Dylan, Unencumbered

Katrina Forrester at n+1:

My favorite versions of Dylan are the two I like to think of as Romantic Bob and Contemptuous Dylan. The former is the most lovable of love-song writers, the latter the cool guy who scorns his fans. They came together best in the classics of the 1970s that are now rather unfashionable among Dylan obsessives, especially Blood on the Tracks (1975) and its outtakes recently released as More Blood, More Tracks: Bootleg Series Vol. 14 (2018). “Any fool could find whatever he wanted inside the vast Dylan songbook: drugs, Jesus, Joan Baez,” David Kinney wrote in The Dylanologists. It’s impossible to disagree, but I’ve always foolishly enjoyed the search for the traces of “real” women in Dylan’s life. There are the wistful, bittersweet Suze Rotolo songs of the 1960s; the stories of his first marriage and divorce to Sara Dylan (who is the presumed inspiration of one of his greatest love songs, “Abandoned Love,” an outtake off Desire (1976)); the tortured ballads of the 1990s (which of them are odes to Mavis Staples?); and the special sentimentality seemingly reserved for Baez: “We could sing together in our sleep,” Dylan says of her in Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue (2019). She seemed to remember things a little differently in “Diamonds and Rust” (1975): “My poetry was lousy, you said.“ A man I once loved used to tease me for my clichéd preoccupations with Dylan’s most mawkish of songs about bad love, “Idiot Wind,” but its portrayal of cruelty and masochism is also Dylan at his most usable for feminists.

more here.