The Nobel Prize in literature winner in 2016, one of the most famous song writers and singers of the 20th centuries, Bob Dylan, was born in 1941. He is an internationally recognized musician, songwriter, and singer, whose high moral ideas still point out the right direction for the development of the modern community and nation. His songs are considered as anthems for the anti-militarist and civil rights movements. People regard him as a living prophet, who is “walking the earth to warn the living” (Marcus 15). His allowed to create song lyrics that remains appealing to many people worldwide making them to change their opinions on the true meaning of any war. For example, the ‘Cross the Green Mountain (2003) that was used as a soundtrack for a part of the TV series on Civil War – Gods and Generals. It is a well-known ballad that left no listener and viewer emotionless, and brought tears to their eyes, as it told the story of a dying soldier.
This ballad introduces the story of a dying Confederate soldier, who demonstrates loyalty to the state. The text is filled with sensitive moments, for example, “Memories linger, sad yet sweet” (Dylan) and “loyal to truth and to right” (Dylan). Nevertheless, as it is a song on war, the text is also filled with sorrow, for example: “more brave blood to spill” (Dylan), “blood stained wood” (Dylan), or “he’ll never be better, he’s already dead” (Dylan). Dylan is a “virtuoso of the voice” (Boucher 134), and thus he managed to translate text to the ‘nerve’ of the song – war equals death. Emotional condition of the soldier is depicted through the “awkwardnesses of word order” (Gray 162). It ensures creation of the required image of war as of dreadful, and intimidating.
As modern community comprehends war as a daily issue and military violence as an everyday inevitable misfortune, Dylan created a song that would appeal to people through allusions and metaphors. It depicted the agonizing death of a soldier who gave his life for the nation. The lyrics suggests “a productive tension” (Cran 188) between the idea, words, and intended emotions for the listeners to hear. In the present day global militaristic situation (warfare in Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Syria, etc., terror threats from ISIS, and North Korea, etc.), this song sounded like an appeal to all nations to stop war. The idea to make a song that describes death of a Confederate soldier was intended as equally appealing to all Americans. Bob Dylan is a known anti-war activist, and his song will remain up-to-date as long as war will proceed in the world.
To conclude, the analyzed song is a vivid example of how one of the recognized cultural leaders of the nation could appeal to the people and the government in order to stop warfare and change militaristic foreign policy of the country. It reveals true motives of Dylan: to address one of the bloodiest wars in the U.S. history in order to make people understand what their fellow citizens, sons, fathers, and friends have to endure to satisfy the maniacal lust for power and global authority. Anti-militaristic ideas are supported in the song by a detailed demonstration of death of a Confederate soldier, who lost his fellow soldiers, friends, and is bleeding out to death himself. The most terrifying in it is not the death itself, but the idea of absolute loyalty to the state, nation, and its ideals. This song clearly states the necessity of preserving lives of the innocents, including soldiers, as no power, authority, money, territories, or resources are worth lives of the bravest. Civil War, like any war in the course of history, could be in most cases solved in a peaceful way, without spilling blood of thousands of people.
- Boucher, David. “Images and Distorted Facts: Politics, Poetry and Protest in the Songs of Bob Dylan.” The Political Art of Bob Dylan, edited by David Boucher and Gary Browning. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, pp. 134-169.
- Cran, Rona. Collage in Twentieth-Century Art, Literature, and Culture: Joseph Cornell, William Burroughs, Frank O’Hara, and Bob Dylan. Ashgate, 2014.
- Dylan, Bob. ‘Cross the Green Mountain. Columbia Music Inc., 2003.
- Gray, Michael. “‘Cross the Green Mountain’ [song & video, 2003].” The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, 2006, p. 162.
- Marcus, Greil. Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads. Public Affairs, 2005.