Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan, Grimes, and Girl Groups Reconsidered
March 12, 2012

Much is being made this month of the fiftieth anniversary of Bob Dylan's eponymous first album, a collection of grim traditionals and blues, along with two unpropitious originals in the mode of Dylan's early model, Woody Guthrie. Recorded in November 1961 and released five months later, the record had little impact north of Washington Square Park and was soon remaindered for sale in dime-store budget bins.

You’d Better Run
February 22, 2012

Prone was never the way I pictured Isaac, proving yet again: of altars, I am all but ignorant. Of course he was tied with the soft side up, simpler to cut with that which makes us human. Take this bird outside of the luncheonette, the one with the kettle- fried chip in her beak. She’s unable to break it small enough to eat, and so is blessed in her own way, lacking the nerve or knowhow to hunt what’s hard.

In Praise of Tranströmer the Transformer—and His Translator, Robert Bly
October 07, 2011

“Tranströmer!” Of course, I knew immediately what the email message meant.

Bob Dylan and the Benevolent Tyranny of Nobel Competition
October 07, 2011

My late mother, bless her, prodded me to write better by withholding her approval, and I’m grateful to her for that in the same way that Philip Roth should be thankful to the Nobel committee. He and his admirers (and I’m one of them) might not have been able to enjoy the considerable pleasures of Roth’s late-career burst of ambition and prolificacy if he had not been fixated on winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

A Spell Deferred
July 28, 2011

Let’s say you have a daughter named Adele, and she is one of the most celebrated young singers in the world. Reporters ask you about her musical education, and you tell them that you raised her right, exposing her early to the work of four musicians: Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Dylan, and Nina Simone. What would you be saying, in essence, when you listed those four artists together, as the father of Adele, the phenomenally successful young English R&B singer, did a few weeks ago?

David Hajdu on Music: The Afterplace
May 19, 2011

Paul Simon So Beautiful or So What It appears that Paul Simon has been thinking about going somewhere unlike all of the many lands around the globe that he has visited over the years in search of musical inspiration. He is giving thought to the final expedition, the big trip across the divide to the only place that even he cannot plunder. Simon will turn seventy in the same year as both Art Garfunkel, the creamy-voiced journeyman who stood placidly at Simon’s right side for years, and Bob Dylan, the peer of Simon’s whose towering specter has always hovered near Simon’s other side.

Bob Dylan in China
April 11, 2011

In memory of Farah Ebrahimi.  Times are indeed a-changing: Bob Dylan, who became an American icon by “speaking truth to power,” just gave a concert in China, one of the most repressive countries in the world. While there, Dylan not only failed to express solidarity with the Chinese dissidents in jail; according to The Washington Post, he also agreed to perform only “approved content.”  The scenario becomes even more ironic when you consider that, while Bob Dylan sang “Love Sick” in mainland China, outgoing U.S.

Phil Ochs, There But for Fortune
April 08, 2011

Thirty-five years ago this Saturday, Phil Ochs, the earnest singing polemicist of the 1960s, hanged himself. He suffered from depression and other emotional problems, as his father had, and he drank too much. I was thinking of Ochs earlier this week, when I was with a group of legal scholars at a conference on “Bob Dylan and the Law” at the Fordham University Law School.

Remembering the Forgettable Nick Hathaway
April 01, 2011

Jameson “Nick” Hathaway, the Tin Pan Alley tunesmith who died this week at age 96, is most memorable for his forgetability. Among song composers of the pre-rock era, Hathaway was such a marginal figure, even in his time, that his name long ago drifted off the margins, off the desktop, out of the room, and took a drive to a place populated only by minor academics, nostalgaists, and other people like me.

Happy Birthday, Sam Cooke
January 21, 2011

Rock stars of the 1960s have begun turning 70, and the aging of a generation that defined its culture by its youth has prompted the sucking of veiny thumbs. I did mine last October, right here, on the seventieth anniversary of John Lennon’s birth. Earlier this month, Joan Baez turned 70; Neil Diamond will do the same on January 24; Bob Dylan will have his seventieth birthday in May, followed by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, along with the likes of David Crosby, George Clinton, and Paul Anka.