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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Master Blueprints # 25: “They Say Sing While You Slave but I Just Get Bored”

(Personal reflections inspired by Bob Dylan songs)

Song: “Maggie’s Farm”
Album: Bringing It All Back Home
Release Date: March 1965

Earlier this week I asked the following question on the always-absorbing Facebook group-page Dylanology: “What’s your favorite Bob Dylan song to sing along to in the car?”.  You know, ala James Cordon (Side thought: Can anyone imagine Bob Dylan doing something like what Paul McCartney did with Cordon recently, touring his old haunts and karaoke-ing his songs? … me neither).  I got some great responses, which included a bit of fleshing out in relation to the second part of the question (“Why”?), adding up to 68 of Bob Dylan’s compositions getting the nod from at least one Dylan fan.  Below is a summary of the top 15, which all got five votes or more (the summary includes “likes” for a given response).  I’ve also added in parenthesis the total number of votes for each entry on that top-15 list and a brief comment on each song as well:
  1. “Positively 4th Street” (29 votes) … the runaway winner.  Sounds like Dylan fans are getting their backs stabbed these days.
  2. “Tangled Up in Blue” (11) … one of 4 to make the top 15 from Blood on the Tracks.  Another one, “Shelter from the Storm”, just missed the cut.
  3. “Idiot Wind” (11) …. Other than the winner, this song got the most individual votes (in other words, without “likes” included for every song it would have come in a very close second).
  4. “Mr. Tambourine Man” (10) …. Been there, done that, belting this one out (for that matter, been there with most of these).  I admit, this one can be a tear jerker if your mind is taken to certain places. 
  5. “It Ain’t Me Babe” (10) ... Liberation, baby!
  6. “Like A Rolling Stone” (9) … of course!  Probably a top 10 if the same question was posed to an all-inclusive rock-song audience. 
  7. “Desolation Row” (8) … all the power to ya for being able to sing the lyrics to this one.
  8. “Simple Twist of Fate” (6) …. Yeah!  I love that this one made it.  Heavy, deep, all encompassing.
  9. “Everything Is Broken” (6) …. This was a surprise. It popped up three times (with 3 likes added).  It’s a great song, and it’s now clear I need to reevaluate in order to connect better with these voters. 
  10. “Brownsville Girl” (5) ... A singular vote with 4 likes.  Nice addition.  Again, lots of lyrics.  How do you do it? 
  11. “Hurricane” (5) … the one formal protest song to make the top 15. 
  12. “I Threw It All Away” (5) … the live version from Hard Rain is intensely heartfelt.  It must be that version that got these votes (although the original is pretty darn good too).
  13. “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack Hearts” (5).  Confucius say, if you have this memorized, you are a person who knows how to have fun.
  14. “Shooting Star” (5) Wow.  Fantastic.  The commentary for one of the responses on this one was touching (singing child to sleep with it and convincing mother it was a gem)
  15. “Things Have Changed” (5) yeah! Note to self: Get around to this one in my blog ASAP
Amazingly, the song I had in mind, “Maggie’s Farm”, which is the focus of this entry, was not even voted on once (I also had in mind “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven”, neither of which got a single stinkin’ vote).  Just goes to show the quantity of lyrical sing-along affiliation that Bob Dylan exudes out of us from his repertoire.  The reason I thought of this topic for “Maggie’s Farm” is that the lyrics have a universal appeal.  Most of us have been there; the job from hell.  And when it’s a family run business, as is the case with “Maggie’s Farm”, it can be 10 times worse.  Internal beefs between family members can be taken out on the other employees.  Bob Dylan expresses this masterfully in the lyrics, from the first line to the last, and he makes it a joy to sing along to it.

Thank goodness that work hell is a distant memory for me.  After landing a job in my professional path at the US Geological Survey (USGS) over 30 years ago, I’ve been very fortunate.   I have to say though; those long-ago experiences were eye opening.  If you don’t go through it, you don’t know what you don’t know…. if you know what I mean.  On top of that, if I had not been through those experiences, I’d never be able to relate to “Maggie’s Farm” to the degree that I do.  Oddly, adversity can have positive after effects. 

