Monday, August 24, 2015

The Carter-Dylan Connection

Cancer has to be one of the strangest diseases known to man. How it occurs, what it does, how it spreads and how it damages us are mysteries we're still struggling to grapple with. At this time it's hard for us to imagine a future without cancer, but that is something we can all hope science will find solutions for. If you're older, you've had too many friends taken by this disease.

Former president Jimmy Carter's cancer continues to be in the news. Earlier this month it was revealed, after finding the melanoma on his liver, that it had spread to other parts of his body. This past week he announced in a press conference that his melanoma has  spread to his brain.

The former president, now 90, has more than once stated that he has had a remarkable life. From peanut farmer to president to a lifetime of good works through Habitat for Humanity, he has had a rich circle of influence and interacted with more an incredible array of movers and shakers.

Photo by Vince Bucci/Invision/AP**
Early this year Jimmy Carter presented Bob Dylan with a MusicCares Person of the Year Award. The event unearthed a connection between Dylan and Carter that goes way back. An interview in The Atlantic this summer shows just how deep this connection has been.*

John Meroney: You’re unique because you’re the only president I know of who’s quoted Bob Dylan in speeches. You said that you didn’t appreciate the relationship between a landowner and the people who work for him until you heard Dylan sing, “I Ain’t Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm No More.”

Carter: Well, Bob Dylan and I have been very close friends since I was governor. I first met him when he was going through an era of deep Christian faith. When he performed once in Atlanta, he wanted to spend some time talking to me about my faith. His band came to the governor’s mansion and stayed with my boys. Bob and I spent a long time in the garden that night just talking about matters concerning theology and religion and so forth. Earlier this year, when Bob Dylan got the Person of the Year award at the Grammys, he said he would accept the award in Hollywood only if I came out and presented it to him. So I went out there and was able to be with Bob again. He’s been to Georgia one time since, and I took my family to hear him perform.

Hunter S. Thompson picked up on the Carter-Dylan relationship back in the early 70's when as a journalist he was following the early stages of the 1976 presidential campaign for Rolling Stone. At a gathering of lawyers Carter gave a speech in which he indicated that he got his sense of social justice by means of the music of Bob Dylan. A 2012 Open Culture article quotes Carter as stating:

The other source of my understanding about what’s right and wrong in this society is from a friend of mine, a poet named Bob Dylan. After listening to his records about “The Ballad of Hattie Carol” and “Like a Rolling Stone” and “The Times, They Are a-Changing,” I’ve learned to appreciate the dynamism of change in a modern society. 

I grew up as a landowner’s son. But I don’t think I ever realized the proper interrelationship between the landowner and those who worked on a farm until I heard Dylan’s record, “I Ain’t Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm No More.” So I come here speaking to you today about your subject with a base for my information founded on Reinhold Niebuhr and Bob Dylan.

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Today neither Carter nor Dylan seem to be taking old age sitting down. On Sunday the former president taught two Sunday School classes. And at 74 the elder statesman of rock and roll continues to have a full schedule, with almost daily performances slated for the upcoming months of October and November in nearly all parts of Western Europe.

Our prayers go out to Mr. Carter. My guess is that it is easier to teach Sunday School at 90 than to perform concerts, but who knows? Dylan has more than once demonstrated that anything is possible.

*‘There’s an Awakening in Our Country’: A Q&A With Jimmy Carter; John Meroney, The Atlantic, July 13, 2015

**Photo by Vince Bucci/Invision/AP. Will be removed if requested.

1 comment:

JZ SNAKE said...

Carter and Dylan are close friends. LOL! Only a delusional politician such as Carter would make that claim.