Bob Dylan: The Master & The Mystery

Photo by Richard Mcall via pixabay

In my time as a writer and consumer of poetry and songs, I’ve found few artists as polarizing to my fellow lovers of music and literature as Robert Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan. From those who simply can’t find their way beyond the nasal vocal delivery to those who speak of him as a kind of prophet, the truth is few artists in popular music have had the kind of cultural impact as Dylan. I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said better by many writers over Dylan’s seven-decade career, and this IS NOT a career retrospective – this is, as all things I will present to you in this space, about the craft and the mystery of art, and few have gotten as close to the heart of that mystery as Bob Dylan.

As a young songwriter, hearing Dylan for the first time was like God himself pulling back the curtain of creation and saying, “See, this is how it all works.” I was blown away, terrified, and determined to understand how someone could find themselves in such command of their craft. How the hell did he write like that? These fantastic images that flowed from his pen were like nothing I’d heard before, and they set my imagination on fire. Clearly, he was tapped into the source – there could be no other explanation. Later I’d find out that the source he was tapped into was a tremendous knowledge of folk and blues music, a bit of theft, poetry, and a lot of amphetamine. Still, plenty of artists had enjoyed their share of these and other things, but none of them returned from their trips with a message like this.

So what as artists of the social media age do we have left to learn from Dylan?

First, not to let the opinions of others dictate how you approach your work or determine what success and failure are to you. Is the act of creation enough? Is the act of creation and sharing it with others enough? Or does it need two thousand likes and to fill your inbox with hundreds of followers curious about your skin-care routine?
If your answer is the latter – please take some time to rethink your approach.

Second, the bravery to follow one’s muse wherever it leads. Dylan, throughout his career, has been a chameleon. From Woody Guthrie clone, to protest singer, to rock ‘n’ roll cool guy, to a country artist, to evangelical preacher riding a slow train promising fire and brimstone, to bluesman, to doing his best Frank Sinatra impression, nothing has stood between Dylan and his vision. Tastemakers be damned. Carve it into your heart and bravely step into this cynical world to leave a mark that is uniquely yours. Bob would have it no other way.

A couple of years back, I attended a Dylan concert at the Brady Theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma. From the sparse stage set-up to the minimal, warm lighting, the room was ready to recieve the message.

Dylan took the stage with his incredible band and delivered not a single song in its original format. The audience of mostly general music fans were left stunned. What was this? Why is he changing the arrangements? What is he doing? The endings of several songs were met with an uncomfortable silence, followed by almost reluctant applause.

Dylan was showing us the raw truth of his craft. That there on his stage, in his mid-seventies, night after night, he was not there to deliver the hits. No, he had come to conjure spirits, to throw the curve, and call wild audibles all in an attempt to find that elusive moment where creativity, heart, and muse align. He was, in his way, pulling back the curtain and saying, “See, this is how it all works.”

The Best Songwriter You’ve Never Heard

When I began posting a few weeks back, I mentioned that I would share not only my poetry and updates regarding new releases but the work that inspires me.

After listing my favorite poetry collections of 2020 in a previous post, I thought it would be interesting to share some choice selections from other mediums. So, today we’re talking music. More specifically, Fionn Regan’s, The End of History.

Released in 2006, I stumbled onto this album after reading a short review in American Songwriter magazine. Regan, an Irish songwriter, was likely included in the magazine due to his association with the Nashville based label, Lost Highway. Upon first listen, I knew I’d found something extraordinary.

For me, it was all there, the apparent mastery of his instrument, the simple but effective vocal delivery, the ambiguous lyrics. It felt both modern and from another time altogether. I could close my eyes and picture the Irish countryside or a dense forest. It oozed with mystery and captured my imagination as few things had before.

I remember thinking to myself, ‘How am I the only person I know listening to this?’ I still don’t have an acceptable answer to that question. This album obviously stood head and shoulders above most of the music I’d discovered, and, at least stateside, it was seemingly met with indifference. My friends would suffer many drunken ramblings concerning this injustice. God Bless them for their patience.

The album received considerable praise overseas, being nominated for the Mercury Prize for Best Album released in the United Kingdom by a British or Irish act. I have no idea how far Regan’s influence reaches across the pond, but I do know he’s been able to release a steady stream of brilliant albums since The End of History.

