you intend to use coke “No Doz” is a caffeine pill used to stay awake “Better stay away from those / That carry around” avoid those who conceal on their person “a fire hose” a round barrel from which bullets can be fired, if you are gonna use drugs watch out for the cops “Keep a clean nose” don’t leave any traces of drug use that will incriminate you like powder on your nose “Watch the plainclothes” look out for undercover cops “You don’t need a weather man” you don’t need someone who can predict a prevailing trend: the current racial climate “To know which way the wind blows” to know the winds of destruction are spreading to the White race.

    “Toes” as drugs and the desire for drugs; The Hour That the Ship Comes In 1964, “Then the sands will roll” then history will unfurl. Also “roll” as in ‘roll a joint’ “Out a carpet of gold” a welcome mat of Acapulco Gold premium Mexican pot “For your weary” for your interest, forbearance, or indulgence that is worn out in regard to “toes” your desire to get high “to be a-touchin’” to equal. Liner Notes John Wesley Harding 1968 “Terry tightened his belt and in an afterthought, stated: ‘Wait!’ ‘Yes?’ ‘How many of them would you say there were?’ Vera smiled, she tapped her toe three times.” Country Pie 1969, “Just like old Saxophone Joe / When he’s got the hogshead” intoxicant “up on his toe / Oh me, oh my / Love that country pie” Huck’s Song 2007, “From my toes to my head, you knock me dead / I’m gonna have to put you down for a while.”

    “Weatherman” as a prevailing trend: the current political or racial climate Tarantula, “bazookas” a strong arm man, as in ‘Ya big bazooka’ “in the nest” invading people’s homes “& weapons of ice” weapons of death “& of weatherproof flinch” proof of the flinching, suddenly painful political and racial climate “& they twitter” machine gun people down “make scars” put people in concentration camps and tattoo a number on their arm and leave lingering damage if they survive “& kill babies” commit genocide. Tarantula, “may these teachers of the shade” race mixers “be rot” decay morally; become degenerate “for committing the problems of past & future & omitting the weather” the current political climate “the drunken eagle” the federal government drunk with power “& the holy present…” and that the status quo must be maintained. Tarantula, “the dada weatherman” the seemingly absurd forecaster of a prevailing trend “comes out of the library” gets out of college “after being beaten up by a bunch of hoods inside” after being brainwashed by a bunch of commie professors, Robin Hoods, who steal from the rich and give to the poor. “Hood” as Communist; Tarantula, “sure, you took a big” exercising considerable authority, control, and influence “stand on juvenile delinquency – you said to run all the hoods out of town – oh you’re so brave – sure, you say you’re patriotic.”

  3. Get sick, get well
    Hang around an ink well
    Ring bell, hard to tell
    If anything is goin’ to sell
    Try hard, get barred
    Get back, write Braille
    Get nailed, jump bail
    Join the army, if you fail

    “Get sick get well” get through childhood diseases, recover but then face more danger “Hang around” sort of attend “an ink” a Black “ink” a dark brown fluid. Tarantula, “reach out, Queenie, reach out – feel for equal saggy skin & believe this dark playboy licking ink from your notebook” “well” school “well” an abundant source; ‘a well of knowledge,’ get through your childhood hurdles only to end up in an integrated school “Ring bell” something comes to an end and you graduate “hard to tell / If anything is goin’ to sell” hard to determine if any of the skills you have acquired in the newly integrated school will have any value on the job market “Try hard, get barred” try to find a job but get discriminated against because you are White “Get back” get back to work “write Braille” punch in “Get nailed” keep fixed, motionless, “jump” take prompt advantage “bail” of a student loan and attend a community college “Join the army, if you fail” join the armed forces if you flunk out.

