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kottke.org posts about Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 06, 2017

Bob Dylan finally delivered his Nobel Prize lecture in the form of a video (you can also listen to it on Soundcloud). Over the course of just 27 minutes, he talks about his influences, both musical and literary, and muses on the differences and similarities between music and literature. Listening to the speech, instead of just reading the transcript, is well-worth your time, if only to experience Dylan’s lyrical delivery while exalting Buddy Holly or explaining Moby Dick.

If I was to go back to the dawning of it all, I guess I’d have to start with Buddy Holly. Buddy died when I was about eighteen and he was twenty-two. From the moment I first heard him, I felt akin. I felt related, like he was an older brother. I even thought I resembled him. Buddy played the music that I loved — the music I grew up on: country western, rock ‘n’ roll, and rhythm and blues. Three separate strands of music that he intertwined and infused into one genre. One brand. And Buddy wrote songs — songs that had beautiful melodies and imaginative verses. And he sang great — sang in more than a few voices. He was the archetype. Everything I wasn’t and wanted to be. I saw him only but once, and that was a few days before he was gone. I had to travel a hundred miles to get to see him play, and I wasn’t disappointed.

He was powerful and electrifying and had a commanding presence. I was only six feet away. He was mesmerizing. I watched his face, his hands, the way he tapped his foot, his big black glasses, the eyes behind the glasses, the way he held his guitar, the way he stood, his neat suit. Everything about him. He looked older than twenty-two. Something about him seemed permanent, and he filled me with conviction. Then, out of the blue, the most uncanny thing happened. 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.

I arrived late to Bob Dylan and I still haven’t investigated much of his music (relatively speaking), but listening to him talk about his musical and literary influences bleeding all over each other makes me want to go on a Dylan bender and create some shit. (thx, david)

Update: There’s evidence that Dylan based part of his Nobel speech on the SparkNotes study guide for Moby Dick.

Theft in the name of art is an ancient tradition, and Dylan has been a magpie since the 1960s. He has also frequently been open about his borrowings. In 2001, he even released an album titled “Love and Theft,” the quotation marks seeming to imply that the album title was itself taken from Eric Lott’s acclaimed history of racial appropriation, Love & Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class.

A play for one

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 01, 2014

When I Left the House It Was Still Dark was a three-month long play performed in 2013 by Odyssey Works for the benefit of one person, author Rick Moody.

It began one evening when Rick’s priest gave him a children’s book titled “The Secret Room,” to read to his daughter. This book, which appeared to have been written in the fifties, was actually a creation by Odyssey Works.

Shortly after this, Rick was given an invitation to visit Sid’s, a vacant hardware store in downtown Brooklyn. The store became his own secret room, and he continued to visit it weekly for the rest of the summer. In the space, he encountered a variety of objects foreshadowing moments to come in his odyssey. Among these was a notebook detailing the story of a man searching for a cellist whose music deeply moved him, a recording of string music, and a photograph of a prairie. One day after visiting Sid’s, Rick was brought to the airport and given a plane ticket to Saskatchewan, Canada. When he arrived, he was driven to the prairie in the picture where he found the cellist from the story performing a variation of the music he had been listening to for weeks.

I would love to hear about this from Moody’s perspective. Here’s an interview with the artistic director of Odyssey Works; they specialize in grand performances for very small audiences. See also a recent Bob Dylan concert for one fan.

What do we know about Bob Dylan?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 23, 2014

Tom Junod writes about Bob Dylan and what we know and don’t know about him and what that says about our ability to know anything about anyone. Maaaaan. *toke*

Bob Dylan is either the most public private man in the world or the most private public one. He has a reputation for being silent and reclusive; he is neither. He has been giving interviews-albeit contentious ones-for as long as he’s been making music, and he’s been making music for more than fifty years. He’s seventy-two years old. He’s written one volume of an autobiography and is under contract to write two more. He’s hosted his own radio show. He exhibits his paintings and his sculpture in galleries and museums around the world. Ten years ago, he cowrote and starred in a movie, Masked and Anonymous, that was about his own masked anonymity. He is reportedly working on another studio recording, his thirty-sixth, and year after year and night after night he still gets on stage to sing songs unequaled in both their candor and circumspection. Though famous as a man who won’t talk, Dylan is and always has been a man who won’t shut up.

Studs Terkel interviews Bob Dylan

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2014

In 1963, Studs Terkel interviewed a 21-year-old Bob Dylan, before he was famous.

In the spring of 1963 Studs Terkel introduced Chicago radio listeners to an up-and-coming musician, not yet 22 years old, “a young folk poet who you might say looks like Huckleberry Finn, if he lived in the 20th century. His name is Bob Dylan.”

