Friday, January 28, 2011

Mesabi - series of dreams #13

The Mesabi iron range runs across the top of Minnesota. Biggest iron ore pit in the world up there. Bob Dylan was born nearby, in Duluth. In the dead of winter Duluth is a bastion of weird old immigrant America. Freezing waves pounding the shoreline. Rusted freighters sulking out on the black ice. Raw, hard country. Beer tastes different in winter. Like yellow blood tingling with Slavic iron shards. It’s a long way from New York City, Los Angeles, Nashville and the rest of it. Dylan’s family later moved up to Hibbing. Hibbing, today, is a 1940’ movie set. Intact. Dylan worked in his old man’s hardware store; pounded rock and roll on an upright piano in the high school auditorium. He ran away to Minneapolis, and then to Greenwich Village. You know the rest. Fifty years ago.

I was the kid listening to Dylan’s early vinyl on my Uncle George’s record player. The kid in the room with heroes tacked up over my head. As The great vinyl wheel spun round with its holy prayer… The records keep revolving around in my soul. Nostalgia? If that’s a holy and bygone house of art and music, then I’ll live there. Art time is frozen and has no clock value. No expiration date. All the great classical composers: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Wagner, Brahms, Verdi … lived (mostly) during the 1800’s. What the hell happened? What’s happening now? Armageddon or the great Aquarian shift?

We are rowing through the doldrums, far out at sea. No wind to touch our sails. No movement. Jon Parales wrote a recent piece in the Herald Tribune about the “dumbing down” of the modern lyric. So can someone tell me why, on Dec. 3, The Wall Street Journal devoted two pages ,with irreverent cartoons, to a rant of why Bob Dylan should quit the stage? It was a cruel piece, and I can only guess why the paper, carried around in the computer bags of international bank and marketing types, would deem it necessary to spend two full pages contemplating the question.

I would say that: drunk, crippled, half dead, or 200 years old, Bob Dylan should be left alone. You don’t have to attend the show, folks. He’s been attacked since 1963, it never seemed to bother him, as he constantly reinvented himself and redesigned the modern lyric. Better that the Wall Street Journal had covered Leonard Cohen’s recent triumphant concerts at age 75. If age is the question. The truth is Dylan’s very presence, whatever shape he’s in, scares the hell out of a current generation of writers who will never measure up. There is nothing significant for music journalists to write about, so… attack the maestro. Sigh…Babe Ruth will not leave the stadium, and the little leaguers want inside.

My song Mesabi begins the next release. It speaks of my childhood; and Dylan’s. The spark. Coming this fall.

(The next series will deal with the new songs. Amen.)

14 comments:

turn me loose, set me free said...

Thank you, fantastic! Somebody needed to speak up for Bob Dylan. I'm glad it was a voice with reason and depth. How many artist have made a living off Dylan's songs? Where is their voice?

Scott R. said...

...a current generation of writers who will never measure up. There is nothing significant for music journalists to write about...

I once wrote on my blog about the reason I don't listen to new music any more. Attributing it to bad hearing..., I may have to rethink that.

http://scottrthequillayutecowboy.blogspot.com/2010/03/growing-old-with-jackson-browne.html

Anyway..., it's been great to discover another great songwriter that I can hear in you..., and have been anxious to hear and see you at the Treehouse on Bainbridge Island in about 10 days.

Oh..., one complaint..., am I really going to have to wait until this fall for the new material?

aaron said...

Of course the great irony is that most folks employed by the Wall St Journal want to force the rest of us to work into our 70s before being eligible to receive Social Security benefits.

drifter said...

hello Tom.
thanks for speaking out for mister bob. we all owe him more than we could ever pay him back on sooo many levels.
let me also tell YOU thanks for your inspiration-
love your work .
your TRAMPS AND HAWKERS has often almost moved me to tears.

tbcblues said...

I saw Dylan several months ago, and it was the worst concert I ever went to, I am 59 years old, and appreciate all Dylan has done and stood for over these many years, but his great lyrics are meaningless if you can't understand the words. The whole feeling of the concert was he just wanted to get it over with, a passionless, hurried performance. A major disappointment.

editor said...

Keith Richards wrote about this whole age-criticism thing to the effect that, if the Rolling Stones were black blues guys, everybody would be crying Right On! that they were still on stage in their dotage. White rockers are supposed to go away. As you might imagine, Keef's response was basically, fuck em.

