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 Post subject: Masters of War
PostPosted: Thu May 26th, 2005, 21:11 GMT 
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Let me ask you one question: is this song the whole time in plural? I'm translating it into my language and I have a problem: ok, the beginning is clearly in plural (masters), but at the end we have a poet, who's telling us that he will "follow your casket". A casket of one man, probably. I don't think all of this masters of war are gonna die at the same time. Any idea?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 26th, 2005, 21:59 GMT 

Joined: Thu April 14th, 2005, 03:01 GMT
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Interesting question!

I just looked through the lyrics. The way I read it, as I read it logically, it looks like: The whole first stanza is plural. The whole last stanza is singular. In between there's 2 cases of singular:

"And I see through your brain"
"You hide in your mansion"

And one case of plural:

"You that never done nothin'"

And all the rest (in between) are ambiguous. The could be singular or they could be plural.

That's speaking logically. In another sense you could say, they are all plural. After all, this is a song about the masters-with-an-s of war. And when it doesn't quite seem to make sense to call it plural, such as the last stanza, he is somehow talking metaphorically. Like talking to an imaginary single person who represents all of them. Maybe that's it. But then again, I'm not a poet, so I wouldn't necessarily take my word for it.

Hmmm...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 26th, 2005, 22:27 GMT 

Joined: Tue November 30th, 2004, 01:49 GMT
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At the end, when Dylan is supposidly following the casket of the dead masters of war, i believe he's trying to say that eventually all dictators and oppressors will eventually be overthrown and cede power, not just one master, but all them, ideologically. All in tune with the mass youth based socialist revolution that was the drive of 60's folk. Switching between plural and singular was just necessary to make the message get across, as to explain how cowardly, weak, etc each and every single one of them are and hence are as a group, as masters. If that makes any sense


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 Post subject: Masters
PostPosted: Fri May 27th, 2005, 00:40 GMT 
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The second line says: "You make the big guns."

In the 60's college students were protesting against the "miltary-industrial complex," meaning the Pentagon and Big Industry working together to promote their own interests by promoting war. War increases the Pentagon's budget and promotes weapons development, so you can say that both the military and industry benefit. War promotes weapons R&D, so the Pentagon can give multi-million-dollar contracts to the companies that develop and manufacture the next Big Guns.

I think the song is plural throughout--he's talking about the entire complex. It's true that not everyone in it will die at once--he's just saying he hopes that they do.

And he's not being entirely fair. The complex did it's job during WWII and the job was no different in the '60s. It would have made more sense to blame the high-level policy-makers who actually declare the wars. Of course, they were assumed to be in the back pocket of Big Industry, but if that's where they are, they're to blame for that.

In similar circumstances, Josquin Desprez did not blame any man. He figured out who the real high-level decision-maker was and blamed God, saying in his own words "You play with my world like your little toy:"

"In thee, O Lord, did I hope
But in sad and dismal inferno
I vainly and fruitlessly labored.
I see all my hope is dashed to the wind,
I see heaven fill me with tears.
Only sighs and tears come forth
from my ever so sad hope.
And so it would continue until,
with tribulations, I called out to thee,
Unto heaven, and thou dost not believe it.
Ever since the day of my birth
I have called out to thee.
In thee, O Lord, I did hope."

That's a real protest song. I don't know how Josquin escaped being burned at the stake.
Bob wasn't that committed to the protest movement and his protest songs were usually off-target. He was off-target in this song--defense contractors are small fry.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 27th, 2005, 23:19 GMT 

Joined: Wed May 18th, 2005, 21:00 GMT
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Location: UK, usually
Hmm, well it's maybe a bit hard on him to call it off-target... I can think of fewer songs that hit their intended target quite as well, in fact. For me, he's just trying to make you think about the defence industry in particular, and about what it really means to make money out of selling guns to the army. Hence "let me ask you one question / is your money that good / will it buy you forgiveness" and such like.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 27th, 2005, 23:58 GMT 
Keir wrote:
Hmm, well it's maybe a bit hard on him to call it off-target... I can think of fewer songs that hit their intended target quite as well, in fact. For me, he's just trying to make you think about the defence industry in particular, and about what it really means to make money out of selling guns to the army. Hence "let me ask you one question / is your money that good / will it buy you forgiveness" and such like.

