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   :06.07.10 20:10.:Dylan's back pag..

Dylan's back pages - Farm Aid II, with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, July 4, 1986

In 1986, Bob Dylan toured the United States for the first time in five years. It was the joint "True Confessions" tour with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, a traditional rock band Dylan hooked up with at the original Farm Aid in 1985. The Queens of Rhythm - this time Carolyn Dennis, Queen Esther Marrow, Madelyn Quebec, and Louise Bethune - were also there. The appearance help restore Dylan's credibility as a viable live act after the devastatingly bad reviews he received after his misunderstood Live Aid set two months earlier. Farm AId, in fact, was inspired by a comment made by Dylan at Live Aid:

I hope that some of the money...maybe they can just take a little bit of it, maybe...one or two million, maybe...and use it, say, to pay the mortgages on some of the farms and, the farmers here, owe to the banks....

The following year, Dylan, with Petty, the Heartbreakers, and the Queens, toured "Down Under", then, after a break, the United States. The set list format was similar to the track listing of the Before The Flood album, with Dylan performing solo, Dylan backed by Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Petty and the Heartbreakers with two of their own sets.

For the second Farm Aid - which took place in Manor, Texas - Dylan did not appear live, but via satellite, from Buffalo, New York, with the Heartbreakers et al in tow. It was a double bill with the Grateful Dead. Part of the Dead's set was also broadcast at Farm Aid II, as well as three songs by the Heartbreakers, leading into three with Dylan joining Petty and the gang.

Since this was the relatively early days of satellite television transmissions, astute viewers could watch the entire live feed, not just the part that was broadcast on television. Thus it wasn't long before the first two hours of the Dylan/Petty set was in the hands of collectors. The feed ended abruptly after the third - and final - Dylan song was broadcast.

It's a fascinating document, seeing a live concert as it happens, not as a heavily edited and sanitized "rockumentary", like Hard To Handle. Some of the more humorous moments occur once Dylan eventually notices a camera over his shoulder. From that point on, Dylan seemed amused and somewhat bothered by it, and periodically looked directly into the camera.

Rich Stadium, Buffalo, New York, 4 July 1986
1. So Long, Good Luck And Goodbye (Weldon Rogers)
2. Positively 4th Street
3. Clean Cut Kid
4. Emotionally Yours
5. Trust Yourself
6. We Had It All (Donny Fritts-Troy Seals)
7. Masters Of War

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers:
Straight Into Darkness (Tom Petty)
Think About Me (Tom Petty)
The Waiting (Tom Petty)
Breakdown (Tom Petty)

8. To Ramona
9. One Too Many Mornings
10. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
11. I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know (Cecil A. Null)

12. Band Of The Hand
13. When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky
14. Lonesome Town (Baker Knight)
15. Ballad Of A Thin Man

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers:
Bye Bye Johnny (Chuck Berry)
Make It Better (Forget About Me) (Tom Petty) *
Spike (Tom Petty) *
Refugee (Tom Petty & Mike Campbell) *

16. Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35 *
17. Seeing The Real You At Last *
18. Across The Borderline (Ry Cooder/John Hiatt/Jim Dickinson) *
19. I And I
20. Like A Rolling Stone
21. In The Garden

22. Blowin' In The Wind
23. Uranium Rock (Warren Smith)
24. Knockin' On Heaven's Door

Concert #19 of the 1986 True Confessions US Tour. Concert #38 with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. 1986 concert #38.

Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar) with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers:
Tom Petty (guitar), Mike Campbell (guitar), Benmont Tench (keyboards), Howie Epstein (bass), Stan Lynch (drums)

and with The Queens Of Rhythm: Carolyn Dennis, Queen Esther Marrow, Madelyn Quebec, Louise Bethune (backing vocals).

8-10 Bob Dylan solo (vocal & acoustic guitar).
8, 9, 24 Bob Dylan (harmonica).
11, 22, 24 Bob Dylan and Tom Petty (shared vocals).
16 Howie Epstein (slide guitar), Tom Petty (bass).


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   :14.07.10 20:01.:Bob Dylan adds Oakla..

