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Author Topic: Bob Dylan's support for Israel more relevant than ever
seagull
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My favorite English song of all times is:

With god on our side

I love the music (and Joan Baez's performance) but it's Dylan's lyrics that really make it my favorite.

Another immortal song I really like by Dylan is: "Blowing in the wind": (Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary)

All of these famous singers are known for their love of peace AND their support for Israel.

If you listen to Israeli songs they also reflect the yearning for peace both at a personal and national level.

But when I listen to the news and hear the international media these days, it brings to mind a different Dylan song:

Neighborhood bully

The music may not be as good as the other two but just like them the lyrics are more relevant than ever today.

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KidTokyo
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On "Neighborhood Bully" I get the impression that Dylan is inadvertently writing about himself. This is a man whose most famous complaint was that he was oppressed by folk singers. Just sayin'.
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Pete at Home
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Lyrics would be useful here.
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AI Wessex
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I think Dylan's lyrics are richly multi-layered. They are about something, beneath which they are about himself, then about something and then himself. After that it's turtles all the way down.
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seagull
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Neighborhood bully Lyrics are on the video link above. Here they are in text form

Dylan is usually multi-layered. Still at least two of the layers here clearly refer to Israel and what he wrote 30 years ago is mostly true today as well.

quote:
Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he could apologize
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
He's the neighborhood bully.

Well, the chances are against it, and the odds are slim
That he'll live by the rules that the world makes for him
'Cause there's a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a licence to kill him is given out to every maniac
He's the neighborhood bully.

...

Well, he's surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
Now, they wouldn't hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep

"With God on Our side" and "Blowing in the wind" have become anthems of the pacifist movement. Dylan may be a reluctant spokesperson for the pacifist movement but it is worthwhile to actually read the meaning and understand the layers of these Lyrics and the sentiments behind them that are shared by an overwhelming majority of Israeli soldiers.

"Where has all the flowers gone" was an anti-war protest song in the US. Israeli soldiers have been singing it themselves for decades as they fight to defend their lives. The protest here is against the war that is forced on us by our enemies, not against the government or the military that makes it possible for us to survive.

They beauty of Dylans Lyrics is that it fits both situations.

There is another song that I really like which regretfully does NOT fit the situation in Gaza (and many other places in the Middle East) these days:

I hope the russians love their children too - Lyrics (youtube).
The Russians may love their children, But Hamas loves their children dead. It's not just rhetoric, look at what they do to them and how they glorify their deaths,

[ August 12, 2014, 12:07 AM: Message edited by: seagull ]

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KidTokyo
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I suppose it is reassuring on some level that defenders of Israel must believe that the onlyreason Palestinian children die is that Hamas "wants them dead." That this justification is presented reflexively and relentlessly shows that the guilt of dead children would weight heavily on Israel if they actually felt personally responsible. So then, at least some Israeli hawks are merely self-delusional, and not psychopaths, though their faith in their "restraint" and "accuracy" presents an impossibly spotless moral perfection.

Israeli soldiers singing Pete Seeger? Spare me the crocodile tears.

My point about Bob Dylan is that, whatever his talents, his penchant for self-absorbed projection is almost boundless. I've always found him a bit phony. The brilliant narrative logic of a song like "Hurricane" is less common than the cleverer-than-thou constructs and self-references that characterize all too much of his work.

"Bully" was written when Dylan was teetering between religions. I think he was de-Christianizing at that point. He's a man of moods, not principles. A wanderer, a rolling stone, a showman. His opinions on foreign affairs matter about as much as the Cookie Monster's.

[ August 12, 2014, 10:12 AM: Message edited by: KidTokyo ]

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seagull
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I know, I know Cookie Monster and Bob Dylan are old foggies. They are out of date. They should move aside and make room for more modern and politically correct role models like Nahul the bee
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seagull
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Israeli soldiers have been singing the Hebrew translation of "Where have all the flowers gone" for many generations now. Many of them do not even know that it is a translation and have no clue who Pete Seeger was. All they know is that the words describe their feelings. These are the singers that they know about.

Yarkon Bridge Trio
Arbel trio
Dana Berger

"When will they ever learn?"

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seagull
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On the first day of the first Gulf War in 1991, I was a student living in Berkeley. It had been only a few years since I finished my tour of service in the IDF.

I was in a large dorm hall in a gathering of hundreds of students who were listening to the news on the large dorm TV. About half of us were foreign students from other countries the other half were from the US. After hearing the news many people were in shock, it was the first real War the US entered since Vietnam.

