What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


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Our link to the Troubador.

It turns out, friends, that this here website — yes indeed none other than What’s Wrong with the World itself —, has a connection to Paul Butterfield of the eponymous band which backed Bob Dylan in the mid-1960s. ‘Tis true. The man of whom Dylan later said he knew no better guitarist, whose band played with Dylan during the first disillusionment of the modern sans culottes, in their belief that they could claim this great American troubadour for their own, is first cousin once-removed to one of our Contributors.

There have been many moments of shattering disillusionment for our poor sans culottes, our dear hippies and hipsters, in the drama of Dylan’s career — moments of forced realization that this the troubadour did not, in fact, share their project, their dreams, their Utopia. “It wasn’t better world a-coming, you know. It just wasn’t that,” says someone in Martin Scorsese’s fine documentary No Direction Home. He is speaking of Dylan performance at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25, 1965, when Bob Dylan stood on stage before thousands of folk fans and sold out, right there, in front of their eyes.

He went electric, horror of horrors, and (over some considerable booing and heckling) delivered some of the greatest performances of some of his greatest songs.

He began with “Maggie’s Farm,” in its hard-blues variation, a song of marvelously infectious defiance and provocation which only the dullest, most inebriated could have mistaken for anything else. (Watch and listen here.) He played “Like a Rolling Stone” (watch and listen here), and I do wonder if it has ever been played better. Later he played “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” (watch and listen) and for many of the leftists, who wanted “topical songs,” i.e., leftist propaganda, it was indeed.

Of course he did not “sell out,” then or ever: Certainly not a few years later when he answered the Vietnam protest movement with simple country songs about loss and regret. Certainly not a dozen or so years later when he converted to the Cross of Christ, the most radical thing a man may ever do. Certainly not two years ago when he solidified beyond most doubt his mastery of his art, above all (in my view) with a song which is named after, and begins with an adaptation of the second verse of the first chapter of Genesis.

Comments (3)

Nice summary, Paul.

Speaking of Dylan and the Cross of Christ, the B-Side of the single, Gotta Serve Somebody, is a largely unknown Christian classic, IMHO. It is an outtake from the "Slow Train" sessions. A portion of it is played in the film "I'm Not There." You can find it online here:


Here are the lyrics:

I got to know, Lord, when to pull back on the reins,
Death can be the result of the most underrated pain.
Satan whispers to ya, "Well, I don't want to bore ya,
But when ya get tired of the Miss So-and-so I got another woman for ya."

Trouble in mind, Lord, trouble in mind,
Lord, take away this trouble in mind.

When the deeds that you do don't add up to zero,
It's what's inside that counts, ask any war hero.
You think you can hide but you're never alone,
Ask Lot what he thought when his wife turned to stone.

Trouble in mind, Lord, trouble in mind,
Lord, take away this trouble in mind.

Here comes Satan, prince of the power of the air,
He's gonna make you a law unto yourself, gonna build a bird's nest in your hair.
He's gonna deaden your conscience 'til you worship the work of your own hands,
You'll be serving strangers in a strange, forsaken land.

Trouble in mind, Lord, trouble in mind,
Lord, take away this trouble in mind.

Well, your true love has caught you where you don't belong,
You say, "Baby, everybody's doing it so I guess it can't be wrong."
The truth is far from you, so you know you got to lie,
Then you're all the time defending what you can never justify.

Trouble in mind, Lord, trouble in mind,
Lord, take away this trouble in mind.

So many of my brothers, they still want to be the boss,
They can't relate to the Lord's kingdom, they can't relate to the cross.
They self-inflict punishment on their own broken lives,
Put their faith in their possessions, in their jobs or their wives.

Trouble in mind, Lord, trouble in mind,
Lord, take away this trouble in mind

When my life is over, it'll be like a puff of smoke,
How long must I suffer, Lord, how long must I be provoked?
Satan will give you a little taste, then he'll move in with rapid speed,
Lord keep my blind side covered and see that I don't bleed.

Trouble in mind, Lord, trouble in mind,
Lord, take away this trouble in mind

Yes, the folkies who didn't get into Dylan's new music really missed out. And those who actually booed, or otherwise tried to cling, were idiotic. I mean, really: Booing someone just as, right before you, he starts to produce some of the best music of his century! I wonder how many of them later became ashamed?

But they're certainly not alone. Not having learned from the clingy folkies before them, many Christians felt betrayed, when, after his overtly Christian phase (Train/Saved/Shot), Dylan went back to producing music that was no more overtly Christian than a lot of his pre-"conversion" material was. (Of course, a lot of this pre-"conversion" material was rich in Christian themes & thoughts, some of it even fairly overtly so, so my comparative point is consistent with there being a heavy Christian strain through some of his post-overt material.)

I think we all can get a feel for the man on these issues from the video to "Most Likely You Go Your Way, I'll Go Mine." (This is one of the videos posted at the Bob Dylan dot com site; go to "Media," then "videos," then look for the video whose thumbnail is a from-behind shot of the Dylan/Suze picture from the cover of Freewheelin'.) Various clingy groups may want him to be one of them, but he won't make his home with you. He may stop, and have a thing or two to say, but then he & his guitar are travelin' on. (Well, at least musically he's moving on. I don't know about his personal life so much.)

It's not that he's saying that stuff is wrong. ("You shouldn't take it so personal.") It's just not where he's at any more, at least musically, at least for now. He might still perform a fairly overt Christian song from his past -- or a protest song, for that matter. (Or write a new one of either variety, for that matter.) He's not now on the side of, say, the "Masters of War." He's just said what he has to say, and has moved on, reserving the right to revisit as he sees fit (as the Spirit moves him?).

As for real politics, I'm glad that he never got so into that, to, say, the point of telling us who to vote for, or who he's voting for. Yuck! I guess we get hints here and there. I take it we know that he generally holds politicians in low regard, that he held JFK in high regard, but Reagan in low regard. (Others who follow him more closely may know more than me.) I'd rather not know even that much, but no big deal.

I don't want to be over-romanticizing the "movin' on" man. I was speaking mostly of Dylan's music. But he does seem to be a "movin' on" man in his life as well as in his music (and that's part of what's portrayed in the video I referred to), and some of that's not so admirable. Sometimes movin' on is the thing to do; sometimes not. So perhaps we should remember the words of another fine American songwriter -- and one, as luck would have it, who not only knows the heartache involved when someone *like* Bob Dylan, but when Bob Dylan himself, decides it's time to say, "Most likely you go your way, I'll go mine," and moves on. Though this is based on non-obvious interpretation, I'm convinced that the "homeless man...on the steps alone, guitar in hand" that these words are about (at least at some important level) is none other than our troubador himself, Bob Dylan:

And gone like the midnight was that man
But I see his six-string laid against that wall
And all his things, they all look so small
I got my fingers crossed on a shooting star
Just like me, he just moved on

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