Monthly Archives: April 2008

Eau de Dylan

I guess this is something that just has to be noted, whatever you make of it: An old story, from November of 2006, has Carrie Fisher talking about Bob Dylan during her then one woman stage show. For whatever reason it got picked up on Expecting Rain today.

While a call from Bob Dylan once left her hopeful that the Tambourine Man was romantically interested in her, she was heartbroken to learn he only wanted her business advice. Get this: Fisher said Dylan was interested in talking to her about helping him come up with a name for a cologne he was planning to launch.

Bizarre as that may sound, Fisher said Dylan also told her he wanted to open a beauty shop. The late former Beatle George Harrison told Fisher at the time that Dylan was always thinking of ways to leave the entertainment business to live a so-called normal life.

Well, the most bizarre thing about this is that it actually rings true, when you consider the following passage from Bob Dylan’s memoir, “Chronicles, Volume 1.” The context is vaguely late 1980s, and Dylan is trying to recover from a hand injury.

I fantasized about the business world. What could me more simple or elegant than venturing into that? It might be interesting to try the conventional life for a while. I was thinking ahead. I called a friend of mine who put me in touch with a broker who bought and sold independent businesses. Starting one from scratch was out of the question. I told him I was thinking about selling all I had and trading for something. What do you have? He came by and brought brochures on just about every enterprise going — facts and figures all down to the minutest detail … self-contained businesses all over the place — sugarcane, trucks and tractors, a wooden leg factory in North Carolina, furniture factory in Alabama, a fish farm, flower plantations and more. It was overwhelming. Just looking at this stuff made the weight press down above my eyes. How do you decide, especially if you don’t have any real interest in any of them?

It sure would have been a headline: Bob Dylan sells the rights to all his songs, and buys a wooden leg factory. Sounds like a story Tom Waits might tell. I have to be glad it was just a passing whim, along with the beauty parlor he may have talked about with Carrie Fisher. You know it just would have ended up filled with sailors, anyway.

That was quick

Boy, the news cycle is so fast that you can’t even make a prediction before the whole thing comes and goes already.

So, at his press conference this afternoon dealing with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Senator Barack Obama said things like this:

“The person I saw yesterday [during Wright’s speech at the National Press Club -ed] was not the person I met twenty years ago.”

“I believe [his statements] do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church … and they certainly don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Rev. Wright thinks that that’s political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn’t know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, I may not know him as well as I thought either.”

He said he had given Rev. Wright the “benefit of the doubt” when he (Obama) made his big speech on race in which he defended Wright.

Obama then went on to specifically reject the theory of the U.S. government creating AIDS to kill black people, to reject the idea of Louis Farrahkan as being one of the great figures of recent years, and to reject the comparison of U.S. military actions to terrorism.

So, he is basically saying, “I disown who Rev. Wright appears to be today.”

Does anyone really think that Rev. Wright is someone very different today from the person he has been the last couple of decades?

If not, what conclusion will voters draw? Either Barack Obama is so dull and insensitive as to not realize what Wright was about despite twenty years of involvement with him, or he’s lying. Either way, it’s not a great premise for the general election campaign.

Barack Obama had to say what he said today, to try and evade the creeping perception amongst Democrats that he is unelectable due to his association with Wright (compounded by his association with Bill Ayers). The establishment of that perception is Hillary Clinton’s best hope of beating him for the nomination.

It may be that the posture he has adopted today will be sufficient to gain him the nomination, in the end. But the question of why it took until April 29th, 2008, for Barack Obama to suddenly discover that he was “outraged” by the things that Rev. Jeremiah Wright says is certainly going to follow him into any general election campaign.

Barack about to try and write off Wright?

