A writer stumbles toward the connection between Woodstock and Ronald Reagan
This is a solid review of a book by someone who is stumbling upon the insight I have long held about Woodstock, which is that it was the gateway to the 1970s narcissism and apathy, and which led to Ronald Reagan (and on the other side of the big pond, Margaret Thatcher).
Now, if only someone can begin to challenge the Dylan Cult, and realize that Bob Dylan has more in common with Madonna than Woody Guthrie...Dylan shows up on the folk scene in the early Sixties dressed like a troubador who just came from Abercrombie & Fitch rather than someone with any real substance (with Phil Ochs being the real deal Guthrie-like troubador. You want dangerous to the Establishment? That was Phil Ochs, not Dylan. Ronald Reagan could sing most Dylan songs without any irony whatsoever). Then, later in the Sixties, when young people were getting beat up by cops and spit on by construction workers (Ochs, for example, was at the demonstrations against the war at the Democratic Party convention in Chicago in 1968), Dylan ends up in rehab--and then ends up singing "Lay, Lady, Lay/Lay Across My Big Brass Bed..."
In the 1970s, Dylan becomes a Jesus freak, then later renounces that, and decides to have his son's Bar Mitzvah in Israel. Isn't this like Madonna going from suggestive uses of a crucifix to becoming a Kabbalist?
You want a soundtrack from the Sixties and early 1970s from a real troubadour of that era who was not as overtly political? Try Paul Simon. The Dylan Cultists won't allow that, though, because, to them, Paul Simon just isn't as cool as Dylan, and not a martyr like Ochs. He didn't get bent out of shape on drugs. And his bad marriages were rather middle class and banal. And heck, Simon was not personally cool enough for Joan Baez to have sex with him...Plus, Simon didn't try out different religions like they were soda pop.
Oh but hold the sarcasm, you cry. What about the songs? You mean I'm supposed to get excited about the fact that Dylan wrote about six songs that mattered? Take whatever Dylan songs you want and compare them to Paul Simon's work of the same period.
"Mr. Tamborine Man"? "Sounds of Silence."
"Blowing in the Wind"? "I am a Rock."
I can keep going with Simon. "Homeward Bound." "The Boxer." "Bridge Over Troubled Water." "Richard Cory." "America." And on and on. And for a second act, the Dylan Cult can have "Blood on the Tracks." I'll take "Graceland" every single day of the week.
Also, please don't get me started on Phil Ochs' incredible output during the period of 1962-1969.*
Meanwhile, historians will have to untangle what is known as the "Sixties," but Ms. Diski's book at least points us in the proper direction...Yet somehow, I doubt most people will really understand the true nature of the Sixties, and its true limitations and unintended ironies, until we Baby Boomers are drooling in dementia and the Dylan Cult is vanquished.
As I have said to my son, born in the 1990s, "When the last of us Baby Boomers dies, have a party. Finally, you'll be able to say to yourselves, 'We've had enough of those narcissistic assholes!'"
Perhaps the only movement of the Sixties worth emulating is the Civil Rights Movement from 1955-1968. That is where there was true heroism, true grit and determination and ultimately true humanity. Yes, the movement had its angry side, but even the anger had dignity for the most part.
* John Lennon understood what a phony Dylan turned out to be, especially compared to Ochs. Compare this video where Lennon pokes fun at Dylan and this one where Lennon shows respect for Ochs. But lest one think I am blinded with love for Ochs, it is important to note Ochs had a Fifties' view regarding females, much like lots of other Sixties guys. It is that sexism which made the feminist movement necessary, but that is a topic for another day (though Barbara Ehrenreich's work is a good place to start for that understanding).
Personal note: Man, I've been angry these days...And yet, I just started on a new medication that is actually helping solve my atrial fibrillation for the first time in over 20 years. I think I'm angry because, unlike 50 million other Americans, I know I have good health insurance, due to my working for a law firm, and am able to afford a PPO plan, rather than an HMO plan. And ironically, some of those underinsured and uninsured are screaming at Obama for supposedly being a Nazi, simply because Obama wants more Americans to have health insurance. Why are they not going to Bush's or Cheney's house to protest real Nazi-like conduct of promoting torture? We should not have to argue about being against torture, and we should not have to argue about providing increased access to medical insurance, but here we are. Worse, the greedy interests, starting with Big Pharma and medical insurance companies, are using the stupids to defeat health insurance reform, and together they are winning...Sigh.
Man, I hate the Dylan Cult...