Sunday, May 8, 2016

Neighborhood Bully Bob Dylan's Pro Zionist Anthem

Over the past couple decades, Dylan has become a supporter of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, which holds a firm Eretz Israel line regarding the ongoing occupation of the West BankThe picture was taken at the western Wall in , Jerusalem in 2010 at his son's barmitzvah.

 Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
 His enemies say he’s on their land
 They got him outnumbered about a million to one
 He got no place to escape to, no place to run
 He’s the neighborhood bully

 The neighborhood bully just lives to survive
 He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
 He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
 He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
 He’s the neighborhood bully

 The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
 He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
 Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
 He’s always on trial for just being born
 He’s the neighborhood bully

 Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
 Old women condemned him, said he should apologize.
 Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
 The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
 He’s the neighborhood bully

 Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim
 That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him
 ’Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
 And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
 He’s the neighborhood bully

 He got no allies to really speak of
 What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love
 He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied
 But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
 He’s the neighborhood bully

 Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
 They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
 Now, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
 They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep
 He’s the neighborhood bully

 Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone
 Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
 He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
 In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
 He’s the neighborhood bully

 Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
 No contract he signed was worth what it was written on
 He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
 Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
 He’s the neighborhood bully

 What’s anybody indebted to him for?
 Nothin’, they say. He just likes to cause war
 Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed
 They wait for this bully like a dog waits to feed
 He’s the neighborhood bully

 What has he done to wear so many scars?
 Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
 Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
 Running out the clock, time standing still
 Neighborhood bully

Bob Dylan’s Pro-Zionist Anthem

It is 33 years since the legendary and prolific American songwriter, Bob Dylan  unveiled his brilliant up-tempo Pro-Zionist anthem, the ironically-titled “Neighborhood Bully” on his Infidels album.

Written in just  prior to the 1982 Lebanon War and recorded in the spring of 1983, “Neighborhood Bully” is a passionate defense of Israel and her foreign policies.

For those who are not familiar with the song, do not be misled by the title. The phrase “neighborhood bully” is an ironic allusion to the accusation that Israel is an aggressor. The real bully, says Dylan, is the international community which has a “noose” around Israel’s neck. Another bully is Islamism, the ideology of “maniacs” who believe they have a “license to kill” Jews.

The song enables Dylan to take a swipe at anti-Semites who condemn Israel for simply “being alive” and he castigates so-called pacifists in the West who expect Israel to simply “lie down and die when his door is kicked in.” He also celebrates Israel’s remarkable contribution to medical science in which “sickness and disease” are “turned into health” but he laments the fact that Israel’s achievements are overshadowed by anti-Semitism.

“Neighborhood Bully” is also something of a Jewish history lesson. Within 11 verses, Dylan refers to the descent into Egypt, the Babylonian exile, the “trampling” of holy books by the Nazis and the Six-Day War. There is a clever reference to the fierce battles that took place in late 1947 and early 1948 when the Yishuv/Israel fought the Arabs using “obsolete weapons.” And there is a superb and acerbic rebuttal of the United Nations which condemned Israel’s bombing of an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981:

"He destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad:

The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad".

What is particularly intriguing about the song is that Dylan does not differentiate between the State of Israel, the ancient Israelites or the Jews driven out by the Romans in 70 CE. It’s as if the Book of Genesis, the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the modern-day Islamic terrorist threat are happening at the same time to the same people.

"The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land

He’s wandered the earth an exiled man

Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn

He’s always on trial for just being born

He’s the neighborhood bully."

But Dylan takes this poetic conceit even further. As well as conflating time and space, Dylan makes this personal – literally. The Jews – whenever and wherever they are – are bound together so tightly that they are “one man.” This man, who was exiled from Judea by the Roman Army, is now told that he doesn’t belong anywhere, not even in his historic homeland:

"Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man

His enemies say he’s on their land

They got him outnumbered about a million to one

He got no place to escape to, no place to run."

This single individual or corporate personality can perhaps be interpreted as the third patriarch of the Jewish people: Jacob, ancestor of the Israelites. According to Jewish tradition, Jacob experiences many personal struggles both in the land of Israel and out of it, which foreshadow the trials and misfortunes of the Jewish people as they fight for their dignity and their inheritance.

