I was deeply saddened to hear that Paul Westphal passed away yesterday, at the age of 70, having been diagnosed with brain cancer last August. He was a legend in the world of basketball, but, as the remembrances currently flowing out everywhere are indicating, he was also legendary in a much more important way: that is, as a truly good man who touched and impressed just about everyone he brushed up against during his life.
In the archives of this website is an interview I conducted with him some years back, when I was pursuing all things related to Bob Dylan, and talked to a few public-type figures about their own interest in Bob. Paul was enthusiastic and insightful on Dylan’s music. He was deeply tuned-in to the spiritual grounding of Dylan’s work, and very sensitive to Dylan’s journey in Christianity (an area where many of the famous critics seem to find themselves quite lost). Being privileged to meet Paul a few times — he was generous in his friendship and his support of my little bits of writing on Dylan — there was never any mistaking his own deep, intelligent and burning faith in God. Nor his love for his wife Cindy and his family. And these are the things that carry on, to be sure.
It seems apt that amidst the ruination, Bob Dylan drops a new song. And also apt in that it strikes a lot of us initially as a non-sequitur in today’s context — this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. What’s Dylan on about? But in the end we get that it’s no more a non-sequitur than anything he’s ever done. The curious thing about Dylan is that all of his songs are relevant to the occasion, because he’s always retained that crucial perspective of death and eternity. It suits every moment. Whether we like it or not.
… good day to be living and a good day to die …
You can drill down to all of the references in the lyrics, if that’s what seems right, but to me it’s so much more enjoyable just to let it all wash over you, igniting so many lovely light bulbs along the way. Deep riches here. And such a beautiful, delicate, vocal.
Dylan accompanied this release with the message: “Stay safe, stay observant and may God be with you.”
Here we thank Bob for keeping the faith, so many long years now — as short as they seem — and may God be with him, and with all of us.
Yet one more appreciation of the great Leonard Cohen, this one from yours truly at First Things:
Leonard Cohen was a Canadian, but he was the poet laureate of another nation: a nation of souls by turns sensitive, lost, alienated, ecstatic, bitter—souls seeking truth through the fog of modernity. Cohen was one of those rock-era poets (and arguably the only genuine poet among them) who sounded like he knew something of the utmost importance, even as he spent most of his time sidestepping … (click here for the rest)
Darling, down and down I go, round and round I go
In a spin, loving the spin that I’m in
Under that old black magic called love
A few months from this time of writing, Bob Dylan will be performing at a big music event in California, sharing the bill with his contemporaries–and fellow septuagenarians–the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney. No doubt the Stones will be singing “Satisfaction” and “Paint it Black,” and no doubt McCartney will be singing “Yesterday” and “Band on the Run.” And no doubt Bob Dylan will be singing … well, “Autumn Leaves,” “All or Nothing at All,” and “That Old Black Magic.” You have to pause a moment to contemplate how wonderfully absurd and amazing that actually is. In his most recent shows, more than a third of the titles in his set list have been what we might call these “Sinatra” songs, and of the “Bob Dylan” songs in the show most have been from the past decade and a half or so, with only 3 dating back to the 1960s or 70s. And although some concert attendees have been heard griping (and when has that not been true at a Dylan show?), the most notable fact is that he’s actually been getting away with it in quite fine style. Dylan is conspicuously deriving great joy from singing the standards and puts his whole body and spirit into the effort. Singing these gorgeous old tunes (from songwriters he had some significant role in putting out of business) seems undeniably to be making his own heart feel young. Continue reading Bob Dylan – Fallen Angels (and Rising Prayers)→