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Ron Radosh

Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown

August 17th, 2009 - 11:21 am

Not only does Dylan roam through communities “masked and anonymous,” he often acts as their benefactor. As Sean Curnyn points out on his wonderful Dylan website, where he links to a report by Ronnie Keohane, Dylan has recently gone out of his way to give back to communities in which he has appeared, particularly poor communities. He evidently researches the needs of places where he plays, and following Deuteronomy 24.21, (the grapes gathered from your vineyard “shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow,” ) leaves a good deal of his tour profits behind for the local community.  As Curnyn adds, when Dylan played in  Belfast in 2004, he visited sick children in the local hospital, singing for them and giving out harmonicas. The kids had no idea who he was, although one of them evidently said that they thought he was someone famous, because “he was wearing a cowboy hat.”

So what is the lesson, if any, of this now famous incident? Some have said that had Dylan been black,  he would have suffered the fate of “Skip” Gates at his arrest by Officer Crowley. But Dylan was walking in a predominantly African-American community, and the call probably came from a black homeowner who was worried when he saw the strange looking man on his lawn. He did not say- as some Hollywood types might have- “What? You don’t know who I am? I can’t believe it. Fuck you! My people will sue the ass off you when this is over!” As Curnyn writes, “instead of making some kind of angry stand, he simply cooperated to the fullest extent possible with the police, and allowed himself to be detained in a de facto way (of-course he was never arrested as such and there was no crime in question).”  The cops did the right thing. Again, Curnyn says, “This was not a case of someone being arrested for committing a crime, but rather it was a case of police responding to a citizen’s complaint, finding what appeared to be an oddly behaving character on the scene, and having the character then claim to be a world-famous individual.”

So, will President Barack Obama now convene a get-together for a beer, with Kristie Buble and Bob Dylan?  At least this time, we’ll be spared, largely because Bob Dylan acted responsibly, and did not turn it into a cause célèbre; it took days for the story to get out-almost two weeks after the incident occurred.

Well, as Bobby says in his most recent album in part of a stanza:

Cop cars blinking, something bad going down
Buildings are crumbling in the neighborhood
But there’s nothing to worry about, ’cause it’s all good
It’s all good
They say it’s all good

Bob Dylan, “It’s All Good”

This time, on July 23rd, it was all good.

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