It’s a very specific kind of artisitc genius. An expression that is so beautifully and specifically drawn that despite it recounting events and experiences that are not yours it still resonates. It resonates because you are human. It resonates because you have the capacity for empathy. It resonates because an artist is bravely standing before you in some stage of undress, vulnerable and eloquent.
Beautiful and broken.
The young artist has yet to live a life worthy of his already prodigious talents. He is however yearning to say something worth listening to and he is intelligent and skilled if not yet refined or experienced. As a result he highlights inequality and shines a light on the stupidity of those who rule him and makes art that resonates. If his talent is up to par it is worth hearing and worth heeding. If his talent is truly generational other artists might recognize it first. If his talent is epochal he writes of the hard rain that’s gonna fall. He inspires and enlightens his and all subsequent generations and shows the world how to think about a thing differently than it had before. He has used his considerable capacity to conceive of a new thought, disseminated it effectively and artistically and is hailed as an icon as he has entered the zeitgeist and knocked it sideways through words and music and as a result you imbue in him a certain level of intimate access to what you believe is your soul.
This is as it should be. For you this initial impact is the imperative as it allows you to shift paradigms. His spark will start a cultural inferno and alter the lives of millions whom he has taught to think.
But to him, to this prodigious and frustrated talent, unable to scratch an itch that is ever present, an itch to truly connect, he knows that this was an effective trick of sorts. Sincere at it’s time, but wholly inadequate now. He hasn’t done yet what he must. Couldn’t have, really. He hadn’t had anything personal and universal to say. Until he fell in love. Then out of love. Then nearly lost it all. And was left broken. As we all will be eventually. Brokenness is universal. Thoughts are debated and should be. He never intended his thoughts to be gospel, but a surprising number of people treated them as such. And to his surprise he spent a long time hacking away, admittedly at a startlingly high level of artistic accomplishment, but not without leaving clues that he thought it all a bit of a farce. Then he found love. True and intimate love that he thought he could sustain. Maybe he even thought it would sustain him.
But now that this love had experienced its entire life cycle, a thing he thought would last the rest of his life, he’s now broken. Not ‘broken down’ in some general way, but actually broken. Very specifically and in a way where he now needs to go to the tools he has fostered all these years to work out his feelings on the matter. He has to take his heart to the study and to the studio and write and perform ‘Blood on the Tracks.’
In my estimation it is his most personal (and at least the equal) of his most accomplished works and it could make even an early twenties, middle class white male like myself truly feel the spectrum of emotions that awaited me once time did her thing to me. Those songs introduced me to the nuances of both the human condition and the beauty in our frailty. It’s a remarkable piece of work that has never failed to move me. It can provoke every emotion a man can feel in a romantic relationship and reveals those he wishes he could. It reveals and instructs me as to my own emotional capacity for intimacy and my own limits in terms of truly connecting.
Its a piece of expressive art that is almost as old as I am and I’ve been listening to it for half my life. It’s the expression of feelings I never knew how to identify and in each phase of my life it has presented to me a deeper and more meaningful part of what it means to be human in a very detailed and specific and beautiful way.
It’s not the bombs thrown by a precocious talent, fueled by righteous anger. Rather it’s the earnest and sincere expression of a man who has, is and will struggle. A man who knows that its all worth it for the exquisite though fleeting bliss that life can give you and the swift inevitability with which it takes it away. It’s melancholic and joyous and angry and curious. Its concentrated humanity.