In 1959, at the age of 18, the then-Bobby Zimmerman, by happenstance, got a gig playing piano with the even-younger singer Bobby Vee and his band while they were playing in North Dakota. Vee was having a pop-hit with the song “Susie Baby.” The story is apparently that Bob Dylan played at two dances with Bobby Vee. Vee told Robert Shelton that “he played great—in the key of C. His style was like Jerry Lee Lewis.” But Dylan (who came up with the name “Elston Gunnn” for this gig) didn’t have his own piano, and the band were not in a position to buy one and transport it around with them. So after the two shows in North Dakota, they bid farewell, with Bobby Vee paying Bobby Z. the then-respectable sum of $30.
Last Wednesday, July 10th, Bob Dylan played a concert in St. Paul, Minnesota. It turns out that Bobby Vee was in attendance. He is now 70 years of age (and last year shared the news that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease). Late in the set, Bob Dylan interjected a few rare spoken words, something like the following:
I lived here a while back, and since that time I’ve played all over the world with all kinds of people, everybody from Mick Jagger to Madonna … and everybody in there in between. … But the most beautiful person I’ve ever been on the stage with is a man who’s here tonight, who used to sing a song called “Susie Baby.” Bobby Vee is actually here tonight. Maybe you can show your appreciation with just a round of applause. So we’re gonna try to do this song. I’ve done it before with him once or twice.
At the 17th Annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, this very night. Clip embedded below. It is, in my view at least, a masterful performance by the 70 year-old song and dance man, and a nice representation—with good production values—of how he is at his best on the live stage these days.
You can go to a Bob Dylan concert, and he performs just as well as he did right there, but due to the vagaries of arenas and other venues and the general annoyance of the rock concert experience, you basically miss it. (Yeah, I’m speaking from my own jaded experience.) So it’s nice to see it and hear it. Bob Dylan is something else; not what he used to be, for sure, but literally something else.
Details have been released on a huge collection of cover versions of Bob Dylan songs, featuring about 80 different artists, which is coming out next year as both a tribute to Bob Dylan and a benefit for Amnesty International. It’s called Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan (and the album cover features Bob Dylan as Doctor Who). Most of the tracks are brand new recordings; an exception is the single track by Bob Dylan himself, which is his original recording of “Chimes of Freedom” from 1964.
I knew something along these lines was coming out, but when I saw the scope of it and the track list, my first reaction was: Isn’t this kind of excessive? Four CDs worth? Some of it will be good, no doubt, but some of it will be pretty painful too. Well, I guess it’s too late to stop them now. Might as well face it: we live in an age of huge excess. Something like this wouldn’t even have been dreamed of in the ’60s or ’70s, because it would have required something like 8 or 10 LPs. Now it’s just some space on an iPod, for most listeners. Ten tracks; eighty tracks; two hundred tracks: what difference does it make? People will just listen to the ones they care to hear anyway. Continue reading Chimes of Freedom – Amnesty International benefit album featuring the songs of Bob Dylan→
I’ve written several times previously on the poetry of Samuel Menashe. He passed away last month. The magazine First Things published many of his poems in recent years, and it’s in fact there that I first encountered his work. Today a tribute to Samuel Menashe by Yours Truly is published on that magazine’s website.
Put politics aside. The part of his speech today at the Annual Conference of the American Legion by the President of the United States paying tribute to those who have fought for this country since 9/11 was entirely appropriate and accurate.
Today, as we near this solemn anniversary, it’s fitting that we salute the extraordinary decade of service rendered by the 9/11 Generation -— the more than 5 million Americans who've worn the uniform over the past 10 years. They were there, on duty, that September morning, having enlisted in a time of peace, but they instantly transitioned to a war footing. They’re the millions of recruits who have stepped forward since, seeing their nation at war and saying, “Send me.” They’re every single soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman serving today, who has volunteered to serve in a time of war, knowing that they could be sent into harm’s way. Continue reading The 9/11 Warriors→