As a long-time fan of Bob Dylan, I listen to his music weekly if not daily. His lyrics and voice and humanity have long captured my imagination and sense of language and often find their way, albeit subconsciously, into my own work.
This past week, with all the snow and polar vortex temperatures storming the DC metro area, I played a few Bob Dylan albums for Evie to fill up the time, and solicited her thoughts and opinions on a range of his best hits. Like me, she, too, was instantly captivated by his folksy, gravelly, earnest voice, the highly visual constructions of his language, and the layered texture of guitar and harmonica and melody. We watched film clips of his performances from the 1960s, and one from his more recent concert tours. We printed out and read his lyrics and circled the parts we liked best, and then we came across the most beautifully illustrated animation of “The Man in the Long Black Coat,” which captured Evie’s interest most of all.
She loved this song and its macabre atmospherics so much that she studied it for an entire morning, and then asked me if I was ready to interview her for another of her literary reviews that I have been documenting here with her permission. “Songs are stories, too, right?” she asked me, and I nodded an emphatic yes.
January 22, 2018: Interview with Evie from Evie’s Corner: Literary Reviews by a Six Year Old
Me: “Good morning, Evie. We meet again.”
Evie: “You’ve met me before, mom. You know who I am.”
Me: “Yes, that’s very true; I absolutely do. And here we are again, having already known each other.”
Me: “Yes, forever. Would you like to tell me about the Bob Dylan song you have enjoyed so much this morning?”
Evie: “Yes. It’s beautiful and sad and spooky. It’s called "‘The Man in the Long Black Coat.’”
Me: “Ah yes. That is a wonderful song. What is the story of this song?”
Evie: “A girl goes with a man in a long black coat and leaves everything she knows behind forever. It’s really sad.”
Me: “Why does she go with him? Who is this man?”
Evie: “I don’t know, Bob Dylan doesn’t tell people who it is, but I think the man in the long black coat is death.”
Me: “Death? So interesting. What lead you to this conclusion?”
Evie: “Well, there is a part of the song where he reveals his mask, and in the cartoon you see the man is really a skeleton, so I think the man in the long black coat is death and he’s come to take away the girl.”
Me: “Why does the girl go with him then, if he’s death? Why doesn’t she run away?”
Evie: “I think she wants to go with him. And that’s the part that’s so sad and I don’t understand really why she would do that because there’s so many good things, like ice cream, that she will miss.”
Me: “Ice cream is a wonderful part of life, absolutely.”
Evie: “Maybe ice cream and other things stopped tasting good to the girl who goes away with the man in the long black coat. Maybe a lot of things aren’t happy anymore, and so maybe that’s why she goes.”
Me: “What makes you think she isn’t happy?”
Evie: “Shes doesn’t even leave a note or tell anyone, not her mom or dad or dog or cat or snake. Do you think she has a pet snake?"
Me: “Pet snakes are wonderful, but I’m not sure if Bob Dylan talks about her snake, or whether or not she has one.”
Evie: “Maybe a snake would have made her happy. Maybe she wouldn’t have left with the man in the long black coat.”
Me: “Perhaps you are right. And where does she go, when she leaves? Where does the man take her?”
Evie: “They go to a dance, but he’s not dancing with her. So I don’t know really. I think maybe they are just floating around in the air.”
Evie: “Yeah, because people don’t live or die, people just float. That’s what the song says. So maybe there isn’t any death at all, just floating people.”
Me: “So the man in the long black coat isn’t death?”
Evie: “He is death still, but I think maybe people can be both alive and dead at the same time. Like if they are unhappy or sad, it can be like not being alive anymore even if they are alive. When too much sadness makes you frozen.”
Me: “I see what you mean. That’s a really interesting thought, Evie. And why, if this song is so sad, does it interest you so much?”
Evie: “It’s so beautiful. I love the crickets and the harmonica Bob plays. And sometimes I think even spooky things can be beautiful. Like Halloween.”
Me: “And when you listen to this song, what does it make you want to do with your day?”
Evie: “Eat mint chocolate chip ice cream, dance to the music, listen for crickets, and hug you.”
Me: “It makes me want to hug you, too, Evie.”