Our good friend Bob Dylan was awarded the Medal of Freedom yesterday from President Barack Obama. It's the highest award a United States civilian can win - and it balanced on his neck just like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine.
Let us celebrate by pondering one of Bob's earlier epics, 1964's "Chimes of Freedom." The song is about a group of friends who run for cover during a storm and the things the lightning flashes symbolize - which is basically everything. Ask not for whom the lightning strikes — it strikes for thee.
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing
I was never much of a fan of "Chimes of Freedom" as it originally appeared on Another Side of Bob Dylan; his performance is a little lackluster and I was frankly bored by it.
But that changed when I saw the Martin Scorcese Bob-doc No Direction Home, which featured the following tour de force live performance from the 1964 Newport Folk Festival.
The parade of imagery Dylan hurls upon the audience is almost overwhelming and it;s hard not to be pulled along by the sweep of his youthful vigor - he had just turned all of 23.
Dylan seems truly visionary here, especially when you consider how far ahead of the culture he was - this was around the same time as The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night.
Like pretty much every Dylan tune, "Chimes of Freedom" was covered by The Byrds, who gave it their trademark Rickenbacker 12-string jangle, a sound I never tire of.
Congrats Bob. We are all starry-eyed and laughing.
Get Bob's version of "Chimes of Freedom" from Newport '64 on iTunes here.