    “Ink” as integrated school; Off The Top of My Head 1965, “Miss Flunk take a bottle of ink and starts to polish her muscles.” Tarantula, “who can tell me the name of the third president of the united states?” a girl with her back full of ink raises her hand & says ‘ernest tubb’”

    “Look out kid” look out White boy “You’re gonna get hit” you are going to get killed or wounded “But users” (edited for appropriateness) dopers “cheaters” draft dodgers “cheat” to elude, escape; ‘cheat death’ “Six-time losers” convicted felons, sixth generation welfare families “Hang around the theaters” loiter around the movie houses rather than theatres of war “Girl by the whirlpool” voter who is getting sucked into insanity “Lookin’ for a new fool” looking for a new political leader. Slow Train, “In the home of the brave, Jefferson turning over in his grave / Fools glorifying themselves, trying to manipulate Satan” “Don’t follow” don’t keep oneself informed of the course, progress, and fortunes of “leaders” leading politicians “watch the parking meters” keep an eye on the professional prostitutes that your politicians have turned themselves into.

    “Parking meter” as prostitute politician, Tarantula, “the mailman starts talking to a parking meter & fox eyes, he say ‘it sure wasn’t like this in abilene’ & it’s a hurricane & a bus reading baltimore leaves them in a total mess – she falls on her knees & she say ‘i’m filthy’” Tarantula, “just a broken jawed parking meter” a lying, jabbering political whore Tarantula, “from entire Mexico & gay innocence once comes Satan of Autumn – from the gentleness & barbarian bebop & lonesome rooms” desolate lives “where you must put a nickel in the parking meter into the arms of notorious daughters.”

    “Room” as life or lives; to the Communists in What You Gonna Do 1961 Tell me what you’re gonna do / When you can’t play God no more? / What you gonna do when the shadow comes creepin’ in your room?” what are you going to do when the FBI comes into your life. Ballad of Hattie Carol 1964 “That sailed through the air and came down through the room” and came into her life “Doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle” Tarantula, “it’s no use to spend all these hours a day doing it in a room – you’re losing living” Liner Notes To John Wesley Harding 1968, “Why didn’t you just tell them you were a moderate man and leave it at that instead of goosing yourself all over the room?” you should have told the world that you were a conservative instead of forcing your Leftwing songs into people’s lives and helping the enemy.

    “Bail” as a loan Bob Dylan’s 117th Dream 1965, “Now, I didn’t mean to be nosy / But I went into a bank / To get some bail for Arab / And all the boys back in the tank / They asked me for some collateral / And I pulled down my pants.”

  4. Ah get born, keep warm
    Short pants, romance, learn to dance
    Get dressed, get blessed
    Try to be a success
    Please her, please him, buy gifts
    Don’t steal, don’t lift
    Twenty years of schoolin’
    And they put you on the day shift

    “Ah get born” be native to a particular country, region, or place, be American-born “keep warm” in Hibbing Minnesota, where the temperatures are often sub-zero “Short pants” a short period of being embarrassed about sex then “romance” make out, maybe get laid “learn to dance” learn to sing “Get dressed” get decorated and adorned as a performer “get blessed” discover that you are endowed with talent “Try to be a success” get gigs “Please her, please him, buy gifts” accept the truth and feasibility of the value of other performers “Don’t steal” don’t steal music from them “don’t lift” don’t lift, plagiarize lyrics either “Twenty years of schoolin’” twenty years of on the job training “And they put you on the day shift” and you end up working the day shift in the Café Wha? in Greenwich Village where Manny Roth pays you practically nothing.

    “Dance” as sing or song; Tarantula, “sing for the barber & when you’re found guilty of not owning a cavalry & not helping the dancer with laryngitis” Tarantula, to other folksingers, “why dont you learn to dance instead of looking for new friends?” new fans; Positively Fourth Street 1965, to his folk fans, “You gotta lotta nerve to say you are my friend / When I was down you just stood there grinning.” Tarantula, “the lonesome sound – in atlanta as dont dance, listen.” Every Grain of Sand 1981, “In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space.”

    Look out kid
    They keep it all hid
    Better jump down a manhole
    Light yourself a candle
    Don’t wear sandals
    Try to avoid the scandals
    Don’t wanna be a bum
    You better chew gum
    The pump don’t work
    ‘Cause the vandals took the handles.

