It started in the most unlikely of places. With this article. It is the most invigorating, reassuring, and genuinely honest piece I've read about the march toward equal marriage, and its most recent branch-in-the-road, the Prop 8 decision in California. There is no way I could have possibly said it better than Mr. Morford, even though it is exactly what I would want to say if I was gonna say something. Be sure to read it, k?
(Come to think of it, I kinda did say it. You probably don't know this, but my family was part of a Showtime movie about equal marriage several years back, when Massachusetts made it legal. Okay, so it wasn't really my idea and a little tiny bit against my will, but I was in it anyway. If you saw it, you may remember my "It's not about us" mini-rant at the end. That's what I was trying to say. He still said it better.)
I mean, I like the videos that have come out, all the ads that illustrate so cleverly how absurd it is that people should get to vote on other people's marriages. It's a "duh" that for some reason, they don't seem to get in the wonderful if arrogant state of my birth. But then again, there's quite a bit they don't get, including the idea that it should be kind of hard to change a constitution (at least if it's supposed to mean anything), the idea that California really should be two states, and the idea that being gay, male, rich, and living la vida loca in Los Angeles means that anything you want should pretty much happen automatically (surprise!) On the other hand, they do get that you shouldn't put heavy or valuable things up on high shelves, especially above where people sit, something that still startles me in Boston, especially in those Italian restaurants in the North End (what's with the North thing, anyway? North End, North Beach..??), even though there aren't usually earthquakes here. There could be. There have been. Oh. Wait. I forgot. That would be proactive. Never mind.
But anyways, back to folk music.
As I was reading the article above, I was most struck by three little words: "You've already lost". And of course, because, well, I'm me, a song started playing in my head. For those of you that don't know, I have an internal soundtrack. Actually, I think it's kinda cool. Sometimes it's faint, and I can barely make it out. Sometimes it's oblique, and I have to follow a trail of breadcrumbs to find the actual song. And sometimes it's like I'm standing right next to the speakers in the Winterland Ballroom (if you don't know the reference, you should, this is history we're talkin' about).
Today was one of the Winterland ones. Maybe (probably) because it was Dylan.
And then I got sad. Really quickly. Because once this happens, I'm walkin' around everywhere, singing the song, humming the song (I'll have to tell you a funny story about that subconscious humming sometime, or maybe I'll let Phoebe tell you), doodling the words, all kinds of stuff...but mostly singing. Phoebe said (as she usually does when I sing something incessantly) "Is that one of your songs from chorus?" And I said "No, this is a song I have known my whole life."
Here's the thing. When a song comes on this strong, I not only walk around singing it, but I want so much to sit around and sing it with others (singing in community carries its own amazing power, as I hope you know). I close my eyes and transport myself to a rally where we are all singing this song together. Now. Because of this issue. Because of this vote. Because of this article. I'm wishing that right this very moment.
And that's when I hear the voices (the ones that are a matched set with the rolled eyes). The ones that say I'm "crunchy" or old or a throwback. The ones that say "I don't know that song", which just makes me feel like we have failed, I have failed. Best of all, the ones that say "I'm not really into Dylan." That's where I fall over.
Not really into Dylan? What does that mean? Does it mean they don't like his singing voice? Join the crowd. Does it mean they think it's for old people, like their parents or maybe (gulp) their grandparents? Does it mean that they don't want to be associated in any way with the word "hippie" (which, btw, I keep seeing young people spell "hippy", which irritates me to no end aside from the fact that being hippy is a whole 'nother thing altogether and also makes me feel like we've missed the boat in history class)? Does it mean they're too cool for folk music, because all people who like folk music are like the characters in A Mighty Wind? What does it mean?
Because here's the thing, and if I sound preachy, I gotta say that I just don't care. Dylan is a genius. Dylan is an integral part of our history, not only music history, but political history, sociocultural history. You don't have to like his music, you don't have to buy his recordings, you don't have to go to his concerts, you can be creeped out by how he looks or talks or sings. But he has changed the world, and you should at least know that.
I'm not so into Dylan? It's like saying I'm not so into Einstein. You can like him, you can not like him, but you should know what he did. It's as simple as that.
You will be happy to know that I am not, in this space, at this time, going to get into talking about Ferron, who is easily as much of a genius and a world-changer as Dylan (and it's not just me that thinks so). Another day. We should all know about her, too, if only as a lesson in how white heterosexual male privilege is alive and well and so fully imbued into our culture that we don't even know it or believe it when we see it. Okay, right, I'll stop now.
The thing about folk music is that there are a few songs that are iconic. Songs that we should all be able to sing at a moment's notice, simply because of their ageless ability to match world or political events over and over again. Let's just say they come in handy.
Then, when it's one of those times when one of the songs is the perfect fit, you could show up and sing with me, which would just make me really happy.
This is one of those times. If you know it, sing along.