Oklahoma gets Bob Dylan archives

Bob Dylan’s archives will be housed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, near the Woody Guthrie museum.  An Oklahoma foundation that was also involved in building the Guthrie museum put up $15-20 million to buy the treasure trove of manuscripts, recordings, and memorabilia.

I moved back here and now Oklahoma has become a happening place.  I can’t, however, find a connection. [Read more…]

Bob Dylan opens up

Bob Dylan won the “person of the year” award from MusiCares, a charity that helps down and out musicians.  He gave a remarkable 30-minute acceptance speech that talked about his career, his influences, and his thoughts about music.  [Read more…]

A report on Bob Dylan’s Sinatra album

The commenter known as “Pete” has a picture that looks like a little kid, but he’s really a distinguished physician.  He’s also among the top two Bob Dylan aficionados that I have ever known (the other being a good friend and former colleague).  Pete went so far as to look me up and take me with him to a Dylan concert in Washington, D. C.  So I value greatly his thoughts on Dylan’s latest album, his unique take on the American “standards” as performed by Frank Sinatra.  Pete gave me his thoughts about the album, which I post with his permission after the jump. [Read more…]

Bob Dylan and his interview with AARP

Bob Dylan gives his first interview in three years to the AARP magazine, in which he talks about virtue, God’s leading, and his new album of Frank Sinatra standards.

As a teenager, I could never, in my most fevered adolescent imaginations, conceive of that sentence or any part of it being written about Bob Dylan.  Nor could I conceive of myself, 45 years later, appreciating what he says so much.

But you’ve got to read the interview, excerpted and linked after the break.  It’s thoughtful, revealing, and musically perceptive.  You can also hear a track from the new album, Shadows in the Night, to be released February 3.  Bob is singing it, crooning it, to the background of a five piece band with steel guitar, and it sounds lovely. [Read more…]

Bob Dylan, Chrysler salesman

So what did you think of Bob Dylan’s Chrysler commercial?  There he was, clear voiced, no mumbling, unobscure, voicing over some great Americana imagery.  (He doesn’t appear until 47 seconds in.)  I’m assuming that he wrote the script.  Though it lacks Dylan’s trademark surrealistic imagery, the commercial sounds like him with lines like these:

So let Germany brew your beer,
Let Switzerland make your watch,
Let Asia assemble your phone.
We…will build…your car.

Compare this with the lyrics to his protectionist anthem Union Sundown.  The only thing is, Chrysler is now fully owned by Fiat, so it’s an Italian company, not American.  They do make some of their cars here, but not necessarily.  Still, I vote this as best Superbowl commercial.

The transcript after the jump.  (You might get the video at the link above, though Chrysler has taken it off YouTube for copyright violations, though I thought going viral was what you wanted in a commercial.) [Read more…]

Rock ‘n’ roll for adults

Bob Dylan came to the nation’s capital earlier this week, and I went to his concert with Pete Muller, frequenter of this blog, who initiated the whole expedition.  First he threw a birthday party for his wife with some other quite amiable friends who happened to be in D.C.  At my suggestion, we met at my favorite Washington restaurant, that temple of haute cuisine known as Hill Country Barbecue.  Then Pete and I walked a couple of blocks to the Verizon Center, a big venue that Dylan was able to pack out, even at age 71.

Yes, most of the people in the audience, like me, were similarly aged.  Lots of gray hair, not as long as it used to be.  Some were accompanied by their grown children.  Or grown grandchildren.  There were some whippersnappers in hipster glasses or concert T-shirts, serious music aficionados by the look of them.  But most defied Dylan’s earlier plea to be forever young.  It was an interesting crowd, and it wasn’t just aged hippies.  Pete’s a surgeon; I’m whatever I am; I saw Fred Barnes, the conservative journalist and Fox News contributor, sitting not far from where we were.

The opening act was Mark Knopfler, the English musician who was once lead singer for Dire Straits.  Remember them, back in the 1980s?  “Money for nothing,” the first song played on MTV Europe?  Now he is singing sober, intense, country-tinged songs that I’d characterize as Brittannia roots music, with his band of exceptionally fine musicians playing Celtic instruments along with the electric guitars.   Pete called it “rock ‘n’ roll for adults.”

And then came the one true Bob.  I had seen him about four times; Pete had seen him eight.  We had never seen him so animated.  Pete said that he had a touch of arthritis and so was no longer standing all the time playing his guitar.  Now he sits behind a grand piano, which he plays quite well, adding numerous harmonica solos, as at his beginning.  But on a couple of songs, Bob came out, took the mic, American-Idol style, and just sang.  Not only that, he was kind of dancin’ and jivin’.  And he was even smilin’.

The other times I saw him, he was concentrating on playing his guitar and often had his back to the audience.  Not this time.  He didn’t say much–“Thank you, friends!”–but he was engaged and connected with the crowd in a way that I found surprising.   He has a new album out that I am really enjoying, Tempest, and he played a couple of songs from that (the enigmatic “Early Roman Kings” and the lovely “Soon after Midnight”).  But he mostly played old songs (“Highway 61 Revisited,” All Along the Watchtower,” “Blowing in the Wind”).  The thing is, though, every time he plays those old songs, he does it in a different way.  The arrangements, the rhythm, the inflections, even the tunes are different.  And yet they are still the same songs.  This is what rewards going to Dylan concerts again and again through the years.  And it says something about Dylan and about all of us other old guys in the audience.

Postmodernists have talked about the myth of individual identity, arguing that we really are different people, depending on whom we are with and the different stages in our lives.  But Dylan is the same person, for all of the changes that he has gone through–including his religious changes–and the 60-year-olds in the audience are the same persons who were moved by Dylan’s music when they were young and are still moved by it in different ways, who have been following him through his changes and through their own.

P.S.:  For a good account of this particular concert, see this review in the Washington Post.

Also, I would like to make an off-the-wall prediction so that if it happens you will have seen it here first:  I predict that Bob Dylan will once again surprise his fans and confound the musical world, this time by joining the Roman Catholic Church.  In the Rolling Stone interview we posted about, he is evidently reading Roman Catholic theology.  (When asked about “transfiguration,” Bob tells the interviewer, “You can go learn about it from the Catholic Church.”) And then in “Duquesne Whistle,” the best song on the new album, he has the line, “I can hear a sweet voice callin’./ Must be the Mother of our Lord.”)