The song is a work of genius, no doubt.

But I never liked it. No facts are presented. Nothing you can really hang your hat on. Just a bunch of exaggerated rants of the kind you would expect to hear from a paranoid schizophrenic. The last stanza especially, is way over the top.

What it means to make money selling guns to the Army is this: The government needs to buy guns. The government asks people to make them. People make them according to the specifications and sell them to the government. The government pays them for their work. People don't work for free.

Bob would have done better by talking about the government and by picking some specific thing the government was doing wrong and sing about why it is wrong. Maybe then we could have actually LEARNED something. Remember this was 1963.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 28th, 2005, 00:12 GMT 

Joined: Wed May 18th, 2005, 21:00 GMT
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Location: UK, usually
That's what I mean, though... I see it as a philosophical song rather than a political one. He's not trying to teach you anything, or change the world, just to consider what it means for you as a human being to be profiting from death.

So if there's any political meaning in it, it's because the logic of markets cuts both ways: nobody would make the guns if the government didn't buy them, but equally the government wouldn't be able to buy them if everybody saw the horror of what they were doing and didn't make them in the first place. It's not exactly realistic or practical to think like that - but hey, that's philosophy.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 28th, 2005, 00:26 GMT 
Keir wrote:
That's what I mean, though... I see it as a philosophical song rather than a political one. He's not trying to teach you anything, or change the world, just to consider what it means for you as a human being to be profiting from death...

My Dad and several Uncles worked in the Defense industry doing the things that Bob slandered them for. They also fought in WW II. They were honorable men, they did some needed work and did nothing wrong as far as I can tell.

But they're all dead now. So I guess Bob-1963 should happy about that.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 28th, 2005, 00:41 GMT 

Joined: Wed May 18th, 2005, 21:00 GMT
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Location: UK, usually
Nobody would say that they weren't honourable people or doing things for good reasons; I certainly wouldn't. But if they had experience of war, I'm equally certain that they wouldn't say it was a good thing - and that they would have thought it altogether better if nobody on either side had made any guns in the first place. Once a menace is made, it's honourable enough to defeat it, but the most honourable thing for everybody to do is not to make it in the first place.

What would happen if everybody (on any side) to be offered money in return for making weapons, just politely declined? Maybe Masters of War is too idealistic, but I think it's still right to criticise the human desire to profit from anything, regardless of consequences.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 28th, 2005, 00:46 GMT 
If everyone on the Allied side had politely declined to make the weapons in WW II, England and the rest of Europe would be under the control of the Nazi dictatorship. I guess probably most of Asia would be under the control of a Japanese dictatorship.


Last edited by Jim W on Sat May 28th, 2005, 00:59 GMT, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 28th, 2005, 00:58 GMT 

Joined: Wed May 18th, 2005, 21:00 GMT
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Location: UK, usually
Quote:
If everyone on the Allied side had politely declined to make the weapons in WW II, England and the rest of Europe would be under the controll of the Nazi dictatorship. I guess probably most of Asia would be under the control of a Japanese dictatorship.


But crucially, that wasn't what I said. What if everybody refused to make weapons? I think it's a mistake to see the song as a manifesto for political change; it's just philosophical speculation about the principle of profiting from making guns. If having a cause makes everything OK, then I think more or less everybody who ever fought has had a cause of some sort.

There's no such thing as a good or just war. Everybody always thinks they're fighting for a noble cause. Both sides pray to the same God to let them win and the other lose. Ideally nobody would start wars, nor would anybody make the tools that make those wars possible - and I do agree with you that those who do the latter certainly shouldn't take all the responsibility.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 28th, 2005, 01:04 GMT 
Okay, my mistake. But you did say "everybody (on any side)". So I picked one of those sides and talked about it ...

"There's no such thing as a good or just war".

