Bob Dylan is one of the most admired and influential songwriters and singers of the 20th century, whose songs addressed a number of political, historical, and social issues, for example, the Civil War, and he struggle for the civil rights in 1960s. In 2016, this legendary person “received the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first time the honor was bestowed on a musician” (Bob). His original name was Robert Allen Zimmerman, and the ‘Bob Dylan’ name was taken during the period of attending college, as he was a country and folk singer. His development as a performer and songwriter had suffered from the impact of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and other rock stars. For over 40 years-long career, Bob Dylan got “a prophet-like status to his genius” (Chronicle), though he had never been ambitious about it. His songs concerned a variety of topics, for example, existential confusion, war, and politics, etc., and many of them are filled with “symbolic identities and roles” (Decurtis 42).
One of the most known songs by Bob Dylan is “Cross the Green River” that concerned the issue of Civil War, and was used in the Gods and Generals movie. In order to create it, he had done an extensive research on the period of American Civil War, its course, and results. The song has references regarding the 1st half of the Civil War, and it is often characterized as a “long, dolorous ballad hovers between the portentous and the touching” (Gray 162). For example, the dolorous and portentous moments are “Altars are burning with flames falling wide / The foe has crossed over from the other side”, “more brave blood to spill” (Dylan) and touching moment, is, for example, as follows: “Memories linger, sad yet sweet / And I think of the souls in heaven who will meet” (Dylan). This song depicts the image of a dying Confederate soldier, and the context of the American Civil War represents itself through the heartlands of the American South. Dylan wants to make his listeners feel sorry for the soldier by praising his loyalty to the losing side, making everyone respect him, developing this Confederate soldier image as a “prototype of American loyalty to home and to value and to territory” (Brown 52). This song is a clear depiction of horrors of war and how dreadful it could be.
The song was written and recorded in 2003 as a soundtrack to the Gods and Generals movie. Taking into account the foreign policy of the state that changed considerably after 9/11 in term of militarized protection against Northern Korea, Iran, and other countries of potential terroristic threat, and a lot of global military and war action in which USA was or could potentially be involved into, for example, war in Iraq, it becomes clear why Bob Dylan got concerned with the actual intimidating possibility of many soldiers falling in action, and consequently, he created a song that described a slow, but horrible death of a soldier from bleeding out. Furthermore, the Civil War was picked as an example that could leave no person indifferent as it was one of the nation-defining periods in the American history. Dylan is a known political and social activist, antimilitarist and pacifist, whose songs are intended to influence public opinion on war issues.
To conclude, ‘Cross the Green Mountain (2003) is a song referencing the story of the American civil War that was created with regard to the current militaristic policy of the state that changed radically after 9/11. The U.S. foreign policy became more preventive and protective by means of starting war on terror and struggle for prevention and elimination of global threats, for example, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, etc. It promotes political and social justice in order to eliminate all errors and horrors of war, injustice and untruthfulness of the corrupted society. This song is filled with a great potential of influencing the political course of the U.S., and affecting public opinion regarding the challenges that soldiers have to endure for their nation and protection of the best interest of the state. The song is a historically mediated appeal to the conscience of common people and national authorities in order to change the governmental policy on participation in war conflicts within and outside the country. Powerful idea supported by perfectly chosen subject and great word choice are intended to reach every listener.
- “Bob Dylan.” Biography, 02 Nov. 2017, https://www.biography.com/people/bob-dylan-9283052. Accessed 28 Nov. 2017.
- Brown, Richard. “Bob Dylan’s Critique of Judgement” ‘Thinkin’ about the Law’.” The Political Art of Bob Dylan, edited by David Boucher and Gary Browning. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, pp. 35-54.
- “Chronicles, Vol. 1.” OHSU, N. d., http://ohsu.edu/xd/education/schools/school-of-medicine/departments/clinical-departments/psychiatry/grand-rounds/upload/Chronicles-Vol-1.pdf. Accessed 28 Nov. 2017.
- Decurtis, Anthony. “Bob Dylan as Songwriter.” The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan, edited by Kevin J. H. Dettmar, Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 42-54.
- Dylan, Bob. “‘Cross the Green Mountain (from the film Gods and Generals).” Dylan, Bob Lyrics: 1962-2012, Simon & Schuster, 2013.
- Gray, Michael. “‘Cross the Green Mountain’ [song & video, 2003].” The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, 2006.