So, as I stand at the brink of rambling, I will close by saying, If you haven’t heard this album and enjoy singer/songwriter/folk music, do yourself the enormous favor of getting on your streaming platform of choice and right the scales of justice.

Fourteen years later, I’m still listening and still unable to wipe the smile from my face. Enjoy.

A Bit About Me


As I’m new to the WordPress platform, I thought it appropriate not only to begin posting some of my work but to introduce myself properly. My name is Brandon White; I’m a poet, songwriter, and digital artist from the Fort Smith, Arkansas area. I’m a husband, father of twin girls, dog daddy, and a bit of an obsessive creative.

I began my work at the age of 14 (I’m 34 now) after falling in love with the craft of songwriting. I would spend the next eleven years of my life pursuing my musical goals, meeting and working with some amazing people, playing a ton of shows, and raging against the unfair practices of the music business while also wishing for my turn in the spotlight.

After marrying my lovely wife, Kenzie, in 2012, I would continue to pursue my musical dreams until 2016, when tragic circumstances befell my family. My father, my best friend, was diagnosed with cancer for a second time. His first brush with lymphoma came around the time that Kenzie and I were married. He made his way to MD Anderson in Houston, Texas, began treatment, and breezed through it as if cancer were nothing more than a common cold. He would walk the halls with Black Sabbath blaring on his iPhone and never missed an opportunity to remind someone that he was, in fact, the real Iron Man.

After his cancer returned in 2016, he approached treatment with the same confidence. Sadly, his situation became increasingly more complicated, which resulted in his fight lasting months on end and his body and mind suffering the devastating effects of both the disease and treatment. It was also during this challenging time that Kenzie and I discovered we were parents-to-be, to which my Father said, “It’s sure going to be funny when it’s twins!”

I still don’t know how he knew, and I’m sure there’s plenty of you who’re thinking “coincidence,” but I feel relatively confident that somehow he knew more than we did. When I called him to confirm that his “joke” had been established as our reality, he rallied himself once more to meet his newest grandbabies. We would have two more years together.

When Dad’s cancer recurred a third time, he chose not to seek treatment. His mind, his body, his spirit, were worn down, and he knew his fight was over. My Mother, Mother-In-Law, and I became his end-of-life care team, and we worked around-the-clock to ensure his comfort and that he was surrounded by love. It was during this challenging period that poetry came into my life. I began writing at a furious pace to make sense of my emotions and cope.

Dad and I at a Bruce Springsteen concert in St Louis, Missouri. Our final Father/Son trip. March 2016.

My father died on February 27th, 2019. I sat by his side, holding his hand as he took his final breath. If it weren’t for my wife, children, and my poetry, I’m not sure what would’ve become of me after such a devastating loss. I began to throw myself into my writing even more, and as the year passed, it became apparent that a body of work was taking shape—a tribute to my father and my journey through the grieving process. I wanted to send these poems into the world in hopes that they would reach all the faraway places he never saw and hopefully provide some comfort to those who’d inevitably find themselves in my position.

I began to make it known that I was seeking a publisher for the collection, and not long after, the universe sent me the perfect partner in tara caribou and Raw Earth Ink. tara worked tirelessly to help bring the project together. She listened patiently to my concerns and hopes for the work, never stopping short of achieving my vision. With tara’s expertise and my poetry, May of 2020 saw the release of my debut, The Year that Stole the Light Away.

Born from my greatest heartbreak, the feedback I’ve gotten from the book has been so wonderful. I’ve achieved my goal of seeing my poetry reach some of the world’s most beautiful places, and I am grateful that it’s found a home in the lives of others. I hope it remains a sturdy companion for years to come.

So, after spending the majority of 2020 promoting the book as much as this crazy year would allow, I now near the publication of my second collection, which I’m excited to share more about when appropriate. I hope to carve a place out for myself on this platform and look forward to connecting with you. On my page, you’ll find several poems for your enjoyment, along with a gallery of some of my digital art. I also plan to discuss other works I’ve enjoyed along with music that inspires me; who knows what else?

Talk Soon,