The Salvation of Bob Dylan

Tennessee Williams
In Conversation with James Grissom
New Orleans

I had reached an intersection in my life where there was no understanding; there was no love; there was no communication. I realize as I say this that without communication, there can be no love, no understanding--nothing. My fuses were blown, and I had blown them. Self-inflicted damage and the concomitant guilt that goes with it was a lot of baggage in those latter days of the '60s, and everyone everywhere was involved in some sort of revolution or war or outrage. Umbrage filled the air, and so we did what we could to find some sort of peace from the rage, or we joined the rage.

I sought to escape the rage.

I was committed--quite against my will--to an institution, what Carrie Nye called the hat factory, and I was forced to detoxify myself. My brain, my heart, my memory. I was entirely toxic, I now realize, and I needed some serious support to heal myself.

I repaired, for reasons as mysterious as faith itself, to the Catholic Church. I do not know why, really, but I needed order and protection and the mercy of discipline, and I enjoyed particular beads on particular days; particular prayers in particular positions. I was looking for honor--of my own gifts, of my own life--and I felt I had to seek it in the lives of others, and so I began with the saints. I began with Jesus. I began with all those women on all those beads I've given you.

There was so much noise in my head at that time, and I went, as I always do, to music, and there were two songs that saved me. I wore out records of "Let it Be," with its pleas to the Blessed Mother, it's refrain to relax, to forgive, to move on. This, of course, is my interpretation of the song, and I apologize if I, out of habit, hear and see things that do not exist.

The other song that got me along was "Lay Lady Lay," by Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan speaks to me. I think we're on similar paths--of reinvention, of discovery, of telling a story, of trying to matter. I love women, and Dylan is loving--fully and beautifully--some woman in this song. She may become a character for me, still. I thought so then, and I hope so now. There is such a lovely yearning in Dylan's songs, in his voice, in the construction of his lyrics. For me--for this writer--yearning is walking, crawling, perhaps, towards some understanding, and I can listen to him, and I can lose myself in the journey he has constructed, and I can be saved

©  2015     James Grissom


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