It’s being reported that Senator Barack Obama is going to address the issue of Rev. Jeremiah Wright once more at a press conference later today. I’m going to go out on a limb — if it is a limb — and predict that he will attempt to cut anchor completely; i.e. to completely disown Rev. Wright in a way that he hopes will end the usefulness of the issue for his opponents. To date, remember, all that Obama has done is vaguely reject unspecified statements of Rev. Wright’s that he says he finds offensive, while at the same time saying that these statements do not represent the Rev. Wright he has known during his 20 years of attendance at the Rev. Wright’s church. I think Obama has to cut anchor in a decisive way if he is to continue to be serious about running for president. No one is going to win the presidency while joined at the hip to a man who enthusiastically says “God damn America,” not to mention all the other stuff. And he is joined at the hip: Wright’s was the form of Christianity that Obama first embraced; Wright married the Obamas, baptized their children, inspired the title of Obama’s book, and has been highly lauded by him over and over again.

The question will be of-course be why it took until now — six months before the general election — for Obama to realize that he needed to totally sever himself from this guy. I think that he really believed that he could finesse these questions, all the way through — that he could argue as he has done to date that he embraces the good things he saw from Rev. Wright at the United Church of Christ in Chicago while repudiating all of these incendiary remarks which of-course he never happened to hear. You could say that it’s a measure of just how stupid Barack Obama thinks the voters are, deep down.

What’s changed in the past several days is Obama’s realization that the Rev. Wright is not going to play along. Obama just assumed that Wright would see how important it was that he — Barack Obama — become president, and that the Rev. would stay quiet in the background and give Obama room for his finessing. But Wright doesn’t care. Look at him, for Pete’s sake. He is someone who self-evidently loves the limelight and loves having a platform. He always has — you can easily see he’s as much a performer as a pastor. Now, thanks to the controversy over his famous parishioner who is running for president, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has the biggest platform he’s ever had. Everything he says is national news! Some have also theorized that he actually wants Obama to lose the election, as it will bolster his argument that America continues to be a nation that oppresses black people. It’s hard to say if that’s true, but it’s easy to see that, in the end, Wright doesn’t give a good “g-damn” about cooperating with Obama’s election strategy.

Even Obama can see it, and that’s why, I believe, he’ll be cutting Jeremiah loose — or trying mightily to do so — at the reported press conference later today.

Ironically, while being an absolute prerequisite for a serious run in the general election, it might actually hurt him in the upcoming primaries, as it will be one more example of Obama acting like a regular politician instead of as some kind of super-idealist liberal paradigm.

Gosh. This Hillary/Barack contest is so much fun. If only it could go on forever …

Bob’s byline

Lee Abrams was until recently the “Senior Vice President and Chief Programming Officer” for XM Satellite Radio, and he was highly instrumental in the hiring of Bob Dylan to do his wonderful “Theme Time Radio Hour” show. Earlier this month he became “Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer” at the Tribune Company, a media behemoth which owns the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, sundry other newspapers and media thingies, and operates twenty-three television stations.

Of-course print media has been going through a rough time and it seems to be only getting rougher, especially for the old mainline newspaper giants. Never fear; Abrams has the answer. And it is — you guessed it — Bob. As reported at this link, Abrams says:

BOB DYLAN & Tribune? Had a great meeting with the Dylan folks. There is big potential to have Bob on our team. The guy DOES know how to write.
Got me thinking—-Are we creating our own stars? we have them…and we should continue to recruit them. Online, on TV and In print. We live in a celebrity era…columnists CAN be stars IF we position them that way.

Well, this is funny to contemplate, but count me as highly skeptical. I can see there being a “great meeting with the Dylan folks” on it, but, with all of his other outlets, I can’t see Dylan personally really wanting the platform or the aggravation of writing some kind of regular column. Now, I could be wrong, but I think that whereas “Theme Time Radio Hour” is a natural fit with what Robert Spencer has called Dylan’s “deep love of tradition, and […] interest in passing it on”, and his desire for “giving credit where credit is due”, I just don’t see a regular column serving those same purposes of Dylan’s. And he does have two more volumes of memoir still to complete. But, what do I know?

One thing’s for sure: If anyone can save the struggling old broadsheets, it is Bob Dylan — the true King of All Media.

