"Yourself a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost" Ralph Waldo Emerson
Iconic, iconoclastic, bombastic, soulful singer Meat Loaf died yesterday at the age of 74. His cover of Dylan's classic "Forever Young" resounds with the artistry and power of the great, now late, singer. May his voice continue to ring out across the generations.
Dylan wrote the song in 1973 for his eldest son Jesse. It first appeared in two versions on his fourteenth studio album "Planet Waves" (1974).
If you listen to Outlaw radio for very long, you're bound to hear some great deep cuts from the Dylan catalogue. Here's one from the great "Bringing It All Back Home." The title's a little on the nose, but what a fun song. Especially since the normally old soul Bob sounds on this record like the kid he was in 1965. Enjoy!
Here's a bonus cut. You'll never bring it all back home without getting "On the Road Again"! Nice title. Willie wasn't the first. Neither was Canned Heat. Neither was Bob. But who cares. Enjoy!!
"Tweeter and the Monkey Man" appears as the fourth song on side two of the phenomenally successful and critically acclaimed "Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1" (1988)--the first of two albums from the supergroup assembled by George Harrison, featuring Harrison, Dylan, Petty, as well as Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison.
Although "Tweeter and the Monkey Man" is definitvely Dylan--Rolling Stones touted it as one of 20 "overlooked" Dylan classics--Tom Petty was on board to lend a hand in its creation. As Petty tells it, Dylan wanted to write a song about a guy named "Tweeter" and needed another character, so Petty says "how about the Monkey Man?" Given the story's setting in New Jersey and its deployment of multiple Springsteen song titles, many have speculated on Dylan's intent. Petty is on record that Dylan meant it as an homage to the Boss, though it has the feel of a parody--maybe of Dylan himself?
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.
"All through the summers and into January
I’ve been visiting morgues and monasteries
Looking for the necessary body parts
Limbs and livers and brains and hearts
I want to bring someone to life - is what I want to do
I want to create my own version of you"
Bob Dylan, "My Own Version of You" from Rough and Rowdy Ways
This gem from Dylan's 2020 "Rough and Rowdy Ways" has already garnered critical acclaim and the to-be-expected flood of interpretations. One of the more interesting suggestions takes note of the juxtaposition of imagery both religious and raucous. This, some interpreters have proposed, is Dylan's way of exposing the often unacknowledged musical and cultural links between the Saturday night blues tunes and the Sunday morning gospel songs.
Mississippi blues man Jimmy Reed influenced a range of artists from Elvis Presley to the Rolling Stones. A Dylan cover of this Reed song appears on "Springtime in New York: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 16 (1980-1985) (2021)."
In yesterday’s “Legenda” entry we opined “Our days are getting shorter. Winter is on the horizon. We feel the coming darkness. We cannot see what we cannot see. It is getting harder to read. Into the thick darkness we are heading.” In 1997 Bob Dylan wryly stated “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.” “Not Dark Yet” was track 7 on his Grammy winning album “Time Out of Mind.” Track 8 was this gem, “Cold Iron Bound” which garnered Dylan a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.
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.
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.
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?
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