Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Cinch Review

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. Continue reading Preserved in Desire (Bob Dylan)

The Cinch Review

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

Sincere wishes for nearness-to-God to all those who have been celebrating holy days this week, both Passover and Holy Week. Unusually, both Christians of the western churches and the eastern Orthodox ones are celebrating Easter simultaneously this year, and aligned with the Jewish Passover. In theory, it should always be like this, but different ways of establishing the religious calendars have intervened. A strange week it’s been, then, of alignments, blood moons, and the like. Continue reading O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

The Cinch Review

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: Continue reading Bob Dylan Walks on Hate Charge but Freedom Still on Trial

The Cinch Review

The Charlie Daniels Band – Off the Grid: Doin’ it Dylan

Review of Charlie Daniels Off the Grid Doin' it DylanCharlie Daniels and Bob Dylan have more in common than some might think. Don’t take it from me, though, take it from Bob Dylan in these extracts from his memoir Chronicles, where he’s talking about how much he enjoyed having Charlie Daniels around during recording sessions for Nashville Skyline, New Morning and Self Portrait.

I felt I had a lot in common with Charlie. The kind of phrases he’d use, his sense of humor, his relationship to work, his tolerance for certain things. Felt like we had dreamed the same dream with all the same distant places. A lot of his recollections seemed to coincide with mine. Charlie would fiddle with stuff and make sense of it. … When Charlie was around, something good would usually come out of the sessions. … Years earlier Charlie had a band in his hometown called The Jaguars who had made a few surf rockabilly records, and although I hadn’t made any records in my hometown, I had a band too, about the same time. I felt our early histories were somewhat similar. Charlie eventually struck it big. After hearing the Allman Brothers and the side-winding Lynyrd Skynyrd, he’d find his groove and prove himself with his own brand of dynamics, coming up with a new form of hillbilly boogie that was pure genius. Atomic fueled—with surrealistic double fiddle playing and great tunes like “Devil Went Down to Georgia” …

Charlie Daniels also wrote about Bob Dylan in one of his books (so that makes them both authors too): Ain’t No Rag: Family, Freedom & the Flag. He describes being interviewed by one of Dylan’s many biographers, Howard Sounes, and then being very disappointed that the book did not turn out to be the upbeat work he had expected. Continue reading The Charlie Daniels Band – Off the Grid: Doin’ it Dylan

The Cinch Review

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. Continue reading Death is not the End

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Elderly Golden Retriever Searches Washington Mudslide for Former Owner

Dog Searches Mudslide for Former OwnerA fifteen year-old Golden Retriever, by the name of Boomer, was found wandering the surface of the recent horrific mudslide in Washington state which took so many lives so suddenly. The rescue workers who found him were elated, believing he was a victim of the event and therefore a rare and blessed survivor. The veterinarian (Dr. Krystal Grant) who examined him found him to be dehydrated and with injuries to his hip and his leg. Fifteen is a grand old age for any Golden Retriever. But he had not been buried in the landslide and somehow found his way out. Instead, it was ultimately discovered, he had walked three miles from the home of his current owner to the site where his former owner (currently on the “missing” list) once lived. Continue reading Elderly Golden Retriever Searches Washington Mudslide for Former Owner

The Cinch Review

Bob Dylan in the 80s (Volume 1) – Various Artists

Review of Bob Dylan in the 80s Volume 1Tribute albums, or albums dedicated to the songs of one particular songwriter, come and go, and probably no living musician has had more such albums made in his or her name than Bob Dylan. This new one, however, called Bob Dylan in the 80s (Volume 1), seems unusually pure in its fundamental motivation. It does not purport to contain the best ever Bob Dylan songs and certainly not the most popular ones. It does not feature artists who are household names, and no one could be expecting it to sell in enormous quantities. Its clear motive instead is to lift up songs from Bob Dylan’s most maligned and least hip decade. There was no perennial critical favorite like Blonde on Blonde from Dylan in the 1980s, no classic of heartache like Blood on the Tracks, no universally lauded return-to-form like Time Out of Mind, and no chart-topper like Modern Times. There was Saved, to start out with, and Under the Red Sky to end with. Both albums (though more the former than the latter) have their advocates, but when they arrived they seemed to disappear promptly into deep pools of opprobrium. And the albums in between generally didn’t do a whole lot better in terms of popular or critical reception. Bob Dylan in the 80s (Volume 1), then, seeks to help people listen freshly to some of the lesser-known work of America’s most remarkable living songwriter, and enjoy aspects of it that they might not know about or might have missed. In this, and in just being fun, it succeeds. Continue reading Bob Dylan in the 80s (Volume 1) – Various Artists