I think WW II was one example of a good and just war. Certainly you (from UK) would agree with that?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 28th, 2005, 01:07 GMT 
If everyody from all sides are supposed to stop making weapons, why didn't Bob complain about the Nazi military-industrial complex?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 28th, 2005, 01:14 GMT 

Joined: Wed May 18th, 2005, 21:00 GMT
Posts: 9
Location: UK, usually
Hmm tricky one, and probably needs a whole book to answer properly! Whilst I'm obviously not a great fan of repressive dictatorships, I'm equally not in favour of killing people or even treating them unfairly, whatever they've done. And like I say, everybody has a 'just' cause... there's an argument that Nazism, although it developed into something of great evil, was in its early stages a reasonable reaction to the needlessly vindictive settlement at Versailles.

The problem is that once you start to think that the cause you have taken up is a just and right one, you reverse the logic and start to think that anything you do must automatically be just and right. Hence, right to restore prestige to Germany, wrong to invade Poland, right to resist German aggression, wrong to bomb Dresden... and so on.

The simplest solution, I think you'll find, would be if we could all globally just agree to not make the damned bombs in the first place, so that politicians didn't have them as an option for settling disputes...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 28th, 2005, 01:21 GMT 
Wouldn't it be great if everybody on both sides had not made the bombs and stuff used in WW II? Then there would not have been a war, I guess, right?

How about this. We promise the Nazis we will be nice to them. And they promise us they will be nice to us. Then everything will work out OK.

No wait a minute, that's been tried. I think his name was Neville Chamberlain.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 28th, 2005, 01:37 GMT 

Joined: Wed May 18th, 2005, 21:00 GMT
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Location: UK, usually
Ironically, one of the great achievements of appeasement under Chamberlain was that it bought time for British re-armament. The Nazis were already substantially well-equipped, and had the war been fought before 1939, the chances of Allied success would have been much less. I realise that's just being picky, but I couldn't resist :D

Quote:
Wouldn't it be great if everybody on both sides had not made the bombs and stuff used in WW II? Then there would not have been a war, I guess, right?


I've said right from the start that the message here is an idealistic one. And yes, it would be great if all arms manufacturers - who are only people, after all - just decided that they were basically facilitating murder (and it is still murder, whether for good reasons or bad) and decided to stop it, e.g. "this is wrong, we're not doing it any more".

The idea of profiting from making the bomb that crushes an innocent child is a bit disturbing, when you think about it. And the fact that it's generals or politicians and not the munition-makers who decided to demoralise civilians by bombing them doesn't change that one bit. Nor does the fact that the child happened by an accident of birth to live in a misguided country fighting for disagreeable goals, which had got to a point - supplied in turn by its own munition-makers - where it needed to be defeated. It's still disturbing, and if it doesn't disturb you, then it should. I think that's the point of Masters of War. And that's probably all I have to say on the topic for the time being.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 28th, 2005, 01:49 GMT 
Well it's been interesting, Keir. Thanks for a lively discussion.


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 Post subject: Treaties
PostPosted: Sat May 28th, 2005, 04:18 GMT 
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Quote:
The simplest solution, I think you'll find, would be if we could all globally just agree to not make the damned bombs in the first place, so that politicians didn't have them as an option for settling disputes...
We proved long ago that we can kill tens of thousands in a single battle--with bayonets (I know, it's the bayonet makers that caused it). Pitch forks and butcher knives will work just as well--then who do we blame?

Maybe we'd better just agree not to go to war. Is that any harder than agreeing not to make weapons? You say you're being idealistic, so why not imagine rulers that make the right decisions instead leaving it to industry to make the decisions and force those decisions on the government.

The job you want industry to take on is a bit out of their area. They are used to being given an engineering problem (i.e., how can I make this stuff go boom?) and solving it. We have elected officials who decide when and why stuff should go boom--those officials are getting big bucks to make the right decisions, so let's hold them to it instead of insisting on a bunch of engineers doing what the elected officials failed to do.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 28th, 2005, 14:56 GMT 
Exactly!