“Maggie’s Farm” is an open palate for adding verses.  Bob Dylan hilariously narrates the pathetic situation for the worker, which is personified in the overbearing personalities of Maggie’s Brother, Pa, and Ma in three consecutive verses, along with the remarkable opening and closing stanzas ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luj4azrlkdE ).  But what about other family members?  I’m going to take liberty here and add verses for Maggie’s daughter, son, sister, and boyfriend.  Here goes:

I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s daughter no more
No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s daughter no more
She treats the cash register as if it’s her own piggy bank
Those who have reported it soon find that they must walk the plank
Takes 3-hour breaks while others man the store
No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s daughter no more

I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s son no more
No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s son no more
He spends much of the work day on web sites of ill repute
His bossy way with the older employees the family finds quite cute
Listen through his office door you’ll hear him snore
Ah, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s son no more

I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s sis no more
No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s sis no more
She lurks about the hallways, the storage space and sheds
Will dock you pay for transgressions like not bowing your head
Her angry nostril flares you really can’t ignore
I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s sis no more

Oh, and that boyfriend….

I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s boyfriend no more
No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s boyfriend no more
He zips into the parking lot scattering workers to and fro
Then raps an endless cacophony of “Yo” and “Bro” and “Ho”
Vanity selfies is a hobby he adores
I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s lover no more

I believe I’ve got enough experience to impart some advice to those seeking their career path so they can avoid such a scenario.  First off, find something you enjoy.  I told this to my children when they were seeking their majors in college.  Don’t put money or comfort or expectations or low-hanging-fruit first.  Take a risk and run with your passion.  After all, this is a decision that will have a huge effect moving forward, as you will likely be spending a considerable percentage of your waking life doing it.  What’s questionable today as a career path can explode into something fascinating tomorrow.  Take this from one who went through it; I studied geography in college and then the new world of GIS fell in my lap.  Hey, if you love something that already fits in today’s economy, great for you.  Either way, go for it.  It will pan out if you stick with it.

Second, if you don’t have all that much aspiration for supervision or management, as has been the case with me, then angle toward something you can be the specialist in and stick with it.  Best case is where you turn out to be the singular expert.   It can be something you create on your own, or it can be something already there that needs attention.  In other words, if you want autonomy or have a rebellious spirit, then aside from starting your own business (as my Dad did), this is your only real path forward.  The concept works in both the private and public sector.  You may stumble into it not even realizing until later, but keep that passion going.  It will eventually give you the elbow room you need to keep your integrity and your relevance intact.

The real message with “Maggie’s Farm” is resisting conformity.  The work place will challenge you at one time or another to do the right thing.  Perhaps your response will have you bucking the system.  It’s a risk you may have to consider in maintaining that aforementioned integrity.  You are bound to see folks caving.  Others may simply have a natural tendency to conform.  It works out kinda strange though. The big bosses tend to have a begrudging respect for the rebels, because in the end, they are the ones that push the envelope forward.  Much of the time, they are the ones who innovate. 

There’s a balance here though.  “The Man” is someone who may deserve your respect.  First off, it’s their neck on the block more than anyone.  There can be a lot of stress in running a business.  Second, like all of us, they are human and at some point, you may find yourself connecting to that humanity.  I was lucky enough to make this connection during a fascinating moment in my early 20s.  I had been bartending for over a year at a very busy restaurant (a story I briefly touched on in my 2014 Forever Yong blog series # 34, centered on the music of Neil Yong), the Pub Dennis, in Milford, Massachusetts.  The owner was a cantankerous fellow in his 60s who by then had opened a handful of locales, primarily based in Rhode Island. On the rare occasion he would visit the Milford restaurant, he barely gave me the time of day, as most of his focus was on the management folks. 

With tips the job paid well.  This was important to me, because, along with 2 other jobs at the time, I was saving up for a summer-long backpacking trip to Europe. On the last day of my employment, after having given my 2-week notice, this ornery owner came up to me, and surprisingly started conversing.  He stated that he had heard I was leaving to travel abroad.  I nodded in agreement, and then he said something that shocked me.  It went something like: “I’m wealthy because I worked hard and never stopped, but if I had to do it all over again, I would do what you are doing”.

Wow!  Maggie was human after all. 

Pete

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