    “Look out kid / They keep it all hid” hey naive White boy, hey son, be on your guard against the liberal Democratic government because they have a hidden agenda “Better jump down a manhole” you all better gain access to an underground structure like the Klan or the White Citizens Council “Light yourself a candle” get yourself some hope! Poem to Woody 1961, “Where do you look for this candle that’s glowin’ / where do you look for this hope that you know is there.” “Don’t wear sandals” don’t listen to Liberal or Leftwing intellectuals “Try to avoid the scandals” don’t marry a colored and do damage to your reputation and character by public disclosure of immoral and grossly improper behavior namely miscegenation! “Don’t wanna be a bum” don’t wanna be a lazy and shiftless person, especially one who seeks to live solely by the support of others like a welfare (edited for appropriateness) “You better chew” you better meditate on, ponder; ‘chew a problem over’ “gum” sticking together with other Whites like gum, like glue “The pump don’t work” pumping welfare money into the economy doesn’t work “Cause the vandals” because the liberals who purposely and pointlessly damage and destroy public institutions such Congress, the Supreme Court “took the handles” have taken the ax handles away from the Southern racists, like restaurant owner Lester Maddox (edited for appropriateness). Only A Pawn In Their Game 1964, “a handle hid out in the dark.”

    “Vandal” as liberal; Alternatives to College 1965, “the vandal” the destroyer of Western civilization, the Liberals “from his gamut” from his complete range and extent of governance “& baby cupid” and the infantile version of love “the roustabout” unskilled Negros “forcing you” forcing White women “to store away” to gestate “velvet” gentle “bonnet” mulatto baby, bonnet, children’s clothes “of barbarian” of primitive jungle civilization.

    “Sandals” as intellectual, a shoe invented by the Greeks who first gave birth to Western intellectual thought. Also Tarantula, “interrogating unknown failures of peacetime” questioning Communist Party members “as holy & silver” as revered as articulate, eloquent and persuasive. Also as sacred to America as the silver screen “& blessed with the texture” blessed with the distinctive identifying quality and character “of kaleidoscope” to document any complicated and rapidly changing set of circumstances “& the sandal girl” and blessed with the intelligence to be termed an intellectual.

  5. Hey before you put me down look at the entire poem and see the repetitive theme in each verse. But you are probably going to censor this comment because I will never win a popularity contest with Bob Dylan one of the most beloved people in the entire universe. So go ahead and censor this – you can say I use the word (edited for appropriateness) or figure something else out. I am used to it.

    1. aiyeeeee-
      Are you kidding?

      sadly, I think not.
      I read your first entry closely- the second one not so much- the rest I just scanned with a stop or two.

      You know all that you say is about YOU- how you think and has nothing to do with Dylan, his meanings, mindset, politics or anything else.

      When you read a piece of poetry, a verse of scripture, or listen to multi-layered well packed lyrics as Dylan writes what you hear, what hits you in the gut is about you, how it applies to you- shows you a picture of the inside of your mind, heart and soul.
      THAT is what Bob’s music is about.
      As I read your explication I was almost horrified at the twisted perversion you saw.
      Everything you said could be read and interpreted in exactly the opposite way…
      In this case “Look Out Kid-
      They Keep it all Hid” says more about the light, truth and beauty you do not perceive because you have chosen a different focus- one that is dark and ugly from all I’ve read over the years.

      Damn, I wish I could have seen BD beat you up.
      Wish I could do it myself- and that makes me kind of ashamed of myself since violence is for youth and fools.
      Still- Maybe a slap upside the had would knock some sense into you.

      not threatening- just thinking!
      peace out

  6. It always surprises me when anyone gives that SELF-styled Dylanologist a forum or ink. Why even (ever) use his name? Why comment on him at all?

    In a piece about President Obama and eventually Lester Maddox and the race issue–particularly in the South and as it pertains to Dylan–why not focus on songs like “Only a Pawn in Their Game” and “Oxford Town”? In fact, there is a well-known photograph of Dylan performing “Only a Pawn in Their Game” in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1963–Dylan is the only white guy in the frame–I say frame because the photo is a still from a piece of film shot at the time–a clip of which I seem to remember appears in the film, Don’t Look Back.