Dylan had just finished recording the songs for his second album, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”, when he traveled from New York to Chicago to play a gig at a little place partly owned by his manager, Albert Grossman, called “The Bear Club”. The next day he went to the WFMT studios for the hour-long appearance on “The Studs Terkel Program”.

Dangerous Minds has more detail about the interview.

Bob Dylan is a notoriously tough person to interview and that’s definitely the case here, even this early in his life as a public persona. On the other hand, Terkel is a veteran interviewer, one of the best ever, and he seems genuinely impressed with the young man who was just 21 at the time and had but one record of mainly covers under his belt. Terkel does a good job of keeping things on track as he expertly gets out of the way and listens while gleaning what he can from his subject. It’s an interesting match-up.

Dylan seems at least fairly straightforward about his musical influences. He talks about seeing Woody Guthrie with his uncle when he was ten years old (Is this just mythology? Who knows?), and he mentions Big Joe Williams and Pete Seeger a few times.

Much of the rest is a little trickier. Terkel has to almost beg Dylan to play what turns out to be an earnest, driving version of “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” Dylan tells Terkel that he’d rather the interviewer “take it off the disc,” but relents and does the tune anyways.

(via @mkonnikova)

Cool interactive Bob Dylan music video

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 19, 2013

This is great fun…the people on every channel of this TV are singing Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan. Including Bob Dylan himself on VH1. (via @faketv)

What the hell is going on with Jonah Lehrer?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 31, 2012

First there was the self-plagiarism. And now, just a month later, Lehrer was caught fabricating some Bob Dylan quotes for his most recent book and then tried to cover it up.

Mr. Lehrer might have kept his job at The New Yorker if not for the Tablet article, by Michael C. Moynihan, a journalist who is something of an authority on Mr. Dylan.

Reading “Imagine,” Mr. Moynihan was stopped by a quote cited by Mr. Lehrer in the first chapter. “It’s a hard thing to describe,” Mr. Dylan said. “It’s just this sense that you got something to say.”

After searching for a source, Mr. Moynihan could not verify the authenticity of the quote. Pressed for an explanation, Mr. Lehrer “stonewalled, misled and, eventually, outright lied to me” over several weeks, Mr. Moynihan wrote, first claiming to have been given access by Mr. Dylan’s manager to an unreleased interview with the musician. Eventually, Mr. Lehrer confessed that he had made it up.

I’ve posted about many articles written by Lehrer and even interviewed him after I read Proust Was a Neuroscientist. When this sort of thing happens, you wonder how much else was, shall we say, embellished for effect.

Bob Dylan sings Mama Said Knock You Out

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 23, 2010

From Wikipedia:

Bob Dylan has this song on his playlist for Episode 2 of The Theme Time Radio Hour, during which Dylan memorably recited a full verse of the song.

The playlist for that episode, entitled Mama, is available here. (via merlin)

Bob Dylan radio show

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2008

Wait, wait, wait. Bob Dylan has a radio show? Yes, he does…on XM. From the May 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, a list of the topics, movies, recipes, music, etc. that Dylan discusses on the show.

Let me give you my recipe for a rum and Coca-Cola. Take a tall glass, put some ice in it, two fingers of Bombay rum, and a bottle of Coca-Cola. Shake it up well and go drink it in the sunshine!

In the magazine, an illustration tells the tale with a clever wink to a Dylan poster by Milton Glaser.

Bobs Dylan

Glaser on the left, yo. (via hysterical paroxysm)

Smithsonian Folkways Podcasts

posted by Joel Turnipseed   Nov 05, 2007

I’ve been working my way through these Folkways Podcasts for months and they’re fantastic: I figure with the new Todd Haynes Dylan flick making it’s way around in very slow release, you might even have a chance to catch up to the two Dylan-focused episodes by the time I’m Not There hits your part of the world.

Second trailer for the could-be-amazing I’m Not

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 18, 2007

Second trailer for the could-be-amazing I’m Not There, a movie about Bob Dylan, starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchett, and three other actors as Bob Dylan. Not very related: would any of Christian Bale’s characters be any good in bed?

No Direction Home: Bob Dylan

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 05, 2007

Who is Bob Dylan?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2006

Who is Bob Dylan?

The difficulties of interviewing Bob Dylan. “Dylan

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 30, 2006

The difficulties of interviewing Bob Dylan. “Dylan is rarely concerned about sounding polite, and he says things, but he sometimes makes them up. He also contradicts himself, answers questions with questions, rambles, gets hostile, goes laconic, and generally bewilders.”

1964 profile of Bob Dylan from the New Yorker.

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 29, 2006

1964 profile of Bob Dylan from the New Yorker.