Bob Dylan adds Oakland, California, concert on August 24, plus Limerick footage

"Tangled Up In Blue", July 4

If you've been one of those following Bob Dylan's late summer U.S. tour dates, you probably noticed a gap between a Nevada gig on Sunday, August 22 and the one in Oregon the following Friday.

Just Like A Woman", Limerick

For some unknown reason, Dylan seems to be taking Mondays off, so it seemed that additional dates on the 24th and 25th would be announced shortly. Well, Bob Dylan's official website had just posted a new show:

August 24: Fox Theater, Oakland, CA
On sale: 7/25 10:00am
Pre-sale: 7/19 10:00am

Although I have no inside information, it looks likely that another show will be added the following night. Neil Young is scheduled to play there for three nights, so it's not out of the question that Dylan might add a second show at this small venue.


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   :15.07.10 19:20.:Bob Dylan, Gorillaz,..

Bob Dylan, Gorillaz, Dizzee Rascal, Green Day and more are to join Rhythms Del Mundo on a new album in aid of the Artists Project Earth (APE) charity.


Featuring Rhythms Del Mundo afro-cuban take on each of the source songs, the guests contribute vocals with the album, titled 'Revival', featuring an impressive role call of songs and guests vocalists.

The album is in aid of the Artists Project Earth (APE), a UK NGO focusing on disaster relief and climate change awareness. Talking about his involvement, Dizzee Rascal says, "I feel very proud to be given the opportunity to make such a contribution to APE and am glad to be involved in such a huge project that will give much needed help and hope to those suffering in Haiti, Chile and Tibet."

While Groove Armadas Tom Findlay adds, Just because the plight of Haiti is no longer in the media focus, it doesnt mean to say that everything has been sorted out. People still need our help.

APE Founder Kenny Young said, as the media lens has focused elsewhere, their needs have not diminished. People in Haiti and now Chile and the Tibetan Plateau are still struggling to survive and rebuild their lives. They still need our help.

Full Track Listing:

Rhythms del Mundo feat. Wyclef Jean Stayin Alive
Rhythms del Mundo feat. Groove Armada Superstylin
Rhythms del Mundo feat. Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
Rhythms del Mundo feat. Dizzee Rascal Holiday
Rhythms del Mundo feat. Green Day - I Fought The Law
Rhythms del Mundo feat. Bob Dylan - A Hard Rain´s A Gonna Fall
Rhythms del Mundo feat. Bebe - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Rhythms del Mundo feat. Afrique - Yele Daya (Football Crazy)
Rhythms del Mundo feat. Franz Ferdinand - The Dark Of The Matinee
Rhythms del Mundo feat. KT Tunstall - Somebody To Love
Rhythms del Mundo feat. Coldplay & Lele - Clocks/Relojes
Rhythms del Mundo feat. Shanade - Chain Of Fools
Rhythms del Mundo feat. Augusto Enriquez - Under The Boardwalk
Rhythms del Mundo feat. Zucchero - Baila


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   :27.07.10 21:09.: 'Isis' upda..

'Isis' updated information on new Bob Dylan 'Bootleg Series', mono box set

Isis magazine has posted updated information on two upcoming Bob Dylan archival releases.

In October, Sony Legacy be releasing The Bootleg Series Vol. 9, and a box set of the first eight Bob Dylan albums in mono. The official announcement is expected to be made next month.

The Bootleg Series will be a set of non-live recordings, well-known to collectors. It is based on the "Witmark Demos", but is expected to include some "Leeds Demos" as well. A total of 47 tracks are expected to be included.

The first Bob Dylan eight albums. from Bob Dylan to John Wesley Harding, were originally available in mono. They have never officially been available on compact disc before. Throughout most of the 1960s, more attention had been paid to monaural mixes than stereo. However, but the end of the decade, mono was phased out in favor of stereo. The new CDs were reportedly newly mastered, with "using first issue copies of the mono LPs for reference".

