I just bought the soundtrack to "No Direction Home" Martin Scorsese's new documentary about Bob Dylan. Anne and I watched the documentary on PBS and found it funny, insightful and amazing. The unfolding of Bob Dylan's life from a small town in Minneapolis to the voice of post WWII youth is incredible. Dylan says early in the film, "I wasn’t born where I was supposed to be so I've been trying to find my way back home." It is an amazing story of transformation and Scorsese does a masterful job curating great archival footage into a portrait of Dylan’s early years.
Bob Dylan's own comments are brief and in keeping with his cynical approach to the media throughout his career. Lucky for us, a close friend of Dylan seems to have convinced him that he needs to start talking because his life and music are too important for him to remain silent. Sharing his feelings comes hard to Dylan. This leads to some of the humorous moments in the film… whether it is being difficult with the press or, more recently, when he starts to own up to being cryptic.
It seems as though throughout his life, his only consistent effort to promote his ever-changing mystique was to not promote it and not answer questions about it. In some of Dylan's interviews he acts like an adolescent interacting with his parents… saying as little as possible, making faces, not even agreeing with them when they happen to agree. The closest he comes is a slight smirk as if to say, "I know you’ve got a point, I know I’m being difficult but I’m still not going to meet you half way." Somehow, over time, this becomes an appropriate response to the many fans and media that confront him about the deeper meaning of his lyrics. He consistently responds that they are just songs and he a simple "song and dance man".
Early in the documentary, Dylan indicates that although he was enrolled at the University of Minnesota, he didn’t attend classes. Instead, he spent his time going to clubs and studying every piece of folk music he could get his hands on. Dylan even subtly admits to stealing a bunch of records from a casual friend. Bob Dylan became a student of music and got his bachelors, masters and PHD from the school of Woody Guthrie and many others. He studied the masters, copied them, thanked them, and then moved on to become "Dylan" a singer and songwriter like no other. It is an amazing story of both the poet and cultural icon. The soundtrack and DVD are worth a close listen.