American Idol

Here comes the freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Again. Just in time.

"I haven't felt free in a long time," he tells the guard.

"Keeping people from being free is big business," says the guard.

"I'll keep it in mind," says Dylan.

James O'Brien

He always has. And at the moment, Dylan is one of the few unmistakably organic sounds of freedom to be had. His voice remains clarion-ragged, unsullied, and untouched by trends or whims. The puppet strings are all too visible on various politicians, musicians, and media celebrities these days, but Dylan still sounds beholden to no one but himself and his music, a troubadour singing about class, race, love, power, and that one evergreen that all great music is built on: mystery.

In that sense, Dylan sounds like America, or at least the America that Dylan reminds me I still love. He's truck stops and blues and cigarettes and blue jeans and sex and beer and spaghetti Westerns and naturally "independent" and "alternative." He's angry, in a way that America at its best has always been angry--full of questions, always seeing the way things really are out of the corner of his eye.

He's the CNN crawl ("Even Jesus would never forgive what you do"; "Living in the land of nod, trusting our fate to the hands of God"; "Things are breaking up out there"; "How many times must the cannonballs fly, before they're forever banned?"; "If dogs run free, why aren't we?") that never gets read, but which simmers under absolutely everything that happens. He's the ex-con songwriter sitting in the back of the van at the end of Masked and Anonymous, his eyes slithering back and forth, his voiceover saying, "I stopped trying to figure out everything a long time ago."

He's Bob Dylan, friend, and, for the next couple of days at least, he's the one.


Jim Walsh can be reached at or 612.372.3775.

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