Bob Dylan: Still Legal

The Secret Service paid a visit to some high-school students who were planning to read aloud the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s “Masters Of War,” the final verse of which was construed by some students and parents as a threat to the President:

And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead

Fortunately, the agents didn’t take the episode very seriously and concluded there was no threat to the President. This is reminiscent of a visit received by a Live Journal user who posted something inflammatory about Bush. It seems that the right wing has discovered how much trouble even a ridiculously innocuous accusation can cause.

The song was originally released in May, 1963, and within six months had been outpaced by events. Dylan sang it during the first Gulf War on the Grammy Awards telecast, unforgivably slurring the lyrics so badly that almost no one knew that he was making a statement. (At this same appearance he made an unforgettably bizarre acceptance speech after receiving the Lifetime Achievement award from Jack Nicholson.) I’ve been thinking about reviving Willie Dixon’s “Dead Presidents” (also released in 1963, and also drifting into obscurity after the JFK assassination) in my live show, but perhaps I should be careful?

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