Articles in section: 'Dylanosophy'

Bob Dylan Abides with “Stay with Me”

Stay with Me Bob DylanSo, on his current tour—or, if you prefer, the current leg of his “Inevitably Going to End One Day” tour—Bob Dylan has been closing his shows in an unprecedented manner, with a song he had never sung in concert before. I’d daresay that precious few singers have sung this song in concert before (and I’d bet the house that no one has ever closed the show with it).

It is a song titled “Stay with Me,” and it was written specifically for a 1963 film directed by Otto Preminger called The Cardinal. Jerome Moss composed the score for the film, and Carolyn Leigh wrote the lyrics for this, the film’s main theme. And the film is about an actual Roman Catholic cardinal; that is, it follows the life of a protagonist named Stephen Fermoyle from Boston as he becomes a priest and goes through various dramas before ultimately rising to that office in the Church. (Curious fact: the “Vatican liaison” on the film was one Joseph Ratzinger.) [Read more →]

Bob Dylan – “Never Gonna Be The Same Again”

Never Gonna Be The Same Again Bob DylanAlthough it was during the mid-1980s that yours truly happened to become a Bob Dylan fan, listening to his albums from that period has sometimes seemed like a guilty pleasure. While I’d stick up unreservedly for a certain number of those songs, there are those others that just seem silly. Yet, sometimes I kind of like them anyway. One that I probably wouldn’t have thought to defend in solemn company—but really have always liked—is “Never Gonna Be The Same Again” from his 1985 album Empire Burlesque. Well, now I’m correcting myself, and it’s thanks to hearing a solo acoustic version by Ron Sexsmith (on YouTube at this link).

Happening somehow upon Sexsmith’s YouTube channel (discreetly titled “Rawnboy”) made me feel like I’d found something secret and private (hope I’m not blowing the cover). Although he’s a genuine star and one of the finest pop songwriters of the last couple of decades, here he is just sitting in his kitchen and living room and playing things casually into the webcam, like a million YouTube amateurs do. So he’s uploaded a wealth of acoustic versions of his own songs, and a plethora of affectionate cover versions. (You’ve gotta wish everyone you were a fan of would do something like this. Bob, Van, you listening?) And of all the Bob Dylan songs he chooses to sing, it’s “Never Gonna Be the Same Again.” [Read more →]

Forthcoming: The Lyrics: Since 1962 by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan Lyrics Since 1962 Simon and SchusterOn October 28th, Simon and Schuster will be publishing The Lyrics: Since 1962 by Bob Dylan, edited and with an introduction by noted literary scholar and critic Christopher Ricks, and co-edited by Lisa and Julie Nemrow. It is to be rather different from previous “Lyrics” collections. As the New York Times reports, it will compile not only previously published official lyrics, but also the lyrics as sung on any officially-released recording (and there are a quite a few of them when you think about it) and will also feature alternative lyrics that have never been publicly released. In this way, it promises to be a real and quite large window into Dylan’s creative process. [Read more →]

“When Death Comes Creepin’ (Whatcha Gonna Do?)” – Bob Dylan and a Few Good Questions

Whatcha Gonna Do When Death Comes Creepin' Bob Dylan“Death Comes Creeping” is a song which originated as a Negro spiritual and has had many incarnations over the eons. One version of it is actually titled “Soon One Morning,” with verses including these:

Soon one morning
Death comes a-creeping in the room
Soon one morning
Death comes a-creeping in the room
Soon one morning
Death comes a-creeping in the room
Oh my Lord, oh my Lord what shall I do

You may call your father
Your father will be no use
Call your father
Your father will be no use
Call your father
Your father will be no use
Oh my Lord, oh my Lord what shall I do

(Hear a version on YouTube from Fred McDowell, 1959, recorded by Alan Lomax)

Bob Dylan picked up on the song from someone somewhere, and recorded a number of different versions, changing the lyrics as he went. The song was ultimately published as a Dylan original under the title “Whatcha Gonna Do?” but no recording was officially released until 2010 on The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962–1964. And the officially released performance is of the very same lyric as in the published version (right there in the original Writings and Drawings book). That performance, being a Witmark demo, was precisely for the purpose of publishing. [Read more →]

“Forever Young” at the 2014 All Star Game

All Star Game Forever Young Dylan Idina MenzelAt Major League Baseball’s All Star Game on July 15th, 2014, a singer named Idina Menzel sang Bob Dylan’s song “Forever Young,” before also singing the U.S. national anthem (video at bottom). Although some may have thought it was dedicated to the modern New York Yankees’ legend Derek Jeter (who is retiring this year at the age of 40) it was actually performed as a feel-good tribute to teachers.

