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What Can Britney Spears Learn from Bob Dylan?

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So where were you when you heard Britney Spears shaved her head? That thought crossed my mind as I was thinking about the Weisman Art Museum’s cool new exhibit: Bob Dylan’s American Journey 1956-1966. The exhibition was originally organized by the Experience Music Project (EMP) in Seattle with Bob Dylan’s cooperation, but has an additional Minnesota bent as the Weisman beefed up Dylan’s Hibbing background, including the theatre marquee owned by the Zimmerman family. The exhibit follows Dylan from Hibbing to the University of Minnesota and on to the Greenwich Village folk scene where Dylan threw himself into one of popular music’s most fascinating intersections of art, politics, and lifestyle. There he eventually found himself massively famous as one of the first true rock stars and the man who “electrified? contemporary songwriting. The exhibit ends with the making of three of the rock canon’s greatest works: Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde.

If you’re a Dylan fan, there’s not a lot new here. There’s the obligatory yearbook picture, beat-up guitars and autographed album covers. Screens show Dylan in concert and in interview, most of which can be seen on Dont Look Back or No Direction Home. For the uninitiated, there are kiosks describing each of Dylan’s albums through Blonde on Blonde with a short review and an analysis on the album’s importance. Listening booths allow one to hear from the album and other songs recorded at the same time. There are also a couple of rare early recordings available for listening. I particularly was interested in some of the original typed-up or handwritten song lyrics, with edits. Also there was a Greystone Hospital t-shirt of Woody Guthrie’s. I thought that was kinda cool. There is also a hilarious review of Dont Look Back by the Cleveland Plain Dealer that was obviously written by someone way too old to “get? Dylan.

The exhibit ends, as does Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home, with Dylan’s motorcycle accident of 1966 and his subsequent withdrawal from the public spotlight. Dylan disappears literally at the apex of his art and fame. Of course we all know Bob Dylan did return to the public spotlight, perhaps not the cultural touchstone of the mid-60’s but someone who still makes pretty important contributions musically some 40 years later.

This brings me back to Britney Spears’ shaved head. Clearly I won’t argue that artistically or culturally Dylan and Britney Spears belong in the same discussion. Britney Spears parlayed an above-average rack and a come-hither personae into a vehicle to become world famous and to sell crappy dance music to pre-teen girls. Dylan is Dylan. However, it is clear from both that fame can be soul crushing. In No Direction Home, you can see it in Dylan’s eyes. The inane questions, the burden of being the “conscience of a generation,? the ever increasing expectations of an adoring public, the need to feed the media blast furnace. Dylan’s motorcycle accident was a means by which he could get away from all that. Start anew. The fact that we are still talking about Dylan, going to museum exhibits, buying his music and attending his concerts 40 years later is proof he made the right choice.

So where were you when you heard Britney Spears shaved her head? I wonder if Bob Dylan, when he heard, thought back to that motorcycle accident and how he dealt with overwhelming fame. Do you think Britney Spears will do the same?

Comments

Hello. Thanks

Thanks for this information. Britney always has something news to be explored.

kijiohio

Interesting article. I wonder if Britney even knows the affect she has on teen girls. Hopefully she learns.

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