Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hard Rain

I was the kid playin’ football, in a Catholic school

Deep down in Mexican town…

(Listening to)… “Don’t Think Twice Its All Right”

From the wild Mesabi Holy Ground….


Coming soon: Bob Dylan’s 70th Birthday. The magazines are trotting out the tribute writers and the cover issues. The complex fascination with The Bard has been building, ebbing, and building again for over fifty years. And the booing. The critics are lining up, on either side, to do combat. Maureen Dowd (N.Y Times), and others, say Dylan shouldn’t have played recently in China, where his “set list,” might have been censored. Did her sell out? Why didn’t he do the so-called “protest songs?” Why would he appear in a commercial for Victoria’s Secret and few years back? The Wall Street Journal said he should quit the stage. It’s Shakespearean.

The criticism is meaningless against the depth of the Dylan’s catalogue, and his un-impeachable influence on modern song. But we’re lost here, Bob. Everybody expected you (and Leonard Cohen & Paul Simon) to be GONE by now…and we ain’t had much luck replacing you… and it’s irritating to some folk in the media, and to all young writers who ache to be…artistically relevant.

I’m looking back at my childhood. On the coming record. The institutions which forged my youth: Church, Hollywood, Mexican Border Towns, and Bob Dylan. Back then it was folk music, for me, and 6 o’clock mass, and beat poetry, and Jai Alai and horse racing. The 60’s! Dylan exploded the folksong – and when the pieces came down, they fell all over me. Symphonies, fugues, and foxtrots loaded with resonant folk-roots melodies and lyrics which expanded our notion of “the word,” by cooking up new potions distilled from folklore, beat poetry, French mystical verse, and blues wisdom. And much more. Rimbaud meets Ramblin’ Jack. It sounds as fresh today as did forty years back.

The Mexican Border? Gone to hell. Hollywood? Who cares? And the 6 O’clock mass? The Catholic Church has finally gone morally under. 200,000 sexually abused altar boys (I’m unscathed, folks) can now feel a little better – the Holy Fathers came out with a million dollar study last week, which stated that there was no pedophilia plague inherent within the Church; it was all due to the permissiveness of the 60’s! It was Woodstock, and all those nude bodies and wild songs that drove these predators in priest’s collars over the line. Hell, maybe Bob Dylan was to blame. Again.

The new record, Mesabi, opens with a kid (myself) absorbing early Dylan while attending a Catholic school “deep down in Mexican town,” Los Angeles. The album ends with a version of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” with guest artists Lucinda Williams and Calexico. Dylan bookends the deal.

This is a birthday salute to Bob. Long may you run, sir. The songs will live long after the legends, and the boo’s, and the diseased and antiquated liturgies fade, like the border-mariachi horns echoing in my blood.


Zoomer Roberts said...

I still listen to everything Bob issues, and it's always like a letter from home. Sure, his voice is rougher now. So was Billie Holiday's. Charley Patton made records after his throat got cut. Ernest Tubb kept touring after he developed emphysema. The fact that he doesn't play his songs like the records bothers a lot of people, but he's not an oldies act. For '60s nostalgia, I recommend Peter Noone. When I go to a Dylan show, it's to watch him work, and it's always fresh and interesting.

Good blog. Hope all's well with you.

Zoomer Roberts

Unknown said...

I saw Dylan a couple years ago and it was the worst concert I ever went to. The whole performance was a rushed, "I'm only here for a paycheck", thing. I was greatly disappointed, because Dylan was one of my idols. Maybe I just hit a bad night, I hope so.
But Dylan has earned the right to play China or anywhere else he wishes to.

Claire Britton-Warren said...

Looking forward to hearing what your endless creativity conjures up for your next album!

By the way, if you have any interest in doing a ballad about the steamboat Jenny Lind that exploded on the San Francisco Bay in 1853, contact me, I have one heck of a story.

Saddle Tramp said...

Tom ...

Topical and timeless words for sure.
Music is my salvation.
Dylan preaches to my bones.
A direct link.
A national treasure like Paul Simon.
So described on Paul's most recent offering.
I put my money where my opinion is.
Just ordered the Dylan Box of Vision.
Thanks for the referral Tom.

Defending his concert in China he also commented ( and I paraphrase ) that " a gazillion books have been written about me with more coming out ... if you know me or Ihave heard or seen me ... get in on the action and scribble
down your own book ... who knows, you might have a
great book in you ". - The Bard

stVIA: The Desert

Anonymous said...

Defending his show in Chinese suppliers he also stated ( and I paraphrase ) that " a million guides have been published about me with more arriving out ... if you know me or Ihave observed or seen me ... get in on the activity and scribble Spybubble