The interesting thing about this to Dylan fans might be the evidence that “Forever Young” is one of those Bob Dylan songs that has insinuated itself into the national (and global?) consciousness to the extent that it can be referenced on such an occasion. Perhaps then it is one of those Dylan songs that will outlive even the memory of his name. That might seem an odd thought, but we don’t mind odd thinking around here. Let’s just assume for the sake of argument that the world is still around five hundred years from now. How many songwriters can you name from five hundred years ago or more? I don’t know too many, aside from King David, but there’s no question that there are countless folk songs still persisting from five hundred years ago and more, in one form or another. We ascribe them to that great composer, “traditional,” aka “trad.” I don’t know if future memories will be more accurate, or if coming catastrophes will wipe out all the millions of terabytes of data we currently have at our fingertips and people will be no better than ourselves at remembering and honoring the past. But if the name and personality of this guy Bob Dylan is forgotten, which of his songs might still persist and be sung in some incarnation? It is, I think, a distinguishing characteristic of Dylan’s that he might actually have a few that do persist in this way, as opposed to the vast majority of his contemporaries in the pop and rock idioms. [Read more →]

Regina McCrary Talking Bob Dylan

Regina McCrary talks about Bob DylanThere’s a recently-added video on YouTube of singer Regina McCrary appearing for a talk at Belmont University in Nashville. (Thanks to Ronnie for the tip.) She is interviewed by Mark Maxwell. McCrary is a wonderful singer from a very musical family, and, when only about 21, she happened to be selected by Bob Dylan in late 1978 to be one of his backing singers on the album Slow Train Coming, and she went on singing for him both live and on record during what we call his “gospel phase.” In the interview she talks about how it all came about and shares anecdotes and insights. She seems an extremely sweet and likeable woman with a heart that fairly bursts out of her body, so if you’re interested in Dylan generally, and that period in particular, I think you’ll find it a pleasure to hear what she has to say. It’s a little more than half an hour and the strictly-Dylan-related stuff starts about ten minutes in. [Read more →]

Full Moon, Empty Arms, Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan Full Moon and Empty ArmsIn one of those brilliantly-orchestrated-completely-unanticipated-moves, Bob Dylan posted to his website today his version of “Full Moon and Empty Arms,” a song written circa 1945 by Buddy Kaye and Ted Mossman, with a melody based on a Rachmaninoff tune. It reportedly heralds a forthcoming album release which may or may not be titled “Shadows in the Night” (based on some artwork also posted on his website today). [Read more →]

Preserved in Desire (Bob Dylan)

(Marking the death of Hurricane Carter, here’s a reprint of this piece from some years back reflecting on Bob Dylan’s songwriting around the time of his 1975 album, Desire.)

Bob Dylan DesireThanks to Jay for sending me links to two stories from NorthJersey.com (one and two) which ruminate on the case of Hurricane Carter, to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of the shootings in Paterson, New Jersey.

Just past 2:30 a.m., June 17, 1966, Paterson police detective Jim Lawless enters Lafayette Bar & Grill, 428 E. 18th St. A half dozen other officers are on their way to the scene.

Behind the long wooden counter, bartender James Oliver, 51, lies in his own blood, his spine severed by a blast from a 12-gauge shotgun. Dead.

Fred Nauyoks, 61, shot in the head, shot-gunned in the back, ice still melting in the drink in front of him, slumps onto the bar. Dead.

His friend, William Marins, shot in the head with a .32 caliber handgun, staggers around, blood flowing from his forehead and left eye. He dies in 1973, of unrelated causes.

