[UPDATE: Full transcript via Randall Roberts of the LA TIMES at this link.]
These are good times. Or maybe the world’s about to end. Or both. Bob Dylan puts out this beautifully recorded, wonderfully executed (my own self-indulgent review to come shortly) album called Shadows In The Night, a tribute to Sinatra but more than that a great work in itself, and now this: Last night Bob Dylan gave a speech well over thirty minutes long when accepting his “Person of the Year” award from MusiCares (a charity for musicians suffering hard times). Dylan, unfiltered by any interviewer or editor, giving his gratitudes and picking some bones along the way.
Except that no one at this point seems to have a full transcript, let alone a tape (though the whole event was recorded for later use). However, significant extracts of Dylan’s speech are quoted here, here and here. Sharp, funny, utterly direct, great stuff.
He picked the perfect moment, didn’t he? That’s what usually happens at charity galas: everyone sits around, has dinner, and then there’s a big speech. Except usually it’s not preceded by a two-hour concert. One may recall if one is old enough how Frank Sinatra was awarded some special mega-Grammy award very late in his life. He was introduced by Bono, who got to make a big speech. Then Frank came on and said “thank you” and was continuing, but was abruptly interrupted. The lights went down and the camera went away. They weren’t expecting a speech; he was supposed to just take the award and go. Maybe he wasn’t in great shape to give a speech—I really don’t know. But no one was going to get away with interrupting Bob Dylan last night.
Addendum: And if you read the full transcript (now available) you might possibly note like I did that the climax of the speech on paper, i.e. the end of the main speech where Bob is basically talking about himself and his career and his critics, is this section:
The Blackwood Bros. have been talking to me about making a record together. That might confound expectations, but it shouldn’t. Of course it would be a gospel album. I don’t think it would be anything out of the ordinary for me. Not a bit. One of the songs I’m thinking about singing is “Stand By Me” by the Blackwood Brothers. Not “Stand By Me” the pop song. No. The real “Stand By Me.”
The real one goes like this:
When the storm of life is raging / Stand by me / When the storm of life is raging / Stand by me / When the world is tossing me / Like a ship upon the sea / Thou who rulest wind and water / Stand by me
In the midst of tribulation / Stand by me / In the midst of tribulation / Stand by me / When the hosts of hell assail / And my strength begins to fail / Thou who never lost a battle / Stand by me
In the midst of faults and failures / Stand by me / In the midst of faults and failures / Stand by me / When I do the best I can / And my friends don’t understand / Thou who knowest all about me / Stand by me
That’s the song. I like it better than the pop song. If I record one by that name, that’s going to be the one. I’m also thinking of recording a song, not on that album, though: “Oh Lord, Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”
Anyway, why me, Lord. What did I do?
So that’s how he chose to end, essentially, and what he’s saying there seems clear enough, and also an echo of that quite obscure song once sung by Frank Sinatra that he chose to “uncover” on his latest album, namely, “Stay With Me.”
He then closed by appropriately thanking MusiCares for their work in helping hard pressed musicians, in particular singling out his friend Billy Lee Riley, and then he said “goodbye” this way:
Like the spiritual song, I’m still just crossing over Jordan too. Let’s hope we meet again. Sometime. And we will, if, like Hank Williams said, “the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.”