Backstage with Rock’s Poet Bob Dylan

No Lies Radio Music – By Teri Perticone – June 02, 2018

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Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman, May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, author, and painter who has been an influential figure in popular music and culture for more than five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when he became a reluctant “voice of a generation”[2] with songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin'” that became anthems for the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement. In 1965, he controversially abandoned his early fan-base in the American folk music revival, recording a six-minute single, “Like a Rolling Stone”, which enlarged the scope of popular music.


Blowin in The Wind – Bob Dylan


Masters Of War – Bob Dylan

Following his self-titled debut album in 1962, which mainly consisted of traditional folk songs, Dylan made his breakthrough as a songwriter with the release of the 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, featuring “Blowin’ in the Wind” and the thematically complex composition “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” alongside several other enduring songs of the era. Dylan went on to release the politically charged The Times They Are a-Changin’ and the more lyrically abstract and introspective Another Side of Bob Dylan in 1964. In 1965 and 1966 Dylan encountered controversy when he adopted the use of electrically amplified rock instrumentation and in the space of 15 months recorded three of the most important and influential rock albums of the 1960s, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde.


The Times They Are A-Changin’-Bob Dylan

In July 1966, Dylan withdrew from touring after being injured in a motorcycle accident. During this period he recorded a large body of songs with members of the Band, who had previously backed Dylan on tour; these were eventually released as the collaborative album The Basement Tapes in 1975. In the late 1960s and early 70s, Dylan explored country music and rural themes in John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline and New Morning. In 1975 Dylan released his career-defining album Blood on the Tracks followed by the critically and commercially successful Desire the following year. In the late 1970s, Dylan became a born-again Christian and released a series of albums of contemporary gospel music, notably Slow Train Coming, before returning to his more familiar rock-based idiom with Infidels. Dylan’s major works during his later career include Time Out of Mind, “Love and Theft” and Tempest. His most recent recordings have comprised versions of traditional American standards, especially songs recorded by Frank Sinatra.

Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman (Hebrew name [Shabtai Zisl ben Avraham])[4][5][6] in St. Mary’s Hospital on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota,[7][8] and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota, on the Mesabi Range west of Lake Superior. He has a younger brother, David. Dylan’s paternal grandparents, Zigman and Anna Zimmerman, emigrated from Odessa, in the Russian Empire (now Ukraine), to the United States following the anti-Semitic pogroms of 1905.[9][10] His maternal grandparents, Ben and Florence Stone, were Lithuanian Jews who arrived in the United States in 1902.[9] In his autobiography, Chronicles: Volume One, Dylan wrote that his paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Kirghiz and her family originated from the Ka??zman district of Kars Province in northeastern Turkey.[11]

He formed several bands while attending Hibbing High School. In the Golden Chords, he performed covers of songs by Little Richard[16] and Elvis Presley.[17] Their performance of Danny & the Juniors’ “Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay” at their high school talent show was so loud that the principal cut the microphone.[18] On January 31, 1959, three days before his death, Buddy Holly performed at the Duluth Armory.[19] Seventeen year old Zimmerman was in the audience; in his Nobel Prize lecture, Dylan remembered: “He looked me right straight dead in the eye, and he transmitted something. Something I didn’t know what. And it gave me the chills.”[20]

In 1959, his high school yearbook carried the caption “Robert Zimmerman: to join ‘Little Richard’.”[16][21] The same year, as Elston Gunnn, he performed two dates with Bobby Vee, playing piano and clapping.[22][23][24] In September 1959, Zimmerman moved to Minneapolis and enrolled at the University of Minnesota.[25] His focus on rock and roll gave way to American folk music. In 1985, he said:

The thing about rock’n’roll is that for me anyway it wasn’t enough… There were great catch-phrases and driving pulse rhythms… but the songs weren’t serious or didn’t reflect life in a realistic way. I knew that when I got into folk music, it was more of a serious type of thing. The songs are filled with more despair, more sadness, more triumph, more faith in the supernatural, much deeper feelings.[26]

Living at the Jewish-centric fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu house Zimmerman began to perform at the Ten O’Clock Scholar, a coffeehouse a few blocks from campus, and became involved in the Dinkytown folk music circuit.[27][28]

During his Dinkytown days, Zimmerman began introducing himself as “Bob Dylan”.[29][a 1] In his memoir, he said he hit upon using this less common variant for Dillon – a surname he had considered adopting – when he unexpectedly saw some poems by Dylan Thomas.[30] Explaining his change of name in a 2004 interview, Dylan remarked, “You’re born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents. I mean, that happens. You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free.”[31]

1960s

Relocation to New York and record deal

In May 1960, Dylan dropped out of college at the end of his first year. In January 1961, he traveled to New York City, to perform there and visit his musical idol Woody Guthrie,[32] who was seriously ill with Huntington’s disease in Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital.[33] Guthrie had been a revelation to Dylan and influenced his early performances. Describing Guthrie’s impact, he wrote: “The songs themselves had the infinite sweep of humanity in them… [He] was the true voice of the American spirit. I said to myself I was going to be Guthrie’s greatest disciple.”[34] As well as visiting Guthrie in hospital, Dylan befriended Guthrie’s protégé Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Much of Guthrie’s repertoire was channeled through Elliott, and Dylan paid tribute to Elliott in Chronicles: Volume One.[35]

