Bob Dylan remains the reluctant, confounding, sometimes unintelligible and yet continually inspiring prophet.
Veteran San Francisco media personality Steve Wagner was co-host, writer, and executive producer of the Bay Area television programs Reel Life and Filmtrip.
Steve has ghostwritten several published books, contributed articles on music, film, and popular culture to numerous publications, and presented lectures and workshops on music, art, and mythology throughout the U.S.
His book All You Need is Myth: The Beatles and Gods of Rock (2019), a study of the classic rock era through the lens of classical mythology, is the product of ten years of research and composition.
Day two of our twelve days of mythic rock archetypes is the prophet, Bob Dylan, who said, “I felt right at home in this mythical realm made up not with individuals so much as archetypes.” Dylan inhabited the role of the wandering mystical poet and established the “singer-songwriter” as the modern equivalent of the classic poet/prophet archetype. Below is an excerpt from the book All You Need is Myth: The Beatles and the Gods of Rock that explores the man who remains the reluctant, confounding, sometimes unintelligible and yet continually inspiring prophet.
Dylan’s most significant cultural contribution was to make it acceptable—and eventually standard—to combine serious poetry with popular music, which provided a medium for passionate lyrical ideas that were farther-reaching and more accessible and immediate than words on a page. Indeed, since Dylan, the role of the poet in Western society has been all but supplanted by the singer-songwriter, and many of the most culturally relevant post-Dylan poets (Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, Patti Smith) eventually made their deepest (or at least widest) impact through songwriting.
No one redefined poetry in the twentieth century more than Bob Dylan.
As Homer melded poetry with storytelling, illustrating the human being in relationship to mythology and the world, and Shakespeare elevated the poetry of playwriting, emphasizing the human being in relationship to society, so Dylan brought visceral poetry to the musical song, stressing the individual and their relationship to themselves. Dylan’s lyrical and melodic voice was a culmination of centuries of musical and literary evolution, encompassing and crystallizing songwriting into a singular form that seemed to have been waiting out in the aural ether for the right moment to unveil itself. No one redefined poetry in the twentieth century more than Bob Dylan, and in that sense, he certainly stands with Homer and Shakespeare as a prophet in terms of his literary influence, a view sympathetic with the Nobel Committee, who awarded him the literature prize in 2017—the first ever for a writer from a primarily musical tradition.
Transcending the sense of underlying energy and the point of direct experience that is beyond the physical world, the logic of the brain, and, most frustratingly, language.
Representing the deeper feminine qualities of inner wisdom and intuitive process, concerns of ecology and equality, possession of hidden knowledge, and emphasis on truth and integrity, attributes of countless mythic goddesses of the ancient world.
Everything we experience in our material world is realized and created through a dance with its opposite.