Context for RAW's Dylan diss
In an earlier post, I remarked on RAW's amusing, wrongheaded criticism of one of my favorite musicians, Bob Dylan. (From the 1976 "New Libertarian Notes" interview, one of RAW's best interviews: "Dylan seems to me a totally pernicious influence -- the nasal whine of death and masochism. Certainly, this would be a more cheerful world if there were no Dylan records in it. But Dylan and his audience mirror each other, and deserve each other; as Marx said, a morbid society creates its own morbid grave-diggers."
Who knew that I'm a "morbid grave digger?" Do I have to put away my copies of Bringing It All Back Home and Nashville Skyline? But it gets better.
On May 24, Bob Dylan's 70th birthday (a world-historical event, obviously), I sent friendly greetings to various fellow Bobby Zimmerman fans, including Jesse Walker. My Twitter-note to Walker said, "Happy Bob Dylan's birthday! I thought RAW's diss of him was surprising, but funny."
Walker replied, "He was echoing Timothy Leary's attack on Dylan in National Review, which Leary later repudiated. I wonder if RAW changed his mind too."
Who knew that Timothy Leary wrote for "National Review"?
I searched on Google for more information on the article, and found a review in 2006, in "The American Conservative," of Robert Greenfield's Leary biography, written by one Jesse Walker.
The whole piece is worth reading, and it does supply an explanation for Leary's piece. It turns out that Leary needed to get out of jail and show that he was "rehabilitated," so he wrote the article to prove that he wasn't a dangerous hippie anymore.
Walker says of the Leary piece, "Pages of bile were directed at Bob Dylan and his 'snarling, whining, scorning, mocking' songs. At one point Leary declared, 'Squeaky Fromme stands in a Sacramento courtroom … for believing exactly what [Dylan] told her in the Sixties' and blamed her attempted assassination of Gerald Ford on the fact that 'she was unlucky enough to have owned a record player in her vulnerable adolescence.' "
Lord, Lord, so she shot Gerald Ford down.
It seems likely that RAW read the "National Review" piece by his buddy Leary shortly before the "New Libertarian Notes" interview. Does anyone know if RAW ever warmed to Dylan?