Rupert Murdoch owns WSJ. He's a nasty, slimy tabloid bottom feeder and his publications and programing reflects that. Consider the source and blow it off.

I was just thinking a couple of days ago about the great flowering of classical composition in the 19th Century and asked the same question: What happened? At the risk of being portentious (if not pretentious), maybe the arts are the canary in the mine for a civilization.Europe reached its cultural pinnacle in the 19th Century and committed suicide in the 20th. Maybe the great creative outpouring of the American popular song in the American Century represented that kind of cultural pinnacle. If so, we can all be glad we were here for it — and tremble at the future.

Bill Lavery said...

Great post Tom, as they all are. I like the Babe Ruth reference. Over the years I have been present when conversations turned to golf and taken aback when people would say things to tear Tiger Woods down and how they want to see someone else win and so on. I would always ask if they were alive in Ruth's heyday would they say the same things? We are lucky to be living to witness Dylan and when we are old and whittling on the front porch we will tell anyone who will listen what we saw. They won't care to hear about Tiger's indescetions and Dylan's vocal shortcomings. They will be impressed with the greatness and that we were able to see, hear, and experience these things first hand and in real time.

Saddle Tramp said...

On the road with Dylan ...

Just finished up my double dose of Dylan with his archive rebroadcast of " Theme Time Radio ". Doctors and Danger respectively, but not themed together. It is a privilege to be able to listen to Dylan ( audibly perceptive ) dilineate lifetimes of wonderfully esoteric treasures of musical and human wisdom. The fresh version comes out weekly, as I wish you could do Tom. I hear Dylan cut a deal for six more books. Much like yourself Tom, he never slows down.

Getting into NPR's " On The Media " where the topic is newspapers. Rupert, they opine is the only one today with any real money to spend. Make your own conclusions.

Tom, thanks for the hint on your upcoming release. You are one of the rare few from which I will buy sight unseen.
Until then another Buk quote ...


" All I need now is what I needed then: a desk lamp, the typer, the bottle, the radio, classical music, and this room
on fire ".
- Hanging on The Huntington Library wall


stVIA: Tonopah, AZ leaving LA rain behind me ...

Saddle Tramp said...

Corrections and further delineations ...

Visited Morgan Earps ( Assasinated brother of Wyatt and U.S. Marshall as well ) gravesite in Colton, CA where it is quite possible that no one in Colton even knows that he is there. I am still trying to catch up with the past. Lost in the classics. The tried and true, but well aware that they never held that honor in their inception. Never throw the baby out with the bath water. Have we sucked it dry ( the future)? Feels like it at times. Tom, you move as an omnipresent traveler, and fortunate for us, deliver the goods both antique and avant garde. Stopped on the way out of Colton to pay respects to The California Theatre in San Bernadiino and the ghost of Will Rogers ...

-saddle tramp
Via: NPR's " Soundprint " and poems buried with the dead

John S. said...

Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Jessie Winchester, Jimmy Webb, Dion (yeah, Dion!), David Olney, Chris Smither, Dave Alvin, Malcolm Holcombe, John Hiatt, you Tom Russell, Mickey Newbury (RIP), and others that will come to me after I post this. Mostly "mature" artists and true to their muse - too infrequently under appreciated by the (brainless) masses - but the ones whose works will endure and be appreciated appropriately only as time passes. If that is in the realm of nostalgia, I want a long term lease in a small efficiency there.
As a good friend ( nameless here, but who knows who he
is) often advised me, "Johnny, fuck 'em" and their attitudes.

guildedsinner said...

If Dylan inspired Tom Russell, I say outstanding.
However, if only Dylan would take his live performance cues from Tom............I guess we settle on the recordings: Blood On The Tracks, Nashville Skyline and so on.
Guess I'll listen to "Hotwalker" and cleanse the palate.......different perspective and such.....thoughts and ideas presented in a straight forward manner....if one is perceptive.

Homesick Clarence Jennings said...

"The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but rather the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity" - Glenn Gould

Texorama said...

Mr. Russell: How about a new verse to "Gallo del Cielo"?

Texorama said...

... based on this story?

http://www.mlive.com/news/us-world/index.ssf/2011/02/california_man_killed_by_armed.html