Here's a list of Witmark and Leeds demos, courtesy of Olof:

Leeds Music Demos
New York City, New York
February 1962

1. Hard Times In New York Town
2. Poor Boy Blues
3. Ballad For A Friend
4. Rambling, Gambling Willie
5. Man On The Street
6. Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues
7. Standing On The Highway

Witmark & Sons Demos
New York City, New York
December 1962

1. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
2. Tomorrow Is A Long Time
3.The Death Of Emmett Till
4.Let Me Die In My Footsteps
5. Ballad Of Hollis Brown
6.Quit Your Low Down Ways
7.Baby, I'm In The Mood For You

Witmark Studio
New York City, New York
Winter 1963

1. Bound To Lose, Bound To Win
2. All Over You
3. I'd Hate To Be You On That Dreadful Day
4. Talking John Birch Paranoid Blues

Witmark Studio
New York City, New York
March 1963

1. Long Time Gone
2. Masters Of War
3. Farewell
4. Oxford Town
5. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
6. Walkin' Down The Line

Witmark Studio
New York City, New York
April 1963

1. I Shall Be Free
2.Bob Dylan's Blues
3.Bob Dylan's Dream
4. Boots Of Spanish Leather

Witmark Studio
New York City, New York
May 1963

1. Girl From The North Country
2.Seven Curses
3.Hero Blues

Witmark Studio
New York City, New York
August 1963

1. Whatcha Gonna Do
2. Gypsy Lou
3. Ain't Gonna Grieve
4.John Brown
5.Only A Hobo
6.When The Ship Comes In (Dylan, Piano)

Witmark Studio
New York City, New York
October 1963

1. The Times They Are A-Changin'

Witmark Studio
New York City, New York
December 1963

1. Paths Of Victory

Witmark Studio,
New York City, New York
January 1964

1. Guess I'm Doing Fine
2.Baby Let Me Follow You Down (Eric von Schmidt)

Unidentified Recording Studio
New York City, New York
Mid to late June 1964

1. Mr. Tambourine Man
2.Mama, You Been On My Mind
3. I'll Keep It With Mine


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   :11.08.10 22:31.:Mellencamp Hits the ..

Mellencamp Hits the Road with Dylan, Plans Fall Tour

Bob Dylan and John Mellencamp kicked off their summer tour in Lincoln, Nebraska, yesterday, delivering two sets of spirited Americana nicely suited to Haymarket Park and its Midwestern surroundings. Mellencamp last played the venue as part of a Farm Aid benefit "100 years ago," he joked to the crowd. (The concert, for the record, was actually in 1987.) While his set favored crowd favorites and enduring deep cuts like "Pink Houses" and "Paper In Fire," Mellencamp also brought the crowd into the here-and-now, unveiling songs from his new T Bone Burnett-produced disc No Better Than This. One, "Save Some Time to Dream," was a gorgeously spare, Neil Young-ish country tune featuring tight rhythmic backup from his six-piece band. Meanwhile, Mellencamp reinvigorated classic tunes like "Cherry Bomb," which he freshened with an off-the-cuff a capella arrangement.

Dylan, sporting his trademark black suit and white cowboy hat, had nothing new to play. But he delivered an energetic set of classics, some with striking new arrangements. Soaring pedal steel guitar lent "Lay Lady Lay" a newfound vulnerability, "Just Like a Woman," became soft and reflective, and "Cold Irons Bound" sounded bold and jammy. The latter two showcased Dylans inimitable balance of the meditative and aggressive.

Dylan and Mellencamp's tour wraps in September, but Mellencamp will continue on this fall with sixteen Midwestern dates in support of No Better Than This. Unlike his immaculately produced '80s albums, Mellencamp wrote this record quickly, on acoustic guitar, and recorded it in mono on a 55-year-old Ampex tape recorder. "I looked at T Bone and I said, 'What the fuck were we doing in the '80s?'" Mellencamp told RS. "I made a record once that took almost a year. I spent millions of dollars dicking around with songs, and in the long run it paid off because it sold millions of copies. But I go back and I listen to the record today, and it was...more of a craftsman thing."

No Better is Mellencamps latest rootsy record in a series that began with 2003's blues and folk covers disc Trouble No More.To get the proper vibe, Mellencamp and Burnett cut the new disc in the legendary Sun Studios, San Antonio; Texas' Gunter Hotel (where Robert Johnson recorded tracks like "Terraplane Blues"); and the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia. The latter location the oldest black church in America and a one-time stop on the Underground Railroad struck a spiritual chord with Mellencamp and his wife Elaine, who decided to be baptized under the altar where Mellencamp had been recording.

