Saturday, 11 June 2011

*My Journey with Bob Dylan

'It is not about the quality of his voice, it is about the songs. I love the attitude in his voice.' 

My journey with Bob Dylan never ceases to surprise me!
I saw Dylan live at the SECC Glasgow in 2006 with my son Ross who was then 16, came with me. The wonderful thing was it was all kinds of people, all ages and all walks of life in the audience - everyman. When Dylan came on stage with his band there was no introduction by him ( or anyone!) - he simply strode on stage and started to play. Well I guess he doesn't need to introduce himself!

Many learn the skills, however the real test and important challenging part of being an artist is having something to say to others. He was always on that artistic journey and probably still is. He soaked up many other artists particularly Woodie Guthrie and after reading the poems of Dylan Thomas he then changed his name from Zimmerman to Dylan. With Guthrie he found the persona and image he was looking for - the travelling questioning troubadour.  As well as questioning songs he also wrote some of the most insightful love songs ever.  

His song 'Mr Tambourine Man play a song for me' - I feel expressed his joy of art and music and how that wonderful positive side of life lifts us up and is what matters ultimately.      
Dylan cares deeply about the ills of the world, and he expressed this so clearly in his song 'Masters of War' which talks of the corruption and greed by those who 'play with my world like it's your little toy...all the money you make will not buy back your soul.. You aren't worth the blood that runs in your veins.'' 
And that his words of love might help to balance that by exposing their 'evil' and negative ways.
The beauty of Dylan is he attacks those darker shades of humanity head on! No avoidance there! That's important too. I've wondered what young troubadour is there today that writes as insightfully about our present problems? 

I started to seriously listen to Dylan after watching Martin Scorsese's informed documentary 'No Direction Home'.  After which I read his incredible autobiography 'Chronicles' which revealed some of his artistic journeys - a complete eye opener. 
Since then I've bought many Dylan albums. My favourite Dylan Albums are 'Blood on the Tracks',  'HighWay 61 Revisted' ,' Nashville Skyline', 'Blonde on Blonde', 'The Freewheelin Bob Dylan'.

'Some' of my favourite Dylan songs.  'Mr Tambourine Man', 'Forever Young',
'I Threw it All Away' ,  'Just like Tom Thumb Blues', 'Tonight I'll be Staying Here With You', It Takes a Lot to Laugh; It Takes a Lot To Cry', 'Tell Me It Isn't True', 'Visions of Joanna', 'Gotta Serve Somebody', 'Like A Rolling Stone', 'Jokerman', 'Shelter From The Storm', 'Lay Lady Lay', 'Tangled Up in Blue.'

And not forgetting my favourite album cover ever on 'The Freewheelin Bob Dylan' of Bob Dylan and Suzie on that snowy New York street, I love the perspective and feel of it.  I also love the Forever Young images by Douglas Gilbert.  Happy 70th Birthday Bob, May 2011! - he continues on that artistic journey of his...
In a sense Bob Dylan is now a part of my life...
A Few Quotes on Dylan: 
'His talent lies in finding and exploiting the tough contours that give the songs their bite, and that in his best moments can be devastating.' 
Dylan embodies cool. Wheras Farina is clearly anxious to please, to fit in. Farina was all, 'Look at me - here I am dig me! ' Dylan was like, 'Look all you want. You'll never see me.' 
'His album 'Highway 61' has a feeling of a Buick speeding down the thruway. Wheras Farina's experiments in new folk-rock sound suggest a man perched uncomfortably on a kiddy car. .. dated and ill at ease with itself.'
Like few performers before him, it creates a space that remains entirely its' own, that forces you to remember it, to notice it, that invites you in even while holding you at a safe distance. 
His delivery avoid the obvious emotional stretches (just listen to most covers of his songs to hear how much is lost by overplaying them) veering into a less expected inflection at the turn of a syllable. 
'Part of his ability, almost paradoxically comes from the nearly effortless quality of Dylan's vocals, a quasi-deadpan that knows not to overplay emotion, but rather to let it insinuate itself through the lines.'   Mark Polizzotti ( Highway 61 Revisited)