But, argues Dylan, the Jewish people have essentially triumphed over history by returning to Eretz Israel, even if the rest of the world is hostile to that fact. “Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone,” he sings. Egypt, Rome and Babylon have all perished but the Jewish people live on and have made “a garden of paradise in the desert sand.”

But will Israel survive, he asks, if anti-Semitism and terrorism continue to undermine the morale and security of the Jewish people?

In the end, the answer is “Yes.” Israel will survive because it is a miraculous nation. The enigmatic final verse hints at Israel’s closeness to G-d. Israel is “standing on the hill”. Not just any hill, but the hill, which is probably an allusion to the Temple Mount, the place where God chose the Divine Presence to rest and where G-d gathered the dust used to create Adam. It is also the place where the Third Temple will be built, thus ushering in the Messianic era. As it says in Isaiah 2:2:

"And it shall be at the end of the days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be firmly established at the top of the mountains, and it shall be raised above the hills, and all the nations shall stream to it.

Dylan’s paean to Zionism surprised (and angered) many of his fans, but the song was really a natural outflowing of his Jewish heritage and his love for Israel. Dylan considered moving to a kibbutz in the early 1970s and he has made several trips to Israel, both personal and professional.

According to Meir Kahane, the American-Israeli rabbi whose ultra-nationalist views about Israel outraged many liberals, Dylan attended several meetings of the Jewish Defense League in the 1970s.  And in a 1971 interview with Time Magazine, Dylan made positive comments about Kahane. “He's a really sincere guy,” said Dylan. “He's really put it all together.”

Dylan converted to born-again Christianity in the late 1970s but he never forgot his Jewish roots and his songs continue to be soaked in imagery from the Tanakh.

In the early 1980s, it was alleged that Dylan had returned to Judaism. He was rumored to be studying with Chabad Lubavitch and had recorded an (unreleased) album of Hassidic songs. Even today, Dylan refuses to clarify his religious beliefs.

It is even harder to determine whether Dylan still stands by the sentiments expressed in “Neighborhood Bully.” At one point in his career he seemed to distance himself from the song, but Dylan has always been enigmatic and enjoys ridiculing journalists who question him about the messages in his music..... but at the moment no version of this song or for that matter any other song  by Bod Dylan is available free  Youtube . The Bohemian Anti Establishment  Folk Rocker of the 60's is now a rip roaring Capitalists and  insists you spend 50c and buy his songs on itune.

It’s also worth noting that he has defied the BDS movement by playingand visiting  in Israel many times.

Whatever his political views, “Neighborhood Bully” remains an authentic expression of one man’s outrage over the way Israel and the Jewish people are slandered by the press, the public and politicians.

And for the record, it is one of my favorite (and most-played) Dylan songs.

Infidels Album

Infidels is the twenty-second studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on October 27, 1983 by Columbia Records.

Produced by Mark Knopfler and Dylan himself, Infidels is seen as his return to secular music, following a conversion to Christianity, three evangelical, gospel records and a subsequent return to a less religious lifestyle. Though he has never abandoned religious imagery, Infidels gained much attention for its focus on more personal themes of love and loss, in addition to commentary on the environment andgeopolitics. Christopher Connelly of Rolling Stone called those gospel albums just prior to Infidels"lifeless", and saw Infidels as making Bob Dylan's career viable again. According to Connelly and others, Infidels is Dylan's best poetic and melodic work since Blood on the Tracks.

The critical reaction was the strongest for Dylan in years, almost universally hailed for its songwriting and performances. The album also fared well commercially, reaching #20 in the US and going gold, and #9 in the UK. Still, many fans and critics were disappointed that several songs were inexplicably cut from the album just prior to mastering—primarily "Blind Willie McTell", considered a career highlight by many critics, and not officially released until it appeared on The Bootleg Series Volume III eight years later.