I'd only add: To agree not to go to war is good if it works but one should not be fooled, as in the case of Neville Chamberlain. Sometimes the right thing to do is to go to war, as in the case of Winston Churchill. Of course, those examples are relatively easy to see and many other wars are not so clear-cut.


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 Post subject: musically speaking
PostPosted: Sat May 28th, 2005, 20:40 GMT 
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I'll add one more thing, too. From a purely musical standpoint, it's still no masterpiece. The music is droning and monotonous. The tone of the lyrics is pompous and self-righteous, like a lot of sophomore projects.

Bob really did only one first rate protest song--Blowin' In The Wind. This is a song that doesn't point the finger of accusation at anyone. It gives everyone the opportunity to step in and be the good guy. The objective of a protest song should be to make people want to do good--especially the people that really are to blame. It does no good to just make them sputter with indignation like I am (just kidding about the sputtering--after all, he was just a kid).


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 Post subject: Re: musically speaking
PostPosted: Tue January 16th, 2018, 15:04 GMT 
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pinhedz wrote:
I'll add one more thing, too. From a purely musical standpoint, it's still no masterpiece. The music is droning and monotonous. The tone of the lyrics is pompous and self-righteous, like a lot of sophomore projects.

Bob really did only one first rate protest song--Blowin' In The Wind. This is a song that doesn't point the finger of accusation at anyone. It gives everyone the opportunity to step in and be the good guy. The objective of a protest song should be to make people want to do good--especially the people that really are to blame. It does no good to just make them sputter with indignation like I am (just kidding about the sputtering--after all, he was just a kid).

You say "pompous and self-righteous" as if those are bad things... Sometimes a finger needs to be pointed and with conviction. There are some things we don't mess around with.


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 Post subject: Re: Masters of War
PostPosted: Tue January 16th, 2018, 16:14 GMT 
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Only a blind, probably jealous, fool, would refer to "Masters of War" as a "sophomoric"
project. This song, on Bob Dylan's 2nd album, is part of the psychic musical onslaught
that quickly brought Bob Dylan international recognition as a new poetic deity of immense proportions and forever changed popular songwriting. It also laid the groundwork for his eventual Nobel Prize in Literature. Yes, sophomoric!


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 Post subject: Re: Masters of War
PostPosted: Tue January 16th, 2018, 19:19 GMT 
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chrome horse wrote:
Only a blind, probably jealous, fool, would refer to "Masters of War" as a "sophomoric"
project. This song, on Bob Dylan's 2nd album, is part of the psychic musical onslaught
that quickly brought Bob Dylan international recognition as a new poetic deity of immense proportions and forever changed popular songwriting. It also laid the groundwork for his eventual Nobel Prize in Literature. Yes, sophomoric!

And he stole the music from someone else


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 Post subject: Re: Masters of War
PostPosted: Tue January 16th, 2018, 20:24 GMT 
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wormington wrote:
chrome horse wrote:
Only a blind, probably jealous, fool, would refer to "Masters of War" as a "sophomoric"
project. This song, on Bob Dylan's 2nd album, is part of the psychic musical onslaught
that quickly brought Bob Dylan international recognition as a new poetic deity of immense proportions and forever changed popular songwriting. It also laid the groundwork for his eventual Nobel Prize in Literature. Yes, sophomoric!

And he stole the music from someone else


Kind of a general statement. We know about recycling tunes in folk music, traditional, etc. What exactly are you talking about? Bob has been very open about the tradition.
You sound like you want him indicted. And you're a Bob Dylan fan, correct? Perhaps you are simply naive, or have some ax to grind against Bob Dylan. Masters of War is one of his greatest songs, and most vitriolic. As someone correctly observed - "nobody does bleak like Dylan". And nobody attacks him like his own, so-called fans. You were probably one of those fans fighting hard against him getting the Nobel, because he is "only" a songwriter. You probably nominated him for San Quentin.


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 Post subject: Re: Masters of War
PostPosted: Tue January 16th, 2018, 20:59 GMT 
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Greil Marcus wrote this in 2006:-


https://www.threepennyreview.com/sample ... s_w06.html


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