    As for Dylan meeting President Obama, it’s quite possible that he was deliberately low-keyed out of respect for the man and the office and the purpose of the performance rather than allowing it to be about him–which, as we see, is unfortunately impossible whenever Dylan is in a room, any room–even if he was down in the basement with Johnny rather than up on the pavement thinkin’ about the government.

    1. Re: giving that ass space.
      Couldn’t agree more.
      Are those long, ponderous, far fetched and foolish responses above from the actual W_____man?

      And yeah,
      re Dylan making a quick exit.
      He isn’t real interested in making an impression or being impressed- the room was full of tons of people who would all be wanting a piece of the Presidents time-(and Bob knows all too well what that is like!) Plus, from what I gather Dylan is actually kind of shy. Maybe at his age he’s decided that he doesn’t want to or have to suffer the discomfort.

      Actually, I also read somewhere- or other(s) that he is shy to the point of not really expressing himself very well when just talking- maybe that is why interviews have always been so er… difficult- and also why his past alcohol/substance abuse was so inviting.
      Who knows- theories are just that. We don’t know and won’t know and while he as a personality/persona is fascinating to some of us- its the music, the poetics that matter.

      Just as an aside- I find it interesting that there is very little- if any- tell all articles/books/exposes about Bob. Seems like his friends/lovers and associates are very loyal.

  7. Hi-
    What a great article. Thanks for the post and historical information.
    I enjoyed it very much.

    Sorry about my rant-ish reply to W____man below.
    just really makes me say “ewwwwwww”

    Aside from the obvious contradictions to Web’s allegations/contentions that you mentioned he did participate and perform at MLK’s march on Washington (or did you say that) and he has had several Black girlfriends and a wife, not to mention a daughter who is half black.

    My belief is that what you read into Dylan lyrics says more about you than it does about him.
    That is why he is still here and the wisdom of keeping his privacy.
    You can immerse yourself in his words and imagery and look at yourself if you choose to.

    Thanks again!

  8. Once again the egomaniac Weberman finds a way to spout his self-serving gibberish; it’s nauseating. Fine, AJ, if you want to hear it that way, but please (!) keep these hyper-analytical ravings to yourself. You’ve made a career out of your delusions, proving again, as Mencken said, “no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people”…you’re a parasite, although
    (thankfully) you haven’t inflicted much damage on your host.

  9. Anybody can play free assocation and twist words. AJ is either playing a big joke on all of us for the attention or he’s gone over the edge. Here’s my take on one verse.

    “Look out kid” – watch out Black boy.
    “Don’t matter what you did” – being born black is enough to be hated.
    “Walk on your tip toes” – tread carefully. Even looking a white woman or talk back or any number of small offenses, you could get lynched.
    “Don’t try, No Doz” – drugs won’t help you stay alert. Trust yourself.
    “Better stay away from those That carry around a fire hose” – the fire hose that the cops used to break up marches and peaceful demonstratons.
    “Keep a clean nose” – Avoid all appearences of being a trouble maker
    “Watch the plainclothes” look out for undercover cops and/or KKK members without their sheets
    “You don’t need a weather man To know which way the wind blows” – You don’t need anybody to tell you what you can observe yourself.

  10. It’s my understanding that “the handle” was actually a handle swiped from a water well pump found near Bard College in Annandale, NY. There the pump still sits, as far as I know, handle-less. A bar called Adolph’s was there, and things would get a little rowdy at times. Word on the street is that Adolph himself threw Bob Dylan out one night for standing on a table.

  11. As Alison stated previously, “The pumps don’t work because the vandals stole the handles” is indeed a reference to a very specific handle and pump in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY – a few hundred yards from the Bard College campus. Dylan spent quite a bit of time on Bard campus during the early 60s. So far as Dylan being a racist, I find it hard to give any credence to W___man’s interpretation considering Dylan’s firsthand, frontline support of the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi and throughout the South. Look at fact, not word play, before trying to question the legacy of one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Even tunes like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” as cliche a part of Dylan’s catalog as its become, carried important messages about Civil Rights and basic human equality.

