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New boots and an earring of gold

January 10, 2008

Hello again,

The joys of i-tunes never fail to amaze me. I can buy and download just...

... about every piece of music and song I have ever loved. I’m currently revisiting Bob Dylan whose albums I have on vinyl but with no longer any means of playing them. And I think I never appreciated the lyrics so much. I just wish I had a class at the moment to use the fantastic narrative songs with. Take Hurricane, the story of boxer, Rubin Carter, for example. The song not only tells a riveting tale, it raises so many issues of social relevance. The path of racism in the USA, for example, and the journey that has led to the first black man to be a serious contender for leader of the Democrats.

Romance in Durango is another, wonderfully oblique narrative. It is a kind of Bonnie and Clyde tale of two lovers on the run after a murder. The chorus is in Spanish but that’s no problem. Similarly Black Diamond Bay tells a story in which a disastrous present is the culmination of some very troubled past lives.

The lyrics for the songs can be found at this URL: http://orad.dent.kyushu-u.ac.jp/dylan/song.html/. Not only do they make for great listening and reading comprehension, they are platforms for discussion of a social issues as mentioned above, and for creative work from the students. Just who is the lady with the necktie and the Panama hat? Write a full description of the man on the run, who will wear new boots and earring of gold for his wedding. Why did the Greek want to hang himself? Is it typical for us to react to faraway disasters by saying: “I never did plan to go there anyway?”

I have mentioned using folk songs in the classroom before, especially as a way helping students get to appreciate poetry. Dylan’s songs are great for that too. His language is vivid and evocative: Rubin could take a man out with just one punch
But he never did like to talk about it all that much.
It's my work, he'd say, and I do it for pay
And when it's over I'd just as soon go on my way
Up to some paradise
Where the trout streams flow and the air is nice
And ride a horse along a trail.
But then they took him to the jail house
Where they try to turn a man into a mouse.
Or: Past the Aztec ruins and the ghosts of our people
Hoofbeats like castanets on stone.
At night I dream of bells in the village steeple
Then I see the bloody face of Ramon.

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  1. Richard Wells Says:

    How funny! My wife is investigating ESL for vounteer and/or employment opportunities, and I'm a total Dylan nut. I'm sending this off to her right away - even though she's just downstairs. :-)

    BTW: What Dylan does with Hurricane is summit the attempt at putting poetry into the vernacular. William Carlos Williams, and the Beats were the progenitors of the same, and Dylan came along and, IMHO, beat them all at it. He manages the same in "Joey," and on many of the cuts from the "Blood on the Tracks" album.

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