Odds, ends

If you go by the review in Salon magazine, then Suze Rotolo’s forthcoming memoir of her life with Bob Dylan in early 1960’s New York ( “A Freewheelin’ Time” ) is more affectionate and well-intentioned than the promotional teasers might have conveyed.

Thanks to Fred for the link to this Power Line post, which includes a YouTube video performance of Stuck with Jeremiah in the Pastor’s Pews again, or, if you prefer, Obama, Can This Really Be Your Friend? That is, it’s a commentary on Senator Barack Obama and his spiritual mentor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, by means of a song parody of Dylan’s Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again. It’s funny, although I don’t know if I would have tried to make it equally as long as Dylan’s original (!)

Thanks to Anthony for his e-mail:

As a lifelong Orthodox Christian (my family converted to Orthodoxy when I was about 1), I appreciate the Happy Easter wishes on the website. Seeing your recognition of us Orthodox, I was reminded of the prominent Dylan connection to Orthodoxy. In “Thunder on the Mountain,” as I’m sure you know, one of the lines goes “I’ve been to St. Herman’s Church, I’ve said my religious vows.” What’s interesting is that a quick google search of “St. Herman” or “St. Herman’s Church” will show that there are no Catholic or Protestant churches (presumably in the whole world) that are named “St. Herman’s,” they are all Orthodox. Also, there’s not even really a respectable St. Herman in the West to name a church after anyway (there are a couple of obscure ones from the 11th and 12th centuries but no one anyone’s ever really heard of). However, the aforementioned google search brings up reams of pages related to St. Herman of Alaska, a very popular Orthodox saint in America, considered the patron saint of the Americas by Orthodox.

Just as you would not claim Dylan is a registered Republican, I would certainly not claim that he is a chrismated Orthodox Christian (though I do believe he is a believing Christian of some sort). However, it’d be hard to write a line like that (unless he just picked a random name that he liked, which isn’t out of the question with Dylan) without having some conscious knowledge of the Orthodox Church and it’s most prominent American saint.

Just thought I’d point out an interesting connection, keep up the good work!

And there’s one St. Herman’s church at this link.

Happy Easter again

… to those Christians observing the Orthodox calendar.

This clip of Ring Them Bells is a shining, almost acoustic version by Bob Dylan and his band, in a performance from the Supper Club in New York City in 1993.

Ring them bells St. Peter
Where the four winds blow,
Ring them bells with an iron hand
So the people will know.
Oh it’s rush hour now
On the wheel and the plow
And the sun is going down
Upon the sacred cow.

Via Expecting Rain, the YouTube clip below has to be seen to be believed. There have been clips before where the fans invaded the stage to one degree or another, but in this case there’s a never ending procession of esoteric individuals hopping onstage and kissing Bob, all while he performs Like A Rolling Stone. The amazing thing is that he finishes the song. He could well be forgiven for, at the very least, concluding it after the second chorus and saying, “See ya next year, friends!” Maybe it becomes a point of pride for him to demonstrate that he can perform the song all the way through, no matter what. He even throws in an extended jam at the end. Not sure the exact where and when of the performance, but it certainly looks like the early 00s.

Can’t Wait

There’s a wonderfully intense live performance by Bob Dylan of Can’t Wait newly loaded on YouTube. It’s apparently from Göteburg, Sweden, in the year 2000, and is a stripped down arrangement featuring focused and intimate singing and electric guitar noodling from Bob.

Click here to go to YouTube or play below.

It’s mighty funny; the end of time has just begun
Oh, honey, after all these years you’re still the one
While I’m strolling through the lonely graveyard of my mind
I left my life with you somewhere back there along the line
I thought somehow that I would be spared this fate
But I don’t know how much longer I can wait.


Best wishes for a happy and blessed Passover to all celebrating during the coming days.

The sound quality leaves something to be desired, but the song seems apt: Bob Dylan in Tel Aviv in 1987 performing Go Down Moses. Click here for audio clip.

When Israel was in Egypt’s Land,
Let my people go,
Opressed so hard they could not stand,
Let my people go.

Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt’s Land.
Tell ol’ Pharoah,
Let my people go.

Thus saith the Lord, bold Moses said,
Let my people go,
If not, I’ll smite your first-born dead,
Let my people go.

Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt’s Land.
Tell ol’ Pharoah,
Let my people go.

Odds and ends

Really, there’s a whole lot of Bob Dylan-related odds and more than a few ends lurking around right now.

Firstly, that inseparable pair Simon and Schuster have announced that the Bob Dylan-authored book “Forever Young” will be released on September 23rd of this year, marketed as an inspirational book for children. It is illustrated by one Paul Rogers (this one?) and will run to 40 pages. It’s a little hard to tell whether it will be simply the illustrated lyrics of that song, or whether there will be any additional content. About 8 years ago, of-course, “Man Gave Names to All the Animals“, illustrated by Scott Menchin, was published by Harcourt. (Maybe one day we’ll have the complete lyrics to Under the Red Sky published as a childrens’ book. )

Daniel Radosh in the NY Times (thanks to Ron for the link) describes himself as “a secular Jew who always took it for granted that Christian rock stinks.” Of-course he is the author of the new tome, “Rapture Ready: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture.” The piece in the Times is his playlist of “great Christian rock songs,” and it is mostly eye-opening reading for this Christian, at any rate. He picks one Bob Dylan song in his list: Every Grain of Sand.

There are some fine songs on “Slow Train Coming” and “Saved” — he was still Bob Dylan, after all — but he seemed to have suddenly become afraid of poetry. Only on the last album of the trilogy that marked his “Christian” career did Dylan loosen his grip on the reins and produce this complex testament of faith that stands with the best of his work. Of course, Dylan’s catalog — before and since his born again period — is replete with songs that reflect at least a fascination with Christian theology. If you count these, there is probably no greater Christian rock song — and few greater rock songs, period — than “Shelter From the Storm,” which uses explicit Gospel imagery to paint a harrowing portrait of sinful man separated from God and in search of redemption.

The unconventional Bob Dylan biopic, “I’m Not There,” directed by Todd Haynes, will be coming to DVD in May. Among the extra features described in the press release are “9 deleted scenes with optional commentary” and a “gag reel”; the latter being something that will contribute well to the whole enterprise, if you ask me.

The project of putting music to previously unreleased Hank Williams lyrics, which is understood based on previous stories to be helmed by Bob Dylan, will apparently result in a release in time “for the holiday season,” according to this story from the Hollywood Insider. The story also tells us that Norah Jones was one of those invited by Bob to add a melody to one of Hank’s pieces. At a March 31st gig in New York, Jones sung her rendition of Hank’s words.

We can’t recall whether Jones had a name for the Williams-inspired song, but it went something like this: “Night after night I’ve cried over you/Hoping someday you’ll be true/You took my heart, tore it apart.. How many times have you broken my heart.” It was definitely enough to whet our appetites for the rest of this project.

This last has nothing whatever to do with Bob Dylan, but it was linked on the Dylan news site Expecting Rain today, so I guess it must have some significance for us. It is the story that “Bruce Springsteen endorses Obama for president.”

Springsteen sez:

“He [Barack Obama] speaks to the America I’ve envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that’s interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. A place where ‘…nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone.'”

Well, thanks for letting us know, Bruce. For a minute there we might have thought your songs represented something deeper than the ideology of one extremely left-liberal politician. It’s awfully kind of you to correct the record regarding your records.


Get EXPELLED, with Ben Stein

Economist, writer, actor, and — preeminently — a former RWB Q&A participant and therefore major Bob Dylan fan, Ben Stein, has a new movie opening tomorrow across the U.S., in case you hadn’t heard. It’s called “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” and from the advance word it deals largely with the intolerance and absolutism that distinguishes the Darwinist wing of the scientific community. I haven’t seen it yet, but I guess it must be clear where my sympathies lie on the issues at hand. I will stoop to quoting scripture for my own purposes; Psalm 19, the Revised Standard Version:

The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.