I started singing "where have all the flowers gone" mostly in English but I sang a few verses in Hebrew as well. Only a few people joined me in singing but the rest listened and understood. They knew that I was from Israel, they knew that my protest was not against the soldiers or the need to fight but only against the death and futility wars. For many of them it was the first time they realized that these words could have meaning in a context very different from what they knew about Woodstock and Berkeley student riots in the 1960s.

Several of them thanked me for it later that week. At the end of the year, an award winning essay mentioned that hearing me sing that day was one of the most memorable experiences in that year.

quote:
Israeli soldiers singing Pete Seeger? Spare me the crocodile tears.
Nothing kidTokyo says will change what those people heard me sing in 1991 or how they felt about it.

The tears I shed then were not for the people who were going to die in the Gulf war. They were for all the IDF soldiers who also sang songs of peace and had already died in Israel's wars.

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AI Wessex
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quote:
"Bully" was written when Dylan was teetering between religions. I think he was de-Christianizing at that point. He's a man of moods, not principles. A wanderer, a rolling stone, a showman. His opinions on foreign affairs matter about as much as the Cookie Monster's.
A couple of years ago a documentary came out about a singer-songwriter named Rodriguez, called "Searching for Sugarman". If you don't know the story, in the early 70's a 20-something laborer in Detroit recorded a couple of low-budget folk-rock albums that barely made a ripple, selling less than 5,000 copies apiece. The records soon became unavailable from any retail outlets and stayed that way until the movie came out decades later.

The movie was so riveting that after watching it I tracked down the records over the course of about 6 months and listened to them. They are sincere attempts to depict street life in Detroit and some of the angst of being on the outside of the American dream. IMO the albums deserved the fate they received. They lyrics are interesting but not very compelling, a pale shadow of Dylan's critique of society in the 60's.

The interesting thing (and the reason for the documentary) is that a copy or two somehow made it to South Africa and bootlegged copies spread like wildfire. Rodriguez songs became the collected anthem for the youth movement in the 70's that was developing deep moral concerns about apartheid. That generation of whites became the people who eventually helped overthrow apartheid years later.

I work with someone who grew up in South Africa when Rodriguez' music was making the rounds. He confirms that in their eyes Rodriguez was a god and Dylan just a passing fancy. He still can recite the lyrics of a dozen of his songs but doesn't know any of Dylan's.

If you're developing your understanding of the world and open to a certain set of moral questions at the same time anyone's songs can smack you in the face like a 2x4. "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and many of Dylan's** early songs are still burned into my brain. If you weren't in the right place at that right time, they might mean something but overall far less.

** Listen to Dylan's first album a few times and maybe you'll hear who he himself hoped to be, but if not at least the kernel of what he became to millions of American teens and young adults over the next decade and to other generations elsewhere later.

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KidTokyo
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Seagull,

It's an anti-war song, about all soldiers everywhere. You make it sound as though it was used by the IDF in a way that was more self-congratulatory -- as in "when will they ever learn?" meaning your enemies.

Is that how you meant it? Or do I misread you?

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seagull
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The fact that kidTokyo chooses to misread things into my posts that I did not say just so he can gloat in a "self-congratulatory" way does not mean that I should do the same.
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KidTokyo
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Seagull,

How about you just correct my misunderstanding if there is one?

I'm not "choosing" to misread you. I just misread people sometimes. I'm only human. So tell me what I'm wrong about.

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seagull
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LOL, kidTokyo obviously has a brain and there are even indications in his posts of some intelligence. If he was willing to use it he wouldn't need me to explain where the misunderstanding is.

But considering his track record on this forum, I would be very surprises to see him actually using his brain when that does not fit his agenda.

I would be glad to be proved wrong though.

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KidTokyo
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Seagull, it's a simple question.

What do the lyrics of "Where have all the flowers gone" mean from the perspective of an IDF soldier?

You stated:

quote:
Israeli soldiers have been singing it themselves for decades as they fight to defend their lives. The protest here is against the war that is forced on us by our enemies, not against the government or the military that makes it possible for us to survive.
Based on your words, I guessed at the most likely (re)interpretation of Pete Seeger's lyrics in the context you provide here.

Who is the "they" in "when will they ever learn" when the song is sung by a member of the IDF?

Pretend I'm a five year-old Israeli child. Tell me what the song means.

Who are "they"?

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seagull
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An IDF reserve soldier speaking in the US
This soldier is not an exception. What he says represents the views on the majority of the soldiers in the IDF.

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