"Yourself a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost" Ralph Waldo Emerson
Bob Dylan wrote "I Shall Be Released" in 1967, but it was the Band that first released the song on their 1968 debut album. Dylan's version appeared first on the Basement Tapes, Vol. 1-3. A second version appeared on volume 2 of his greatest hits.
The scope and diversity of artists who have covered this song attest to the depth and power of this simple classic. The cover we are sharing for this week's "Fridays w/ Bob" is from a band you shoud know if you don't already, "Rising Appalachia." Enjoy!
Dylan called Townes Van Zandt a philosopher poet who got right to the point with his lyrics and left listeners with plenty to think about. He performed Townes's classic "Pancho and Lefty" six times in concert. Here is a video of his last performance of it at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, TN in 2004.
After hearing Dylan's "The Times They Are A Changin'," Townes Van Zandt announced "this is what I'm gonna do." Like many songwriters, Townes thought songs were out in the universe just waiting for someone to write them. Of his masterpiece "Pancho and Lefty," Townes said it just came to him through the window of a sleazy motel.
What happens when Bob Dylan enlists two members of Dire Straits (guitarist Mark Knopfler and keyboardist Alan Clark), a former member of the Rolling Stones (guitarist Mick Taylor) and two reggae players from Jamaica (Robbie Shakespeare on bass and Sly Dunbar on drums) to join him in the studio to record a song? You get a song as potent as it is portentousness. 100 Proof. Pure Dylan.
According to The Official Bob Dylan website, "Abandoned Love" was written by Dylan in 1975, but it was never performed by Dylan in public. There is this recording of Dylan's impromptu performance of "Abandoned Love" at the Bitter End (formerly the Other End) in Greenwich Village on July 3, 1975. It was Ramblin' Jack Elliot's show, but after joining Elliot on "Pretty Boy Floyd," Dylan broke out this new song. In this recording the song comes across as it should. Raw. Real. Riveting. Dylan.
Singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith died today in Nashville at the age of 68. Born in Sequin, Texas and raised in Austin, Griffith is widely recognized as a lyricist and storyteller par excellence. Griffith won the 1994 Grammy Award for best contemporary folk album for “Other Voices, Other Rooms.” We celebrate her legacy with a cut from "Other Voices," Bob Dylan's "Boots of Spanish Leather" from his 1964 album "The Times They are a Changin." Listen closely and you'll hear Dylan on harmonica.
Richard F. Thomas links Dylan’s Grammy award winning “Things Have Changed” with the timeless classic “Ballad of a Thin Man,” suggesting that the refrain of both songs “stays relevant whatever the particular change his art is putting into play” (Why Bob Dylan Matters, 282-3). He might also have noted the surreal images that animate both songs. Listening to these two songs together, however, gives us a sense of the strength of Dylan’s iconoclastic vision across the three decades separating them. If you heard Dylan in concert in 2019, you likely heard both of these songs in the set. This edition of “Fridays w/ Bob” gives you a chance to hear them together again. Enjoy!
In "Why Bob Dylan Matters" (HarperCollins, 2017), Richard F. Thomas points to Blood on the Tracks as a singular example of Dylan constructing songs "through the principles and practices of painting" he had learned from painter Norman Raeben in NYC in 1974. We offer here a remarkable cover of the first track of the album by Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall who, it just happens, was born the year Blood on the Tracks was released.
Rubber Soul was a departure for the Beatles. And the song "Norwegian Wood" is considered to be John Lennon's first foray into what he himself described as "doing Dylan." When you're listening for it, the influence is undeniable.
With "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" Lennon is forthrightly "imitating" Dylan, though it's hard to argue that Lennon has most imitated Dylan by doing what Dylan himself did so masterfully. Lennon is taking a folk master as his template and creating his own folk masterpiece.
Lennon's "Norwegian Wood" appeared on Rubber Soul in 1965. In 1966, Dylan's Blonde on Blonde album appeared and featured this song, "Fourth Time Around." If it sounds like an echo of "Norwegian Wood," you're not alone. Lennon himself assumed Dylan was intentionally responding to the avowedly Dylanesque "Norwegian Wood." But what was Dylan's purpose? Like many, Lennon assumed it was either a playful and appreciative nod to Lennon's song or a parody intended as a not so subtle message to Lennon, "I see what you're doing, and cut it out!"
Though Lennon wrote Dylanesque songs, Dylan never returned the favor. Years after Lennon's death, however, Dylan memorialized Lennon with "Roll on John" on the 2012 album Tempest. For more on this song and the relationship between Lennon and Dylan, see the Atlantic article "Bob Dylan and John Lennon's Weird, One-Sided Relationship," https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/09/bob-dylan-and-john-lennons-weird-one-sided-relationship/262680/
The only Dylan recording of "Farewell Angelina" appears on The Bootleg Series. He never performed the song live. But in 1965, the year the song was published, Joan Baez took ownership of the Dylan song with her beautiful cover. Baez continued to play it in concert through the 2010s.