From February 1961, Dylan played at clubs around Greenwich Village, befriending and picking up material from folk singers there, including Dave Van Ronk, Fred Neil, Odetta, the New Lost City Ramblers and Irish musicians the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.[36] New York Times critic Robert Shelton first noted Dylan in a review of Izzy Young’s production for WRVR of a live twelve-hour Hootenanny on July 29, 1961: “Among the newer promising talents deserving mention are a 20-year-old latter-day Guthrie disciple named Bob Dylan, with a curiously arresting mumbling, country-steeped manner”. This was Dylan’s first live radio performance.[37] In September, Shelton boosted Dylan’s career further with a very enthusiastic review of his performance at Gerde’s Folk City.[38] The same month Dylan played harmonica on folk singer Carolyn Hester’s third album. This brought his talents to the attention of the album’s producer, John Hammond,[39] who signed Dylan to Columbia Records.[40]

The performances on his first Columbia album, Bob Dylan, released March 19, 1962,[41] consisted of familiar folk, blues and gospel with two original compositions. The album sold only 5,000 in its first year, just enough to break even.[42]

By the end of 1963, Dylan felt both manipulated and constrained by the folk and protest movements.[78] Accepting the “Tom Paine Award” from the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, an intoxicated Dylan questioned the role of the committee, characterized the members as old and balding, and claimed to see something of himself and of every man in Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.[79]

Another Side of Bob Dylan, recorded on a single evening in June 1964,[80] had a lighter mood. The humorous Dylan reemerged on “I Shall Be Free No. 10” and “Motorpsycho Nightmare”. “Spanish Harlem Incident” and “To Ramona” are passionate love songs, while “Black Crow Blues” and “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)” suggest the rock and roll soon to dominate Dylan’s music. “It Ain’t Me Babe”, on the surface a song about spurned love, has been described as a rejection of the role of political spokesman thrust upon him.[81]

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In the latter half of 1964 and into 1965, Dylan moved from folk songwriter to folk-rock pop-music star. His jeans and work shirts were replaced by a Carnaby Street wardrobe, sunglasses day or night, and pointed “Beatle boots”. A London reporter wrote: “Hair that would set the teeth of a comb on edge. A loud shirt that would dim the neon lights of Leicester Square. He looks like an undernourished cockatoo.”[84] Dylan began to spar with interviewers. Appearing on the Les Crane television show and asked about a movie he planned, he told Crane it would be a cowboy horror movie. Asked if he played the cowboy, Dylan replied, “No, I play my mother.”[85]

bobdylanin1968-1969

Going electric

Dylan’s late March 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home was another leap,[86] featuring his first recordings with electric instruments. The first single, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, owed much to Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business”;[87] its free association lyrics described as harkening back to the energy of beat poetry and as a forerunner of rap and hip-hop.[88] The song was provided with an early video, which opened D. A. Pennebaker’s cinéma vérité presentation of Dylan’s 1965 tour of Great Britain, Dont Look Back.[89] Instead of miming, Dylan illustrated the lyrics by throwing cue cards containing key words from the song on the ground. Pennebaker said the sequence was Dylan’s idea, and it has been imitated in music videos and advertisements.[90]

The second side of Bringing It All Back Home contained four long songs on which Dylan accompanied himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica.[91] “Mr. Tambourine Man” became one of his best-known songs when the Byrds recorded an electric version that reached number one in the US and UK.[92][93] “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” were two of Dylan’s most important compositions.[91][94]

In 1965, headlining the Newport Folk Festival, Dylan performed his first electric set since high school with a pickup group featuring Mike Bloomfield on guitar and Al Kooper on organ.[95] Dylan had appeared at Newport in 1963 and 1964, but in 1965 met with cheering and booing and left the stage after three songs. One version has it that the boos were from folk fans whom Dylan had alienated by appearing, unexpectedly, with an electric guitar. Murray Lerner, who filmed the performance, said: “I absolutely think that they were booing Dylan going electric.”[96] An alternative account claims audience members were upset by poor sound and a short set. This account is supported by Kooper and one of the directors of the festival, who reports his recording proves the only boos were in reaction to the MC’s announcement that there was only enough time for a short set.[97][98]

Nevertheless, Dylan’s performance provoked a hostile response from the folk music establishment.[99][100] In the September issue of Sing Out!, Ewan MacColl wrote: “Our traditional songs and ballads are the creations of extraordinarily talented artists working inside disciplines formulated over time …’But what of Bobby Dylan?’ scream the outraged teenagers … Only a completely non-critical audience, nourished on the watery pap of pop music, could have fallen for such tenth-rate drivel.”[101] On July 29, four days after Newport, Dylan was back in the studio in New York, recording “Positively 4th Street”. The lyrics contained images of vengeance and paranoia,[102] and it has been interpreted as Dylan’s put-down of former friends from the folk community—friends he had known in clubs along West 4th Street.[103]


