Bob Dylan, Sacred Folkster

Paul Harvey

The historian Sean Wilentz's biography/analysis of Bob Dylan has been getting a lot of attention, including a very annoying and somewhat dyspeptic review in the New York Times. Much better informed and more interesting is Scott Poole's essay on the book. The author, most recently, of Satan in America: The Devil We Know (wish someone would make a PBS series out of that one!), Poole discusses the sacred roles of bards and musicians such as Dylan, including the following passage:

In Wilentz’s view, Dylan became a sacred intersection for the varying paths of populist Americana, a hierophant of the folk spirit that has included everything and everyone from Walt Whitman’s liturgy of American democracy to Jack Kerouac’s “sounds of matching boxcars” to Aaron Copland’s hymns in praise of the common man and the democratic landscape. Dylan found the real America, before that term had been abused by right-wing ideologues seeking to become puppet-masters to angry mobs.