The album may be stripped down, but Mellencamp plans an ambitious fall tour. There will be three different sections: a 30-minute "Sun Studio" set, a 30-minute acoustic set, and an hour of plugged-in tunes. And each show will start with a screening of Kurt Markus' It's About You, which chronicles the making of the record. "On those early tours [in the 50s], you went to see Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, and the show started with a movie called The Girl Can't Help It," said Mellencamp, explaining his inspiration for showing the documentary. "It's not an original idea, but it's an idea that hasn't been done in decades."

The setlist for Mellencamp and Dylan's show plus dates for Mellencamp's upcoming trek are below.

John Mellencamp's Setlist
Pink Houses
Paper in Fire
No Better Than This
Check It Out
Save Some Time to Dream
Cherry Bomb (Acapella)
Dont Need This Body
Small Town
Home on the Range
Rain on the Scarecrow
The West End
Troubled Land
If I Die Sudden
Crumblin Down
Authority Song

Bob Dylan's setlist
Watching The River Flow
Lay Lady Lay
Most Likely You Go Your Way (and Ill Go Mine)
Stuck Inside of Mobile with The Memphis Blues Again
Rollin and Tumblin
Just Like A Woman
Cold Irons Bound
Workingman Blues #2
Highway 61 Revisited
Tryin to get to Heaven
Thunder on The Mountain
Ballad of a Thin Man
Like A Rolling Stone
All Along The Watchtower


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   :11.08.10 22:35.:Fans flock to see Bo..

Fans flock to see Bob Dylan at the Buffalo Chip


STURGIS Just like a rolling stone, Bob Dylan rolled through the Black Hills Tuesday and gave his fans at Buffalo Chip Campground a chance to see the endless tour the performer has been on for years. Ive seen him about 25 times, Jan Medgaarden of Austin, Minn., said.

Tuesdays concert had more meaning for Medgaarden and her husband, Gary.

They celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary Tuesday. They were married during the 1990 Sturgis motorcycle rally.

We werent going to stay, but since Bob was here just to play for our anniversary, we had to, Medgaarden said.

She couldnt nail down her favorite Dylan song but said The Times They Are A-Changin would be a good opener.

It seems to work for every generation, Medgaarden said.

Dylan and his gray-suited band chose to start with Rainy Day Women #24 and #35 followed by Dont Think Twice, Its All Right.

While Medgaarden has seen Dylan numerous times, fans such as Sharon Blane have waited much longer. The Stirling, Scotland, resident first saw Dylan in Sheffield, England, with Joan Baez in 1964. She caught Dylan again in 2000 in Stirling.

Im just traveling around with my brother, Blane said. Its a complete coincidence that we are both here at the same time.

Blane, and many others in the crowd, stood out for not being bikers. Medgaarden fit in with her Dylan Love and Theft tour T-shirt.

Before the show, rumors circulated that John Mellencamp would play a song with Dylan. The two are sharing a tour and will be in Billings, Mont., next. Buffalo Chip chief executive officer Rod Woodruff confirmed at a Tuesday afternoon press conference that Mellencamp was at the Buffalo Chip Campground.

While there were fans waiting for decades to see Dylan, not everyone came to the campground for his show.

Weve been in this spot since 4 this afternoon, waiting for Kid Rocks 10 oclock show, Amy Haselhorst of Vermillion said.

Haselhorst said that she came to like Kid Rock after his recent country music crossover success.

Dylans just a bonus, she said.

The 1960s icon, dressed in a black suit with a red stripe on the pants, had some people crying and some, as much as they love him, having a hoot at the outfit.

He looks a bit like an Italian ice cream salesman, doesnt he? Blane said.

That didnt stop her from getting as close to the stage as she could.

If she didnt, the packed audience would have made it difficult for her to go anywhere else.

But, as one voice yelled, there was nowhere else to be.


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   :16.08.10 21:26.:Legends Dylan, Melle..

Legends Dylan, Mellencamp perform at Ontario arena

Timeless singer-songwriter Bob Dylan will make a tour stop at the Citizens Business Bank Arena with hitmaker John Mellencamp on Thursday.