Bob Dylan – Positively 4th Street

In July 1965, the single “Like a Rolling Stone” peaked at two in the U.S. and at four in the UK charts. At over six minutes, the song altered what a pop single could convey. Bruce Springsteen, in his speech for Dylan’s inauguration into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, said that on first hearing the single, “that snare shot sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind”.[105] In 2004 and in 2011, Rolling Stone listed it as number one of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.[104][106] The song opened Dylan’s next album, Highway 61 Revisited, named after the road that led from Dylan’s Minnesota to the musical hotbed of New Orleans.[107] The songs were in the same vein as the hit single, flavored by Mike Bloomfield’s blues guitar and Al Kooper’s organ riffs. “Desolation Row”, backed by acoustic guitar and understated bass,[108] offers the sole exception, with Dylan alluding to figures in Western culture in a song described by Andy Gill as “an 11-minute epic of entropy, which takes the form of a Fellini-esque parade of grotesques and oddities featuring a huge cast of celebrated characters, some historical (Einstein, Nero), some biblical (Noah, Cain and Abel), some fictional (Ophelia, Romeo, Cinderella), some literary (T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound), and some who fit into none of the above categories, notably Dr. Filth and his dubious nurse.”[109]


Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone (Audio)

In support of the album, Dylan was booked for two U.S. concerts with Al Kooper and Harvey Brooks from his studio crew and Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm, former members of Ronnie Hawkins’s backing band the Hawks.[110] On August 28 at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, the group was heckled by an audience still annoyed by Dylan’s electric sound. The band’s reception on September 3 at the Hollywood Bowl was more favorable.[111]

From September 24, 1965, in Austin, Texas, Dylan toured the U.S. and Canada for six months, backed by the five musicians from the Hawks who became known as the Band.[112] While Dylan and the Hawks met increasingly receptive audiences, their studio efforts floundered. Producer Bob Johnston persuaded Dylan to record in Nashville in February 1966, and surrounded him with top-notch session men. At Dylan’s insistence, Robertson and Kooper came from New York City to play on the sessions.[113] The Nashville sessions produced the double album Blonde on Blonde (1966), featuring what Dylan called “that thin wild mercury sound”.[114] Kooper described it as “taking two cultures and smashing them together with a huge explosion”: the musical world of Nashville and the world of the “quintessential New York hipster” Bob Dylan.[115]

On November 22, 1965, Dylan secretly married 25-year-old former model Sara Lownds.[116] Robertson writes in his memoir about receiving a phone call that morning to accompany the couple to the court, and then later to a reception hosted by Al Grossman at the Algonquin Hotel. Some of Dylan’s friends, including Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, say that, immediately after the event, Dylan denied he was married.[116] Journalist Nora Ephron made the news public in the New York Post in February 1966 with the headline “Hush! Bob Dylan is wed.”[117]

Dylan toured Australia and Europe in April and May 1966. Each show was split in two. Dylan performed solo during the first half, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica. In the second, backed by the Hawks, he played electrically amplified music. This contrast provoked many fans, who jeered and slow handclapped.[118] The tour culminated in a raucous confrontation between Dylan and his audience at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in England on May 17, 1966.[119] A recording of this concert was released in 1998: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966. At the climax of the evening, a member of the audience, angered by Dylan’s electric backing, shouted: “Judas!” to which Dylan responded, “I don’t believe you … You’re a liar!” Dylan turned to his band and said, “Play it fucking loud!”[120] as they launched into the final song of the night—”Like a Rolling Stone”.

During his 1966 tour, Dylan was described as exhausted and acting “as if on a death trip”.[121] D. A. Pennebaker, the film maker accompanying the tour, described Dylan as “taking a lot of amphetamine and who-knows-what-else.”[122] In a 1969 interview with Jann Wenner, Dylan said, “I was on the road for almost five years. It wore me down. I was on drugs, a lot of things … just to keep going, you know?”[123] In 2011, BBC Radio 4 reported that, in an interview that Robert Shelton taped in 1966, Dylan said he had kicked heroin in New York City: “I got very, very strung out for a while … I had about a $25-a-day habit and I kicked it.”[124] Some journalists questioned the validity of this confession, pointing out that Dylan had “been telling journalists wild lies about his past since the earliest days of his career.”[125][126]


Bob Dylan – Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 with Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young 1994


Bob Dylan – Things Have Changed – 2000

Since 1994, Dylan has published seven books of drawings and paintings, and his work has been exhibited in major art galleries. Dylan has sold more than 100 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He has also received numerous awards including eleven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award. Dylan has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Pulitzer Prize jury in 2008 awarded him a special citation for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power”. In May 2012, Dylan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, and, in 2016, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.[3]


“Forever Young” Beautiful version. Bob Dylan at his Nobel Prize Winning Best 2012

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Bob Dylan – Thunder On The Mountain (Video) – 2006

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Video source: www.youtube.com

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Posted by Teri Perticone

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