Recording sessions

Infidels was produced by Mark Knopfler, best known as the frontman of the band Dire Straits. Dylan initially wanted to produce the album himself, but feeling that technology had passed him by, he approached a number of contemporary artists who were more at home in a modern recording studio.David Bowie, Frank Zappa, and Elvis Costello were all approached before Dylan hired Knopfler.

Knopfler later admitted it was difficult to produce Dylan. "You see people working in different ways, and it's good for you. You have to learn to adapt to the way different people work. Yes, it was strange at times with Bob. One of the great parts about production is that it demonstrates to you that you have to be flexible. Each song has its own secret that's different from another song, and each has its own life. Sometimes it has to be teased out, whereas other times it might come fast. There are no laws about songwriting or producing. It depends on what you're doing, not just who you're doing. You have to be sensitive and flexible, and it's fun. I'd say I was more disciplined. But I think Bob is much more disciplined as a writer of lyrics, as a poet. He's an absolute genius. As a singer—absolute genius. But musically, I think it’s a lot more basic. The music just tends to be a vehicle for that poetry."

Once Knopfler was aboard, the two quickly assembled a team of accomplished musicians. Knopfler's own guitar playing was paired with that of Mick Taylor, a former lead guitarist of the Rolling Stones and now touring with them again. Having been introduced to Taylor the previous summer, Dylan had developed a friendship with him that resulted in the guitarist hearing the Infidels material first during the months leading up to the April sessions. In addition, the sessions benefited as well from Taylor's ability as a slide guitarist.

Knopfler said about the instrument he plays on Infidels: "I still haven't got a flat-top wooden acoustic, because I've never found one that was as good as the two best flat tops I ever played. One … was a hand-built Greco that Rudy Pensa, of Rudy's Music Stop lent me. I used … the Greco onInfidels."

Knopfler suggested Alan Clark for keyboards as well as engineer Neil Dorfsman, both of whom were hired. According to Knopfler, it was Dylan's idea to recruit Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar as the rhythm section. Best known as Sly & Robbie, Shakespeare and Dunbar were famed reggaeproducers as well as recording artists in their own right.

"Bob's musical ability is limited, in terms of being able to play a guitar or a piano," said Knopfler. "It's rudimentary, but it doesn't affect his variety, his sense of melody, his singing. It's all there. In fact, some of the things he plays on piano while he's singing are lovely, even though they're rudimentary. That all demonstrates the fact that you don't have to be a great technician. It's the same old story: If something is played with soul, that's what's important."

Beginning with Infidels, Dylan ceased to preach a specific religion, revealing little about his personal religious beliefs in his lyrics. In 1997, after recovering from a serious heart condition, Dylan said in an interview for Newsweek, "Here's the thing with me and the religious thing. This is the flat-out truth: I find the religiosity and philosophy in the music. I don't find it anywhere else … I don't adhere to rabbis, preachers, evangelists, all of that. I've learned more from the songs than I've learned from any of this kind of entity."

Though Infidels is often cited as a return to secular work (following a trio of albums heavily influenced by born-again Christianity), many of the songs recorded during the Infidels sessions retain Dylan's penchant for Biblical references and religious imagery.[5] An example of this is the opening track, "Jokerman". Along with Biblical references, the song's lyrics reference populists who are overly concerned with the superficial ("Michelangelo indeed could've carved out your features") and more about action than thinking through the complexities ("fools rush in where angels fear to tread"). A number of critics have called Jokerman a sly political protest, addressed to an antichrist-like[6] figure, a "manipulator of crowds … a dream twister."

The second track, "Sweetheart Like You", is sung to a fictitious woman. Oliver Trager's book, Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, mentions that some have criticized this song as sexist. Indeed, music critic Tim Riley makes that accusation in his book, Hard Rain: A Dylan Commentary, singling out lyrics like "a woman like you should be at home/That's where you belong/Taking care of somebody nice/Who don't know how to do you wrong." However, Trager also cites other interpretations that dispute this claim.[7] Some have argued that "Sweetheart Like You" is being sung to the Christian church ("what's a sweetheart like you doing in a dump like this?"), claiming that Dylan is mourning the church's deviation from scriptural truth. The song was later covered by Rod Stewart on his 1995 album A Spanner in the Works.

