On When Bob Dylan Sings “Masters of War”

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In this round-up of musical happenings during 2004, the writer (by the name of Michael Burbo) talks about how politics and the war played such a big role on the music scene this past year. One of his examples? Guess.

Bob Dylan even dusted off the seldom-performed "Masters of War" for an election night performance, leaving more than one audience member wondering if it was
treasonous to wish aloud for the death of a president.

The “seldom-performed ‘Masters Of War'”? I don’t know that it’s ever been far from Dylan’s setlists. Doing a search at http://db.dylantree.com/ * yields 744 performances, and their data only goes as far right now as spring of 2003.

Scrolling through the results will show you that 1978 was a very big year for the song, with 89 performances (Dylan was probably incensed over the Tanzania/Uganda war).

1994 (65 plays) and 1995 (57) also featured many performances – was that when President Clinton was using the iron fist of the American military in Haiti? I can’t remember, but naturally Dylan only sings it when there’s something happening in the news that he wants to comment on. It’s how he works out all his setlists. People over at the Dylan Pool (http://pool.dylantree.com/ *) would do well to figure that into their guesses.

Dylan also sang “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” at that gig on election night, November 2nd, 2004.

I guess we know who he was singing that for.

* UPDATE: Now defunct, there used to be a database at that url which allowed one to see all the occasions on which Bob Dylan had performed any particular song. The associated “Dylan Pool” was where fans would compete to guess what Dylan’s next live setlist would consist of (this was when he was varying it at every gig). Nowadays, the official Bob Dylan website offers information on past performances of each song. As, for example, “Masters of War.” Enjoy.