Dubbing anyone "The Next Bob Dylan" is, of course, absurd. Like Tiger Woods in golf, Dylan has changed the game and elevated everyone else's game. The greatness of every golfer dubbed "the next Tiger Woods" has only certified Tiger's singular place among golf's gods. Same with the greats like Bruce Springsteen or John Prine dubbed the next Bob Dylan. Their achievements only underscore Dylan's peerless place in the pantheon of music gods.
But if we recognize the quintessential aspects of Dylan's artistry--the poetry of his lyrics; his explosive, expansive influence on "folk" music; his disregard of the expectations of critics and fans; and his ability to capture the timeless and universal significance of particular times and places--then we can recognize Dylan's spirit embodied in many of the new and powerful musical presences, like the two women featured in this week's "Fridays w/ Bob."
Thirty-one year old Laura Marling is a British folk singer-songwriter. This performance of "Strange" showcases her idiosyncratic approach to guitar playing and a unique vocal style supporting potent, poetic lyrics.
This!! If you wonder if Dylan's legacy lives on, we give you Courtney Barnett's live performance of her mega hit "Pedestrian at Best." Complex, relentless lyrics fiercely, ferociously rendered in a no-holds-barred live performance. If you want more, check out Courtney Barnett on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series.
One of two originals on Bob Dylan's debut album, "Song to Woody" was Dylan's declaration of his debt to/identity with Woody Guthrie. But, listen carefully to the lyrics and how the song is sung. This first great Dylan classic demonstrates that there is nothing casual or careless about this peerless songwriter. There is subtlety and substance here that shows us Dylan knew exactly what he was doing.
A quintessential Woody Guthrie song. His "This machine kills fascists" label on his guitar is more than iconic. Like Bob, Woody eschewed labels; but Woody's iconoclasm set the standard for Dylan's "political/protest" songs.
Leave it to Leadbelly to call out Hitler by name. Not for nothing, Leadbelly is one of Woody's fellow travellers that Dylan names in "Song to Woody."
Many have called this a "stoner," i.e., drug song. Dylan--playfully, cunningly?--called it "one of the pro-testiest of all things I've protested against in my protest years." Notice the playful tone compared with the defiance in the face of societal pressures to conform and the fate faced by those who don't.
More than a decade after writing "Rainy Day Women," Dylan was "saved" but still wrestling with fate and destiny. "You Gotta Serve Somebody" has the same playfulness as "Rainy Day"--"you can call me Zimmy"--but it communicates a seriousness regarding the choice to be made in the face of the unavoiable destiny of having to serve somebody. Does his newfound faith help him see the paradox that at the heart of fate is a genuine choice?
All artists struggle with inspiration at times. During one of Dylan's most notorious periods of struggling to find his muse, he put it write out there in a song. "What’s the matter with me/I don’t have much to say" His conclusion? "If I had wings and I could fly/I know where I would go/
But right now I’ll just sit here so contentedly/And watch the river flow"
Bob first record this classic in 1965. We saw his 558th live performance of "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" October 20, 2019 in Kansas City. Pretty sure he'll be "Bringing It All Back Home Again" in the near future!
Not sure what Bob thought of this cover, but Courtney Love(d) performing it.
Neither a celebration of guns nor a condemnation, this episode of Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour just may be what many of his "issues" songs are--a creative exploration of a complex cultural phenomenon. But it also feels like more than wry observation.
Jimmie Rodgers sings his classic "My Rough and Rowdy Ways." If the song title reminds you of Dylan's 2020 album, you're not the only one!
Bob Dylan & Emmylou Harris cover "My Blue Eyed Jane" by Jimmie Rodgers
A timely song expressing timeless yearnings from an artist whose lyrics will be featured at upcoming exhibit at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, OK. For more information on "Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom,' see https://woodyguthriecenter.org/center/soc/
Ed Sheeran covers "Masters of War," a song many consider one of Dylan's greatest protest songs. But was Dylan a protest singer? Here's an good entree into that discussion. https://bob-dylan.org.uk/archives/12017#:~:text=Go%20back%20to%20the%20early,least%2C%20as%20a%20protest%20singer.&text=Sometimes%20called%20%E2%80%9Cpolitical%20anthems%E2%80%9D%20protest,that%20was%20wrong%20with%20society.
At the 2012 Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah, OK, Judy Collins was there to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of Woody's birth. During her set, she told the story of waking up at 3 a.m. after a party at Albert Grossman's home. From the basement she heard the sounds of Bob working on a new song. "I couldn't believe what I was hearing" she told us. It was 1964 and the song was "Mr. Tambourine Man." It's one of Collins's most performed Dylan songs. She does a wonderful rendition, but the delicacy and power of the lyrics and the magic of the music shimmer in Dylan's recording as in no other. So we celebrate Bob's offering here. For Judy's cover of Dylan's "Dark Eyes"--another of her favorite Dylan songs-- look no further than the panel to your right!
Written three decades after "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Dark Eyes" is another favorite of Judy Collins. Her voice and articulation of Dylan's lyrics and ethereal melody are stunning. A transcendent recording.