"Are we all global village idiots whom television has reduced to voyeurism, or has television so deadened us to catastrophe that we can't tell a real crisis from a fictional one?"1

Thus the seemingly prophetic question is posed by Robert Shelton in the 1986 pressing of his Bob Dylan biography, No Direction Home, regarding the song "Black Diamond Bay". The eighth song on Bob Dylan's 1976 effort, Desire, penned by Dylan with songwriter Jacques Lévy, and performed by Dylan alongside Emmylou Harris, is not necessarily one of Dylan's better known narrative songs. It is, however, a powerful collage of imagery and perspectives, nonetheless.

In this song, one that conjures up images of a modern-day Atlantis, Dylan and Levy weave a tale containing a colourful cast of characters, including a suicidal Greek man, a compulsive gambler, and more than a handful of highly self-confident other major players. Here, the cast of characters, in their blissful ignorance and delusions of grandeur, are swept under by a natural disaster that, from all accounts, seems to have been a long time coming.

The vast majority of this song takes place on "ground zero" for the catastrophic event, but in the end, takes a surprising turn. Again, Dylan, known for his lyrical "sleight of hand", radically changes the perspective on the listener, giving a whole new twist to the tale. At the same time, however, the apathy found in the last verse can be shrewdly threaded directly to those other instances found throughout the story.

A truly fantastic piece of fiction, "Black Diamond Bay" nonetheless makes the listener/reader ponder whether Dylan is trying to make another, more subtle point in the song. Regardless of how one interprets it, however, the song stands quite tall on its own literary merits.

Lyrics removed due to E2 Copyright Changes :(

Lyrics can be found at: http://bobdylan.com/songs/diamond.html

See also: The E2 Bob Dylan Literary Analysis Project

Works Cited:
p. 467, No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan - © 1986, Robert Shelton, Da Capo Press

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