Friday, October 14, 2016

Homage Au Bob

Becoming a grand old man of American letters ...

Celebrating the canonization of someone who has long been deified might seem a bit anticlimatctic to those of us who came of age in the era of Bob Dylan, but it's nonetheless welcome. The awarding of the Nobel placed the definitive stamp of history on our favorite troubadour, who is still out there, daily challenging every assumption about him.

In a wonderfully ironic twist, on the evening after the announcement the new laureate was to perform in -- of all places -- Las Vegas. When is the last time you heard Vegas and Nobel Prize in the same paragraph? But surely after all these years such a radical juxtaposition of images is what we should have learned to expect.

And so Dylan has finally become what we always knew he would be, the grand old man of American letters, much as Allen Ginsberg (another Dylan fan) followed in the wake of Walt Whitman. Alas, if only Jack Kerouac had lived so long.

Just last year I wrote about Dylan's latest project, Shadows in the Night, where he put together yet another unorthodox band to give his treatment of material from the American songbook frequented by the likes of Frank Sinatra. And in case you're wondering what he's done more recently, there's a sort of sequel out in the form of Fallen Angels, featuring more of the same material, but with the backup sound tweaked a bit to make it stronger. I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that we'll never catch him putting out consecutive albums that actually match.

What's next? Stay tuned for Blame It On Rio, soon to be released, featuring a song list that hearkens back to the bard's early period of the 60s as recorded live in Brazil in 1990. One's head spins.

Let me just leave you with this final thought, my own perspective on what it's like to have reached this point in my life and have so far to look back...

Remembering Bob

They’re playing Bob Dylan in the bank --
nice cocktail piano bar version,
the Answer is Blowin’ in the Wind --
but as the jazz guys used to say,
it don’t blow, man, it just don’t
make it, you might as well do it
on an accordion like Lawrence Welk,
and I know what it really means
is we blew it. No matter how many roads
we walked down the answer never came,
Baby Blue, and it’s all over now.

Down at the mall it’s 101 Strings
doing Mr. Tambourine Man --
will you play a song for me?
Will you make me a new one, one for now,
grab me again with your rusted iron voice
in the jingle jangle evening of the soul?
But Oh! Mama! it’s a Nelson Riddle medley:
The Times They Are A-Changin’
and a Hard Rain’s a-gonna fall.