You can click this link for the lyrics to Bob Dylan's "Highlands," and you can play the song, one of Dylan's longest, by clicking here, or by utilizing that YouTube video, above.
I have been reading Ian Bell's second book about Dylan, Time Out Of Mind: The Lives of Bob Dylan. Bell has written another book about Dylan, too. That book, which came out first, is called, Once Upon a Time: The Lives of Bob Dylan. I haven't read the first book, but I have been enjoying the second one, and I particularly liked Bell's discussion of "Highlands."
Bell is, by the way, a rather severe critic of Dylan, at least sometimes. That's the way he comes across to me, at any rate. Bell seems to think he knows better than Dylan himself what Dylan should be doing, and how Dylan should organize his affairs. As one example, Bell calls Dylan's participation with the Traveling Wilburys a "largely pointless if lucrative project." Since I pretty much love every song that the Wilburys recorded, I take exception to that assertion. It is, as I say, just one example of Bell's critical commentary.
On the other hand, Bell does have lots of important information and insights to impart, and I was struck by Bell's analysis of "Highlands," which Bell calls a "sixteen-and-a-half-minute masterpiece." Bell suggests that Dylan's song not only references the poetry of Robert Burns, which is pretty obvious, but that it likely also contains references to My Heart's in the Highlands, a much more obscure 1939 play by the Armenian American writer William Saroyan.
Bell says, for instance, "at one point in Saroyan's comedy ... a character remarks, 'In the end, today is forever, yesterday is still today, and tomorrow is already today.'" This is, Bell claims, the same view of time that is visible in Time Out of Mind, the 1997 album in which "Highlands" appeared.
Anyone who has been reading my blog postings with any regularity will perhaps remember George Fox, the Quaker, who claimed that "You have no time but this present time; therefore, prize your time for your soul's sake."
Fox's admonition is not just a kind of practical advice; it is, in fact, a profound insight into the nature of the reality we inhabit.
Bob Dylan has that kind of insight, too.
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