Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan

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In an elaborate fantasy he recounted several times in his first year in Greenwich Village, he claimed he really had travelled south with the carnivals years before he came of age, learning songs on his travels directly from the living blues and folk legends whose records he had borrowed from friends. None of the tall tales of his wanderings were true, but when he wrote in the Hibbing High School yearbook of 1959 that he was leaving ‘to join Little Richard’ the fact that he went, a year and a half later, to New York and not Macon, Georgia or New Orleans doesn’t mean the promise was left unfulfilled. In a sense, he had already begun to travel south, at least musically and culturally, long before he left Minnesota. Little Richard began his career singing in medicine shows in the late forties, and Dylan’s fantasy of spending his teenage years with the carnivals and freak shows of the fifties may derive from his admiration for one of the original rock and roll singers.
Dylan, in 1961, passed over a threshold. He left home for good. He left a life of middle-class respectability to embrace a lifestyle that was, on the surface at least, its opposite. He chose a degree of poverty over relative financial security (it is difficult to pierce through the fog of mythology that has grown up around Dylan’s journey to New York, but he does seem to have arrived with only a few dollars in his pocket). Psychologically and culturally, he moved from the certainties of a suburban life in the provinces of America towards the craziness of the Beat writers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac he had come to admire. He made an intellectual, if not actual, move towards the carnivals and freak shows he spoke or sung about. He said a final farewell to the ‘square’ and embraced the ‘hip’, following in the footsteps of those who had not merely passed over such thresholds already, but who had gone further, taking the liminal to their hearts and living a precarious life between worlds: forever travelling and never arriving. In his own words, he was joining those who, like Woody Guthrie, would ‘come with the dust and [be] gone with the wind’; those who had ‘no direction home’.

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the Unkindness of Ravens If you have found our critical notes helpful, why not try the first Tower Notes novel, a historical fantasy set in the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasions.

Available HERE where you can read the opening chapters.

The Unkindness of Ravens by Anthony Paul