Dylan, who has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame, is known for influential compositions like "Highway 61 Revisited," "Like A Rolling Stone," "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are A-Changin."'

In an interview, he was asked why he doesn't play the same songs in the same way, like many other musicians of his generation.

"I couldn't if I tried," Dylan said. "Those guys you are talking about all had conspicuous hits. They started out anti-establishment and now they are in charge of the world. Celebratory songs. Music for the grand dinner party. Mainstream stuff that played into the culture on a pervasive level.

"My stuff is different from those guys. It's more desperate. (Roger) Daltrey, (Pete) Townshend, (Paul) McCartney, the Beach Boys, Elton (John), Billy Joel. They made perfect records, so they have to play them perfectly ... exactly the way people remember them.

"My records were never perfect. So there is no point in trying to duplicate them. Anyway, I'm no mainstream artist."

Fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artist Mellencamp, who is known for hits like "Pink Houses," "Jack & Diane" "Hurts So Good" and "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A," also will perform.

In a 2007 interview, he was asked if he has any fears.

"Oh, I have millions of them," Mellencamp said. "I'm terrified of germs - I wash my hands constantly. But the most crippling is panic disorder. There's no rhyme or reason to it - I'll be up onstage and it'll just hit me, with no warning. That's why I don't play so much anymore. I've had to go to the hospital."


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   :07.09.10 21:55.:Bob Dylan's tour..

Bob Dylan's tour ending set at Bumbershoot, plus tally of all songs performed

Bob Dylan ended his summer tour last evening at Bumbershoot 2010. Here's the set list, courtesy of Bob Links:

Seattle, Washington: Bumbershoot 2010
Seattle Center: September 4, 2010

1. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (Bob on keyboard then guitar)
2. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right (Bob on guitar)
3. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues (Bob on guitar)
4. Just Like A Woman (Bob on keyboard)
5. Rollin' And Tumblin' (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on electric mandolin)
6. Desolation Row (Bob on keyboard)
7. Cold Irons Bound (Bob center stage with harp)
8. Tangled Up In Blue (Bob center stage with harp)
9. Highway 61 Revisited (Bob on keyboard)
10. Simple Twist Of Fate (Bob on guitar)
11. Thunder On The Mountain (Bob on keyboard)
12. Ballad Of A Thin Man (Bob center stage with harp)
13. Jolene (Bob on keyboard)
14. Like A Rolling Stone (Bob on keyboard)

The Desolation Row Information Service has been keeping tabs on what songs Bob Dylan has been performing on his summer tour:

Bob has performed 23 concerts and sung/played 343 songs of which 58 have been different. The figures in parentheses show how many times Bob has performed a particular song on this tour; if no figures are given then the song has only been played once.

Highway 61 Revisited (23)
Thunder On The Mountain (23)
Ballad Of A Thin Man (23)
Like A Rolling Stone (23)
Just Like A Woman (21)
Rollin' And Tumblin' (16)
Jolene (15)
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again (14)
Workingman's Blues #2 (11)
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat (11)
Cold Irons Bound (11)
All Along The Watchtower (10)
Rainy Day Women Nos 12 & 35 (10)
High Water (For Charley Patton) (8)
Tangled Up In Blue (8)
Honest With Me (7)
Simple Twist Of Fate (7)
Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine) (5)
Spirit On The Water (5)
Tryin' To Get To Heaven (5)
Lay, Lady, Lay (5)
I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) (5)
Forgetful Heart (5)
Masters of War (4)
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (4)
Love Sick (4)
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right (4)
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues (4)
Ballad Of Hollis Brown (3)
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll (3)
It's All Over, Baby Blue (3)
Beyond Here Lies Nothin' (3)
This Wheel's On Fire (3)
The Levee's Gonna Break (3)
To Ramona (3)
Watching The River Flow (2)
Love Minus Zero/No Limit (2)
Shelter from the Storm (2)
When The Deal Goes Down (2)
Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power) (2)
Blind Willie McTell (2)
Things Have Changed (2)
Desolation Row (2)
Can't Wait
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
My Wife's Home Town
Cry A While
I Feel A Change Comin' On
Girl Of The North Country
Under The Red Sky
Nettie Moore
Every Grain Of Sand
Not Dark Yet
Visions of Johanna
Man In The Long Black Coat
My Wife's Home Town
Ain't Talkin
Positively 4th Street

(Note: "Happy Birthday" was not included. )


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   :07.09.10 21:56.:Bob Dylan to play fi..

