My Boss is a Jewish Guitar Player

Prophet, genius, messiah, Judas, hack. People have called Bob Dylan many things over the years. Martin Scorcese’s recent Dylan documentary, No Direction Home, a 210 minute, two-night event, profiles the artist as a young man, emerging from nowhere into the dusk of Greenwich Village bohemia, tentatively poised to conquer the world. In the documentary, Dylan’s fledgling but explosive career is remembered through rare footage, recollections of friends and collaborators, and a few words from Dylan himself, though considerably more wrinkled than the brooding youth we become so familiar with over the course of the documentary. Indeed, the image of a young Dylan, barely over twenty, unassumingly changing the world is an arresting one. A man of many reinventions (not least horrendous was his terrifying Keith Richards imitation), it is the doe-eyed young poet who gets the glory, and deservedly so. While an unfathomable amount of scholarship has been poured into the significance (or lack thereof) of Dylan’s place in the cultural revolutions of the ’60s, his subsequent decline into the unthinkable non-genius has been largely ignored. This is only a testament to the bulletproof nature of his first incarnation-no number of mediocre releases or even a ridiculous campaign for women’s underwear could strip Dylan of an ounce of credibility. Still, the most important aspect of Scorsese’s documentary is that he ends it when he does, in 1966, only five years after Dylan first became the “voice of a generation,” a title which he abhorred. At first I was disenchanted with the final clip, footage from a 1966 European tour previous to his near-fatal motorcycle accident, as I was so taken with this portrait of a pop-culture icon the likes of whom the world had never seen before or since. Now the premature end to the documentary seems a true service to both Dylan fans and the artist himself. Although he escaped a tragic early death that claimed the lives of many of his peers, the Dylan revered to presently remains frozen in the early ’60s. We idolize him for who he is because of what he was, which is why we’re so quick to crown each new young, songwriting white male with the undervalued and unfounded title of “Our Generation’s Bob Dylan.” If there’s one thing Scorsese achieves in his documentary it is the assertion that, however disheartening, the search for The Next One is futile, as Dylan was the solely fated progeny of the triumphs and turmoil of ’60s culture, and the times, they have a-changed.