    1. Jeff Cochran

      Hello Yankee in Georgia. Thank you for reading and commenting. It’s hard to believe anyone would take Mr. W seriously, especially with his take on this song. For those of us who lived through the stupidity and meanness of Maddox’s actions, the idea of anyone associating them with one of Dylan’s most vibrant songs, and Dylan himself, is sheer lunacy.

  12. Dylan expressed his beliefs about blacks in Chronicles by quoting the Nazi David Duke: “The ex-Klansman David Duke from Metairie in Jefferson Parish had been elected to the Louisiana State House of Representatives and he was being interviewed. He said that welfare wasn’t working and that workfare would be better; make people on welfare work for the community instead of getting a free ride. He also wanted to put prisoners from state pens on work programs. Didn’t want them getting a free ride, either. I hadn’t seen Duke before; he looked like a movie star.”

    Dylan as a racist is not as far fetched as it might seem. One final word: Just because you don’t use the N-word will not make racism disappear. It is not some kind of magic curse word. Instead of worrying about the N word provide WPA jobs for Black youth with a living wage then (edited for appropriateness) will disappear to a significant extent. This is just more liberal trickery as liberals have never lived within the black community as I did when I lived in the PJs in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn or when I lived on 135th Street in Manhattan.

  13. Well written piece, Jeff. I’m a little alarmed by this whole subject, to be honest.

    Mr. Weberman, that Mr. Dylan mentioned David Duke in “Chronicles” in no way expresses his endorsement of such beliefs. “Chronicles” is as much a patchwork of moments Dylan remembers as it is a biography. And Duke DID try to present himself in the same way a movie star would. He tried to wrap his racist dogma in a package that he thought he could sell to people by looking like a likable hot-shot celebrity of sorts. We, thankfully, didn’t buy it. But, Dylan? Sorry, THAT accusation I don’t buy. He merely mentions that Duke was in town in that passage and what he observed. I don’t get a “boy, I sure admire what David Duke stands for” vibe from this paragraph. In fact, you know Dylan’s persona at all you might be able to detect the sneer that comes with the statement. Listen to the memoir as an audiobook (read by Sean Penn) and I think you’ll have a different take on it.

    But while we’re dissecting Dylan lyrics, read the impassioned verses that make up the epic “Hurricane” and tell me the man is a racist. He went to the wall as an artist for a man he felt was wrongly accused.

    However, it appears you’re pretty convinced.

    Again, Jeff – impassioned, clear-headed editorial here, backed up with a lot of insight. Well done!

  14. Well written piece, Jeff. I’m a little alarmed by this whole subject, to be honest.

    Mr. Weberman, that Mr. Dylan mentioned David Duke in “Chronicles” in no way expresses his endorsement of such beliefs. “Chronicles” is as much a patchwork of moments Dylan remembers as it is a biography. And Duke DID try to present himself in the same way a movie star would. He tried to wrap his racist dogma in a package that he thought he could sell to people by looking like a likable hot-shot celebrity of sorts. We, thankfully, didn’t buy it. But, Dylan? Sorry, THAT accusation I don’t buy. He merely mentions that Duke was in town in that passage and what he observed. I don’t get a “boy, I sure admire what David Duke stands for” vibe from this paragraph. In fact, you know Dylan’s persona at all you might be able to detect the sneer that comes with the statement. Listen to the memoir as an audiobook (read by Sean Penn) and I think you’ll have a different take on it.

    But while we’re dissecting Dylan lyrics, read the impassioned verses that make up the epic “Hurricane” and tell me the man is a racist. He went to the wall as an artist for a man he felt was wrongly accused.

    However, it appears you’re pretty convinced.

    Again, Jeff – impassioned, clear-headed editorial here, backed up with a lot of insight. Well done!

  15. “The pump don’t work cus the vandals took the handle.”
    There is a famous psychology experiment by Sherif et al called the “Robbers Cave Study”. In the study two different groups of boys had to solve a problem of why water was not working on the camp. It turns out “vandals” sabotaged the pump or valve or something. The study uses the specific word “vandals” and always that word. I always thought Dylan was referring to the Robbers Cave Study.

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