17 May 2008

Blowin' In The Wind

Today's Guardian newspaper includes a supplement with the words and music to five classic Bob Dylan songs, including Blowin' In The Wind. I was a teenager during the sixties, and it is difficult for anyway who did not live through that period to appreciate the impact that Dylan and other singers made, and how they helped to kick start the cultural and political revolution that followed. The election of John F Kennedy as US President helped to create the environment for change; and it seemed to me that the speeches of Kennedy, and the words and music of Dylan, were where the sixties started.

Blowin' In The Wind was the song that brought Dylan to a wider audience. It is essentially a serious of simplistic questions without any answers, but probably because of this it has become a timeless classic. Over forty years after it was written it seems that in the wider world little has changed: wars still rage with genocides and ethnic cleansing still commonplace.

"how many times must the cannon balls fly
before they're forever banned?"

Tragic events in Darfur carry on, with the United Nations seemingly impotent:

"how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died"

The cyclone in Burma may have killed more than 100,000 people but 1000s more will die because the country is ruled by a totalitarian military junta that is mostly concerned with its own survival, and cares little for its own people:

"... how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,
And pretend that he just doesn't see?

The questions, naive though they are, remain the same - and the answers, then as now, are blowin' in the wind.