Monday, April 27, 2009

All together now

I thought I'd talk about how Bob Dylan and NWA both tie in so nicely with The Wire.

For one, Bob's song Like A Rolling Stone tells the story of this humbling experience, which watching the Wire was for me. It talks about this girl in who I'm presuming is upper-middle class "gone to the finest schools" but now she's "scrounging for her next meal" and making deals with the tramp she used to never associate with. It's important because although none of us would like to think we'd sell drugs or join a gang, how do you really know? If you were put in the situation the kids in the wire were, you might have to readjust your standards, not because you want to but because you need to. Season 2 of the wire shows this theme even better I think, where the mostly hard working people turn to crime to make ends meet. The people in the wire season 2 are willing to work hard and legally, but legitimate work is hard to come by. This is repeated again, this theme of hardworking people in Tombstone Blues: "mama's in the factory, she ain't got no shoes."

Another, both Dylan and NWA comment on the political corruption seen in The Wire. We've talked a lot in class about the excessive use of force by the police, and for me, this was probably the most difficult aspect of the show to watch. NWA presents this force from their point of view in Fuck Tha Police. While there is no denying the brutality on the part of the police force, I think NWA nicely show the arrogant attitude we see in the characters of The Wire, Bodie in particular comes to mind. Dylan, on the other hand, comments on the upper-level political corruption. The song Tombstone Blues opens with this line, "the city fathers are trying to endorse/the reincarnation of Paul Revere's horse." Well we all know Paul Revere was the guy from the American Revolution who warned the colonists that the British were coming. I think what Dylan is trying to say here is that the city leaders are trying to maybe warn the people (like Paul) but "the town has no need to be nervous" meaning that there is nothing to be worried about, their just trying to stir shit up. I also though this verse from that song was very pertinent:

Well, John the Baptist after torturing a thief
Looks up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief
Saying, "Tell me great hero, but please make it brief
Is there a hole for me to get sick in ?"
The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a fly
Saying, "Death to all those who would whimper and cry"
And dropping a bar bell he points to the sky
Saying, "The sun's not yellow it's chicken.

John the Baptist is a very good man, who under the direction of his hero, the Commander-In-Chief, has tortured a man, and now feels sick to his stomach about it. The Commander absent mindedly ("while chasing a fly") says something obviously untrue and nonsensical ("the sun's not yellow its chicken"). This line shows how good people (Wallace, the detectives) are made to do something by their higher-ups, people they used to admire but now realize have big character flaws. I thought it was kind of striking, the resemblance between the John the Baptist in this song and Wallace, who does get physically sick after he sees what has been done to Brandon (a thief). The commander orders the death of those who are weak; hmmm sound familiar Mr. Barksdale? The part about the sun and the chicken just shows how someone in a high position can say a load of crap and it will be accepted, just because of who they are. 

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