Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head / and pretend that he just doesn’t see?

Growing up in Harpswell, Maine, I was always conscious of the wind. The Atlantic Ocean was our front yard, and our house was completely exposed. Even playing in the woods as a child, I thought the wind was trying to tell me something.  I first heard Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind in 1973, during my last year in high school. Someone played it for me. Even though the song had come out 10 years earlier, when I was 7, I never owned the record as a young person. I didn’t have the money, and I didn’t have anything to play the record on.

As a child, I sensed the wind had a restless, secretive quality. The song’s argument that the answers to life’s vexing questions are blowing around in the wind and that you just have to listen to hear them resonated with me.

From the start, I knew that “Blowin’ in the Wind” was a protest song, that the wind was a metaphor for a rising countercultural movement in the ’60s. But for years, I heard the song solely as a lyric.

Now I experience the song differently when I hear it on my iPhone and put the lyric in today’s context. After Dylan’s acoustic guitar opens the song, his voice is remarkably melodic and softly insistent.

As he sings, the line that catches my ear reminds me not to overlook what’s right in front of us:

“Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head / and pretend that he just doesn’t see?”

Many of us walk past people living on the sidewalk asking for money and either ignore them or never see them. That’s what makes the song so special: The words constantly take on fresh meaning.

But much depends on where you hear them. In 1978, I went to my first Dylan concert in Augusta, Maine. He performed “Blowin’ in the Wind,” but it wasn’t quite the same as hearing his original recording.  There were too many people there for the song to be personal, and the song’s intent was brought down to an earthly level. Like the wind, the song is best experienced alone.

~ Elizabeth StroutElizabeth Strout on ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, As a writer grows up, a Dylan song changes meaning. (wsj.com, July 11, 2017).  Elizabeth Strout, 61, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of six novels, including her latest, “Anything Is Possible” and her Pulitzer Prize winning novel Olive Kitteridge.


Notes:

  • Photo of Elizabeth Strout
  • Inspired by: True singing is a different breath, about nothing. A gust inside the god. A wind.” By Rainer Maria Rilke, “Sonnet I.III,” in Duino Elegies & The Sonnets To Orpheus.

Comments

  1. Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A song that has given me the chills since marching against the Vietnam War…and an author I enjoy tremendously

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My Class of 1966 chose that for our class song. The adults – our parents and the school administrators and teachers – surely understood it was a protest against the injustices of that time and that we were trying to be subversive about our choice of class song, but nothing changed after we sang it. Oh, youth!

    On the other hand, when I returned to town in 1972 (after being away to college, then the US Army), I was scandalized that the high school boys had long hair for the most part and many had mustaches, even beards, and the girls were wearing shorts and jeans.

    In my school years, two boys had been sent home because they combed the front part of their hair down in bangs (their interpretation of a “Beatle haircut”). Girls were made to wear dresses or skirts, even on one notorious day where it was 26 degrees F below zero and school wasn’t called off! (We still talk about that bad call!) On top of it, they were made to kneel on the floor to prove the skirts or dresses came to a certain length. Gad!

    No wonder we protested in our little way! I don’t know that we were part of the revolution or not, but we certainly felt like it: “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind….”

    Liked by 2 people

    • A great response. Those were the transition years, for sure. I left high school dressed in skirts, came back as a teacher in the early 70’s to a different world. We were all part of that revolution, we just didn’t realize it at the time.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I think you are right about that, The three years I spent in the US Army (December 2, 1969-November 30, 1972) were largely in Germany. The America I left looked and acted largely differently than the one I came back to. I did experience a bit of culture shock!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Amazing backstory Doug. Thank you for sharing. Wonderful…

    Like

  5. I was pretty young, but I remember crying over the song. Indelible impact.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I take pleasure in saying that I’m on 57 and this all happened when I was just a kid. (I don’t get to say that all too often)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. yes, i was a bit young to fully get the impact when it came out, but i was always touched by it. your posts today really have to do with the senses on many levels.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you, once again, for introducing another author to me.
    I was too young to appreciate the lyrics of any Bob Dylan song until much later. I couldn’t stand his nasally voice at one time. Can’t say what happened but one day I stopped and actually listened. And have been a fan since!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I get the same feeling when I hear “Dust in the Wind.”
    Now, don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
    It slips away….And all your money won’t another minute buy
    Dust in the Wind…All we are is Dust in the Wind…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. good

    Like

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