On the eve of a crucial election in the USA, Joe Locke looks at Dylan’s lyrics as a metaphor for the state of racial justice in 2020.
“I was sitting at the piano not long ago, toying with Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ when I began singing a new set of lyrics as if I were taking dictation. I don’t know how or why this happened, but it caused me to re-examine Dylan’s words, this time through the lens of the racial justice movement. Though I realize it was probably not his intention, Dylan’s 1967 song somehow spoke to what our country is experiencing today.
I could hear how this new version of the song would sound, and imagined the visual narrative which could accompany it. With the help of Raul Midòn, KJ Denhert, Clarence Penn, Simone Pittau, Tim Holley and Lorin Cohen, I was able to document what I was hearing. And by collaborating with the artful and expert Nadja von Massow, was able to realize the visual component of the song, with its references to the 1921 Greenwood Massacre (the 100th anniversary of which is this coming year) and a flipbook style acknowledgement of fifty leaders who moved the movement forward, each in their own way.
Frederick Douglass’ exhortation at the end of the video indicts present-day America for the stasis it has been in since he wrote those words. We need to listen to them and take action.”