A few critics like Robert Christgau and Bill Wyman claimed that Infidels betrayed a strong, strange dislike for space travel, and it can be heard on the first few lines of "License to Kill". ("Man has invented his doom/First step was touching the moon.") A harsh indictment accusing mankind of imperialism and a predilection for violence, the song deals specifically with humanity’s relationship to the environment, either on a political scale or a scientific one, beginning with the first line: "Man thinks because he rules the Earth/He can do with it as he please." A skeptical opinion toward theAmerican space program was shared among other evangelicals of Dylan's generation.

The song "Neighborhood Bully" is a song from the point of view of someone using sarcasm to defend Israel's right to exist; the title bemoans Israel's and the Jewish People's historic treatment in the populist press. Events in the history of the State of Israel are referenced, such as the Six-Day War and Operation Opera, Israel's bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad on June 7, 1981, or previous bomb making sites bombed by Israeli soldiers. Events in the history of the Israelites as a whole are mentioned, such as being enslaved by Rome (commemorated on the Arch of Titus, and extensively in the Jewish Talmud), Egypt (remembered on the Jewish holiday Passover, and the Book of Exodus), and Babylon (commemorated on the Jewish holiday Tisha B'Av and the Book of Lamentations). Events in modern Jewish secular history are noted as well, such as the ridiculing of holy books by anti-semitic groups like the Nazis and the Soviet Union, and Jews' historic role in the advancement of medicine ("took sickness and disease and turned them into health"). Historic restrictions on Jewish commerce are mentioned as well.[10] In 1983, Dylan visited Israel again, but for the first time allowed himself to be photographed there, including a shot at Jerusalem's open-air synagogue wearing a yarmulkah and orthodox Jewish phylactories, and tallith. Dylan made some roundabout comments on the song in a 1984 interview with Rolling Stone In 2001, the Jerusalem Post described the song as "a favorite among Dylan-loving residents of the territories".Israeli singer Ariel Zilber covered "Neighborhood Bully" in 2005 in a version translated to Hebrew.

"Union Sundown" is a political protest song against imported consumer goods and offshoring. In the song, Dylan examines the subject from several different angles, discussing the greed and power of unions and corporations ("You know capitalism is above the law,/ It don't count unless it sells./ When it costs too much to build it at home you just build it cheaper someplace else." ... "Democracy don't rule this world,/ You better get that through your head./ This world is ruled by violence/Though I guess that's better left unsaid."), the hypocrisy of Americans who complain about the lack of American jobs while not paying more for American-made products ("Lots of people complainin' that there is no work./I say, 'Why you say that for? When nothin' you got is U.S.-made? They don't make nothin' here no more"), the collaboration of the unions themselves ("The unions are big business, friend'/ And they’re goin’ out like a dinosaur."), and the desperate conditions of the foreign workers who make the goods ("All the furniture, it says “Made in Brazil”/ Where a woman, she slaved for sure/ Bringin’ home thirty cents a day to a family of twelve/ You know, that’s a lot of money to her." ... "And a man's going to do what he has to do,/ When he's got a hungry mouth to feed.").

"I and I", according to author/critic Tim Riley, "updates the Dylan mythos. Even though it substitutes self-pity for the [pessimism found throughoutInfidels], you can't ignore it as a Dylan spyglass: 'Someone else is speakin' with my mouth, but I'm listening only to my heart/I've made shoes for everyone, even you, while I still go barefoot.'"[14] Riley sees the song as an exploration of the distance between Dylan's "inner identity and the public face he wears".

Infidels' closer, "Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight" stands out on the album as a pure love song. On past albums like John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline, Dylan closed with love songs sung to the narrator's partner, and that tradition is continued with "Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight", with a chorus that asks "Don't fall apart on me tonight, I just don't think that I could handle it./Don't fall apart on me tonight, Yesterday's just a memory, Tomorrow is never what it's supposed to be/And I need you, yeah, you tonight."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting my version of Bob's great song Neighborhood Bully! Here it is again, in case anyone missed the above link
    Dan Israel, Minneapolis