Bob Dylan to play five shows in Florida during October, tickets go on sale during Rosh Hashanah

Bob Dylan's official website has announced five concert dates in Florida, starting October 6. The first four shows are at different universities, while the fifth is at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center. It is unclear if these dates are being added because of the recent environmental problems in and around the Gulf Coast. Neil Young recently added dates in a few Gulf States, with reduced ticket prices.

Additional shows are expected to be added to this leg of Dylan's tour.

As it stands now, tickets for four of the shows go on sale 10 a.m. on September 10. Interestingly, this falls on the second day of the Jewish High Holy Day of Rosh Hashanah. The second day is not traditionally followed by Reform Jews in the United States. I believe the last time something like this was scheduled, the on sale dates were changed before they went on sale.

The pre-sales for these four gigs start the morning of September 8. Rosh Hashanah starts at sundown that evening.

The October 8 concert in Gainesville will not have a pre sale. Students will be able to purchase tickets in advance on September 20. The general public will be able to buy them the next morning.

Bob Dylan's current tour ends on September 4 before the start of the Jewish High Holy Days. He is not expected to perform on either Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kipper (staring at sundown on September 17).

Here's the tour information:

OCT 6 Fort Lauderdale, FL
Nova Southeastern University -- The Arena at Don Taft University Center 8:00pm
On sale 9/10 10:00am
Pre sale 9/08 10:00am

OCT 7 Tampa, FL
University of South Florida -- Sun Dome 8:00pm
On sale 9/10 10:00am
Pre sale 9/08 10:00am

OCT 8 Gainesville, FL
University of Florida -- Stephen C. O'Connell Center 8:00pm
No pre-sale. Student sale on 9/20
On sale 9/21 10:00am

OCT 10 Orlando, FL
University of Central Florida -- UCF Arena 8:00pm
On sale 9/10 10:00am
Pre sale 9/08 10:00am

OCT 11 Tallahassee, FL
Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center 7:30pm
On sale 9/10 10:00am
Pre sale 9/08 10:00am

More information when we get it . . . .

(Thanks to Seth Rogovoy)


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   :07.09.10 21:57.: ..

Bob Dylan.

19 Bob Dylan, 1962 1964 , , 1962 1967 . .

Columbia Records. Bob Dylan . The Bootleg Series Volume 9-The Witmark Demos. -, , . CD- .

- Bob Dylan. , . , Ramblin Gamblin Willie Man On The Street The Times They Are A Changin, Blowin 'In The Wind Mr. Tambourine Man. , , Dylan 21 23 .

47 . The Death Of Emmett Till, Long Ago, Far Away, Ballad For A Friend, Guess I'm Doing Fine.

, Colin Escott.


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   :08.09.10 19:56.: ..


Book review: 'Bob Dylan in America' by Sean Wilentz


A distinguished historian excels in teasing out the origins of the singer-songwriter's artistic impulses, the context in which they arose and flowered, and the multiple sources of his art.

Every modern American adolescence has its own distinctive soundtrack and, if you grew up in the 1960s, Bob Dylan's voice and music almost surely echo in your ear.

"Bob Dylan in America," a new biography of the singer-songwriter by distinguished cultural, political historian Sean Wilentz, gives an enjoyably thorough, convincing explanation why Dylan's new music has gone on finding new audiences ever since he burst upon the New York folk scene of the early 1960s, fresh from the iron range of northern Minnesota and ferociously ambitious for his art.

