The “Family Man” era began in earnest during the recording of the John Wesley Harding and ended early 1973. It was a time of recovery and for Dylan to wake up from the drug induced farce that had become his existence.
From the time he signed with Columbia Records until the motorcycle accident that put him out of commission and the public eye, being Bob Dylan was a 24/7 365. In spite of the constant demand, Dylan found the time to get married and have kids. However, as he began go into the stratosphere in popularity, the demands it took to be Bob Dylan grew exponentially with each passing year. From the simple “humdinger folk singer, little Bobby Dylan had become a prophet of his own mercury thin world, where “Ma Rainey and Beethoven once unwrapped a bed roll” and you can get lost in Juarez when its Easter time too,” in a little over three years time.
How such a being be expected to be something so banal as a husband and father?
Everyone could see this era wasn’t to last for very long. The music Dylan was writing mirrored an overall change in the industry. Gram Parsons and former Byrds bassist Chris Hillman’s Flying Burrito Brothers, with their laid, easy does it mixture of folk/country/rock were the talk of the business and garnered love from all corners of the business (Especially from the Rolling Stones who had the band open for them on their 1968 tour).
Dylan would throttle back from the chaotic mind trip he took his listeners on in Blonde on Blonde to a more serene, country-fried simplicity of John Wesley Harding.
“In a year when psychedelia dominated popular culture, the agrarian John Wesley Harding was seen as reactionary. Critic Jon Landau wrote in Crawdaddy! magazine, “For an album of this kind to be released amidst Sgt. Pepper, Their Satanic Majesties Request, After Bathing at Baxter’s, somebody must have had a lot of confidence in what he was doing… Dylan seems to feel no need to respond to the predominate [sic] trends in pop music at all. And he is the only major pop artist about whom this can be said.”
Fans were left to make sense of this Bob Dylan era. Still, worse was yet to come.