Hazel Tanis, 51, hit in the left side with shotgun pellets and shot in the right breast, stomach, lower abdomen and genital area, has been rushed to a hospital. She lives, in severe pain in St. Joseph’s Hospital, for another month.

The articles take a fairly detailed and long view of the entire case, and are well worth reading if that interests you.

Relevant to Dylan’s famous song, there is this mention:

The New York Times features Carter in a front-page story in 1974, and singer-songwriter Bob Dylan brings out “Hurricane,” a decidedly one-sided account that includes the verse, “Here comes the story of the Hurricane, the man the authorities came to blame, for somethin’ that he never done. Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been, the champion of the world.” It has at least one local side-effect: Patricia Valentine, a key witness, finds her dog dead outside her house. Someone puts a bullet through her front window.

It’s not clear how the direct link can be made between Dylan’s record and those attacks on Patricia Valentine, but there you go. There can be no doubt that “Miss Patty Valentine” felt oppressed at hearing her name pronounced on the airwaves in a very unflattering tone.

Certainly, “Hurricane” is a “one-sided account” of the controversy. And it would be hard to think of a ballad ever written to honor or defend someone that didn’t present a one-sided view. It would be strange indeed to hear a song with verse after verse of arguments presenting both the defense and prosecution cases, and ending with something like, “Now it’s up to you the listener to figure it out.” One would guess that Dylan himself hopes to this day that Rubin Carter was indeed innocent. Clearly he believed it at the time: “Hurricane” cannot be dismissed as merely an exercise in writing a very particular type of song (although I think it is also that); it was an unabashed joining of the battle to have him freed. It would be interesting to ask Dylan how he feels about it now. Of-course, he didn’t sit in the courtroom through all the trials and appeals, so he can’t be expected to deliver a detailed and balanced opinion. But the question would be what made him give himself over entirely to this particular cause (when he had most certainly been entreated in vain for the sake of many others) and does he feel any ambivalence about it all these decades later? He hasn’t performed the song publicly since 1975. [Read more →]

Bob Dylan Walks on Hate Charge but Freedom Still on Trial

Bob Dylan hate charge dismissed in FranceIn a victory for those who would like to see Bob Dylan avoid a year in a French jail and/or a fine of 45,000 euros (but not so much for supporters of free speech) a court in Paris has ruled that he is not liable on a charge of incitement to hatred due to remarks he made to Rolling Stone magazine in 2012. He is not liable, according to the judge in the case, because he supposedly did not give permission for the remarks to be published in the French-language edition of the magazine. So, the charge is being transferred to the boss of the French edition of Rolling Stone instead.

It is a victory for Bob Dylan’s French attorney, Thierry Marembert, who is quoted as saying, “I’m very happy the justice system understood that Bob Dylan never intended to hurt or defame anyone.” This is all legal nonsense, of-course. But let’s recap what Dylan said that caused all the ruckus. He was opining about persistent problems around the issue of race in the United States (prompted by questions from the Rolling Stone interviewer) and this came out: [Read more →]

Death is not the End

Death is not the endDeath was the chief topic at church this morning. It is a sturdy old standby. Death, ironically enough, never seems to get old. Just when you might think it’s become old hat, that you’ve been there, done that and moved on, death has this way of reasserting itself in one’s life in some novel and unexpected way. Endlessly resourceful, death may sometimes take a holiday but, just like taxes, will always return demanding to be paid. And even if you purchase an island and declare personal sovereignty, you turn out still to be within the dominion claimed by death. You may argue and protest, of-course, but while the case is tied up in the courts death will simply take everything you own and move on. (Exactly like taxes, then.)

Someone who is well aware at the moment of the truth of all the above is Miley Cyrus. A few days ago her dog Floyd died suddenly. I intend no mockery here; as a lover of dogs, I have no doubt as to the genuineness of the grief felt by a dog owner when one dies. There can even be an added nakedness and rawness to the emotion. The mechanisms and rituals we human beings have for finding consolation and closure after the death of a fellow human being aren’t there in the same way when a pet dies. And no matter how senior, a dog’s life always seems to have been too short, because their lifespans are so short compared to ours. [Read more →]

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