Nobody Sings Dylan Like Dylan

What: The Girl from the North Country

When: February 2020

Musical by Conor McPherson, Songs by Bob Dylan (used by permission, Dylan has no formal involvement)

This is not “We Will Rock You” or “Mamma Mia”. The Queen and Abba musicals are essentially vehicles to promote the greatest hits in the back catalogue of two acts that are no longer recording. The songs are made to measure into storylines of varying ridiculousness and unbelievability.

It is also not “Jersey Boys”. There the story of Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio’s musical partnership is told (albeit in a truncated form) and the songs are inserted to illustrate the development of the 4 Seasons’ career. This indeed was a level higher and a completely different approach to your average “jukebox musical” as the first category has often been labelled.

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Does Bob Dylan have Christmas in his heart? – 4th time around

“When I was growing up, Billy Graham was very popular. He was the greatest preacher and evangelist of my time — that guy could save souls and did. I went to two or three of his rallies in the ’50s or ’60s. This guy was like rock ’n’ roll personified — volatile, explosive. He had the hair, the tone, the elocution — when he spoke, he brought the storm down. Clouds parted. Souls got saved, sometimes 30 or 40,000 of them. If you ever went to a Billy Graham rally back then, you were changed forever. There’s never been a preacher like him. He could fill football stadiums before anybody. He could fill Giants Stadium more than even the Giants football team. Seems like a long time ago. Long before Mick Jagger sang his first note or Bruce strapped on his first guitar — that’s some of the part of rock ’n’ roll that I retained. I had to. I saw Billy Graham in the flesh and heard him loud and clear.”

~Bob Dylan speaking to AARP magazine in 2015

BILL FLANAGAN: You really give a heroic performance of O’ LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM The way you do it reminds me a little of an Irish rebel song. There’s something almost defiant in the way you sing, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” I don’t want to put you on the spot, but you sure deliver that song like a true believer.
BOB DYLAN: Well, I am a true believer.

~Bob Dylan speaking to Bill Flanagan about the “Christmas in the Heart” album. The album benefits homeless charities and this interview was published in the UK in the “Big Issue” magazine which helps unemployed and homeless people to rehabilitate.

In 2009, Bob Dylan released an album of traditional Christmas songs. Since then I’ve written about it on three occasions and I thought that I had nothing more to say on the subject but then I read a couple of comments that I didn’t really understand and it got me to ruminating on the album again.

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A Comforting Old Wooden Chair (Foreword to a Bob Dylan book)

(Sometime over the last few years I was approached to write a “blurb” for the cover of a book of thoughts about Bob Dylan by an Australian author, Phil Mason. I’ve never met Phil but I’ve been privileged to help him with his research. By the time the book was approaching readiness, the idea had expanded and I wrote a foreword for the book which eventually appeared under the title of “A Voice From on High”. As well as reproducing that foreword here, I take the opportunity to recommend Mr Mason’s book which can be obtained through Amazon in softcover and for your kindle.)

 

“Well I’m sitting in church
In an old wooden chair
I knew nobody
Would look for me there”

Bob Dylan – Marchin’ to the City (Disc 3 of Tell Tale Signs 1989-2006)

In 1707, Isaac Watts, the Christian hymnwriter, wrote a lyric called “Marching to Zion” in which he referred to Zion as the beautiful city of God. Now, this was long before Zion had become a short-hand for some Western European political scheme to establish a physical homeland for disenfranchised Jewish people in the middle East (a scheme commonly referred to as Zionism). It is Watts looking forward to the end of an earthly journey where all the faithful people of God, Jew and Gentile, would be gathered in to an eternal home.

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Bob Dylan, sloppy analysis and hearing what we want to hear

Literary criticism, musical criticism and theological criticism are notoriously difficult. The reason that they are so hard is the question of subjectivity. In the early years of the 20th century, a noted conservative theologian said the following of a liberal scholar:

“The Christ that he sees, looking back through nineteen centuries of Catholic darkness, is only the reflection of a Liberal Protestant face, seen at the bottom of a deep well.”

It is a very clever idea but could the equal statement also be said of the more conservative thinker. We want our God to be like our theology says he should be. Otherwise we are wrong and that is hard to bear. We want our heroes to be like us. Otherwise that is burdensome.

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Music: The principal of pleasure (1978-1980)

A guy that I’ve met wrote a list on Facebook which has been running ’round my head for the last few hours. Quite a simple idea really – the albums he was listening to in his teenage years. It sparked something within me and took me back to another time and so I’m up in the night writing a list of my own but also exploring things that in some ways I’d rather not think about it – a very different time – and some things I guess I’d rather forget.

But in the midst of it there was always music.

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Bob Dylan – “Saved” reassessed.

I was in my mid-teens when “Saved” was released. I’d just begun to discover Bob Dylan’s music around then but, to be honest, I was far more interested in albums like “The Times They Are A-Changin'” than “Saved” or “Slow Train Coming”. I’d caught on to the singles from “Street Legal” via Annie Nightingale’s radio show but really nothing else of his contemporary work was even on my radar. From “…Changin'”, I made the predictable moves to “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde” and for me Dylan was an interesting master songwriter from the 1960s.

I could be seen around college with a copy of “Writings and Drawings” under my arm but even in that my interest faded after the “John Wesley Harding” album.

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An Indepth Look at Bob Dylan’s Christmas in the Heart

Bob Dylan

Christmas in the Heart

Columbia Records 88697 57323 2

Making an album of Christmas music would seem to be about as middle-of-the-road and as polite and inoffensive a project as a singer could have. So it would seem. But when Bob Dylan decided to announce the release of his forthcoming Christmas album, it got the online critics’ fires a-blazing!

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