As I was scanning the headlines on NPR’s web site, my eyes flitted across a headline that turned the crank on my admittedly already-cranky disposition: “Blowin’ In The Wind Still Asks The Hard Questions.” Heavy sigh. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say something like, “Blowin’ In The Wind Asks Needlessly Cryptic Questions That Are Still Confused With Deep, Spiritual Meaning?”
I never got Blowin’ In The Wind. I could see that practically everybody else in the world felt it had the moral, ethical and philosophical qualities of the sermon on the mount, but to me it has always been nothing more than a lot of nonsense questions, strung together and sung to a repetitively simple tune that bored me silly.
I didn’t come to this conclusion quickly. Blowin’ In The Wind was once considered so spiritually significant that the Catholic congregation our family was part of back in the 70s sang it every Sunday during guitar mass, so aside from hearing it overplayed on the radio, I had to sing every line of it once a week in church, as if it were a prayer. Even with all that time to think about it, none of the supposedly deep, inner meaning of Blowin’ In The Wind has ever revealed itself to me.
This is a little maddening because I genuinely like Bob Dylan’s music, an appreciation I got from my Dad, who added quite a few Dylan recordings to the pile of 8-track tapes we kept in the back of the family shop. My favorite was Desire, an album I plugged into the Panasonic tape player and cranked all the way up to ten (this was back before anyone had ELEVEN) so I could hear it through the door of the darkroom when I had to work into the evening. Try overmodulating Bob Dylan on a cheap stereo sometime. You have never heard as many Mondegreens as I’ve heard listening to Black Diamond Bay.
I found a wife, Miranda
She wears a necktie and a Panama hat
Her pisspot shows a trace of
Another time and space
She cooks nothing like Spam
Now there’s a lyric that forces you to ask some hard questions, and I tell you honestly, as well as a little sheepishly, I’ve asked myself over and over again: What the hell does her pisspot have to do with anything? And Spam? Why Spam? In my defense, Dylan’s mumbling style of singing doesn’t make him easy to understand. Also, the water was running.
But even with all the words scrambled, Black Diamond Bay was a million times more enjoyable than Blowin’ In The Wind ever was, and it always will be, especially now that I know the words. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is for me to sing it without regressing to the screwed-up version in my head, though.