It's an extraordinary, resonant intersection of subject and biographer: Dylan, after all, is the only American popular singer ever to be awarded a special Pulitzer citation in the arts an honor he shares with the popular composers and musicians Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, Thelonious Monk, George Gershwin, Scott Joplin and Duke Ellington, though the latter three received theirs posthumously. Wilentz is the only American historian ever to win both a Bancroft Prize for "The Rise of American Democracy" and a Grammy nomination for the 50-plus pages of liner notes he did for a DVD release of Dylan's 1964 concert at Philharmonic Hall. He's also been acquainted with Dylan since he was a small boy in and out of the Greenwich Village bookstore his family owned and which the singer frequented. Dylan met Allen Ginsberg in the apartment above the shop. More recently, Wilentz, now a professor at Princeton, has been the official historian of Dylan's website. (Once you've gotten your head around the notion that Dylan has a website, the fact that it has its own historian seems somehow unexceptional.)

Dylan, of course, has been the subject of other biographies and has published the first book in what he intends as a multi-volume autobiography. Wilentz's book stands apart from these in the lucidity of its prose, the rigor of its research and convincing originality of the place he assigns his subject in the context of American cultural history. Fans looking for a recording-by-recording, concert-by-concert account of the singer and songwriter's career would do better looking elsewhere, though there's plenty of truly fine analysis of the most significant songs and recordings. Where Wilentz excels is in teasing out the origins of Dylan's artistic impulses, the context in which they arose and flowered, the multiple sources of his art.

Thus, there's a fascinating discussion of Aaron Copland and the musical component of the left-wing popular front between the wars, as well as the influence of Bertolt Brecht's dramatic theories on the environment in which Dylan first formulated his notions about performance. If that begins to sound a bit drearily scholarly for the music's fans, there's also a detailed reconstruction of Dylan's first revolutionary and myth-encrusted Nashville sessions that rings absolutely true. (Who knew that Highway 61, which Dylan's fans regularly revisit along with their artist, runs from Hibbing, Minn., where he grew up, to New Orleans, where he found important musical roots?)

Wilentz explores the particular influences musical and lyrical that Dylan has sought out for himself and the self-consciously serious way in which he has pursued that passionate exploration. It began not just in Manhattan's cafes and bars, but in the New York Public Library, where the college dropout's self-education went deep into original sources. "For a professional historian," Wilentz writes, "it was mildly thrilling to learn that Dylan discovered the cuneiforms of his art in the microfilm room." What emerged from that process was a new language of lyrical social criticism that was totally contemporary while rooted in the historical tumult of mid-19th century America. As Dylan would say, "Back there, America was put on the cross, died and was resurrected. There was nothing synthetic about it. The godawful truth of that would be the all-encompassing template behind everything that I would write."

Wilentz compares his subject to the seminal bluesman Blind Willie McTell, one of whose masterpieces is the now classic "The Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues," parts of which Dylan appropriated. McTell, Wilentz writes, "was as Dylan would later be, a musical modernist with strong roots in traditional forms. McTell was beholden to no particular performance or composing style and he excelled in numerous genres, including amalgamated genres of his own devising." As the author explains, McTell, like many other celebrated "bluesmen" of his generation, belonged to a tradition of independent African American "minstrelsy" that stretches back to Reconstruction and whose practitioners mastered everything from gospel to Tin Pan Alley hits. They accepted the appellation "bluesmen" to distinguish themselves from black artists who played jazz but thought of themselves more broadly as "songsters."

That's also a description sufficiently capacious to describe the dazzling variety of Dylan's output. As the author once told an interviewer, "Dylan is a master of the American ballad. Ballads are maybe the major music form in which Americans describe their land and each other."

Wilentz's unselfconscious ability to discuss the ultra-politically conscious Copland and the influential McTell, who would exert such a pull on Dylan that he became the subject of a celebrated song, also says something about the breadth of his cultural erudition. Here is scholarship that successfully slips the bonds of specialty and pretension.

At one point, the author compares Dylan's compositional method, which often involves quotation, appropriation and juxtaposition from a wide variety of musical, textual and even cinematic sources, to a more familiar form of assemblage. "Although reminiscent of the modernists' collages," Wilentz writes, "Dylan's method aimed not simply at allusion but at something very different, essential to his recent work more emphatic, at times risky dissolution of distinctions between past and present, as well as between high and low, scholarly and popular, exotic and familiar, moving between and among them as if it required no effort."

That's not a bad description of Wilentz's own method as a biographer and cultural historian, and his daring makes "Bob Dylan in America" a pleasure to read.



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