Monday, October 17, 2005

music: going deep on Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan, sure, legend, I have the Biograph box set of vinyl, but I always respected rather than enjoyed his music. So watching the "No Direction Home" documentary on PBS was revelatory. His development is so completely rooted in the 1950's folky New York coffee bars, yet the timelessness of his songs transcends the milieu. And his grating naïf presentation is more than a homage to the folk and blues traditions, it's the whole thing restated through his songwriting.

Young Elvis Costello copped so much attitude from young Dylan that he should be arrested. To be so aware of your talent yet viciously protecting it from anyone trying to box it in by denying everything. Reporter at press meeting 1: "You write lots of topical [protest] songs -" Bob Dylan: "No I don't!" Reporter at press meeting 2: "You've stopped writing topical songs -" Bob Dylan: "Everything I write is a topical song!"

I had a similar experience watching the much less ambitious documentary John Lennon's Jukebox, also on PBS. Hearing the songs from which he stole the harmonica on "Love Me Do", the shouts on "I Want to Hold your Hand", the guitar lick on "Ticket to Ride", really deepens your appreciation. The Beatles loved their roots and hearing those roots in context pulls you in deep.

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