Monthly Archives: June 2010

Ann-Margret and Mickey Jones

There are a lot of chain emails. Some of them are allegedly humorous, some just nasty, and some allegedly inspirational. I suppose a lot of people enjoy them, but to me even the inspirational ones tend to come with some kind of poison pill, if only a demand at the end to forward the message to 15 more people, in order to demonstrate your love for them or some such thing. Lemme tell ya, if clicking a button and forwarding some zeroes and ones you just received down some wires to someone else is considered a demonstration of love, then somebody’s got problems.

But I’m digressing, and before I even start. Someone received one of these emails, with a pro-troops kind of message, and a story concerning a Vietnam veteran and the actress/singer Ann-Margret. Included Continue reading “Ann-Margret and Mickey Jones” »

Leonard Cohen: An inducted songwriter

The other night, Leonard Cohen was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.

Well, maybe you’re thinking like me: Given that there is such a thing as the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, how come a guy like Leonard Cohen wasn’t inducted twenty years ago or more?

I guess they’ll be getting around to Jerome Kern any day now.

Cohen’s connections to Bob Dylan are many, although I think that the fundamental connection is likely way beyond any of the details.

One of the most quotable quotes regarding Dylan’s art has come from Cohen, who in an interview way back when recalled reading a review of Bob’s Shot of Love album in which the reviewer dismissed it as containing “only one masterpiece,” namely Every Grain of Sand. Cohen exclaimed, “My God! Only one masterpiece. Does this guy have any idea what it takes to produce a single masterpiece?”

Leonard said a lot with those few words, and he’s always been able to say a lot with relatively few words. I guess by that I mean that although he’s far from the most prolific songwriter of the last five decades, his songs surely do resonate.

Asked the other day by Rolling Stone about his own favorite artists to listen to, the 75 year-old Cohen said, “The same people — Tom Waits, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins.”

I haven’t found a clip of him receiving his Songwriters’ Hall of Fame induction, but, if you haven’t seen it, you could do worse than watch the clip below of his acceptance speech on receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy’s earlier this year.

A tower of song indeed. But then I suppose that’s something everybody knows.

And everybody knows that you’re in trouble
Everybody knows what you’ve been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it’s coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows

Now Scalia quotes Bob Dylan

Back in June of 2008, Chief Justice John Roberts became (as far as I know) the first U.S. Supreme Justice to quote Bob Dylan in an opinion. He has been followed two years later by the inestimable Antonin Scalia, who, in City of Ontario versus Quon (.pdf), upbraids the court on which he himself sits thusly:

Applying the Fourth Amendment to new technologies may sometimes be difficult, but when it is necessary to decide a case we have no choice. The Court’s implication, ante, at 10, that where electronic privacy is concerned we should decide less than we otherwise would (that is, less than the principle of law necessary to resolve the case and guide private action)—or that we should hedge our bets by concocting case-specific standards or issuing opaque opinions—is in my view indefensible. The-times-they-are-a-changin’ is a feeble excuse for disregard of duty.

This was a case concerning the privacy of text messages sent while on the job. Despite being dissatisfied with the limited nature of the court’s decision, he concurred with the majority opinion.

A much more detailed consideration of it all is made by Ralph Losey who blogs on legal matters (and seems to be a bit embarrassed at his agreement with Scalia in this case). He also invokes many more apt Dylan lyrics in his treatise: The-times-they-are-a-changin’ is a feeble excuse for disregard of duty.

Bobs & Ends

Tonight, Bob Dylan and his band, continuing on their European tour, are set to play in la “Halle Tony Garnier” in the town of Lyon, in France. Tony Garnier is of-course the name of the bass player in Bob Dylan’s band, and he has been the mainstay of that band for over twenty years. Nevertheless, the French did not actually name that concert hall in Lyon in honor of Bob Dylan’s bass player, but rather in honor of the architect Tony Garnier (1869 – 1948). He designed the hall, in fact, which opened in 1905. Still, one can imagine that Bob’s Tony Garnier will be smiling even more than usual at tonight’s gig, and the situation might even coax a joke out of Dylan himself, who doesn’t seem to have been terribly talkative in a while.

Today’s show is the sixteenth performance of this tour, which has nine shows remaining, ending on the 4th of July in Limerick, Ireland. (After a one month break, a U.S. tour will kick off in Austin, Texas.) With most of the shows to date being in Eastern Europe, it seems there hasn’t been as much in the way of news and reviews as there usually is, at least for us English-speaking types. Looking at the set lists, there hasn’t been any tremendous departure from recent tours. Forever Young has returned as an encore number. There is one little-heard song which has shown up twice so far, however, having not been played live by Dylan in over ten years, and that is What Good Am I?, a song from 1989’s Oh Mercy. I would think it’s a pretty fair guess that it occurred to Bob to pull this one out after having heard the recent version by Tom Jones.To a songwriter like Bob, I bet it’s a treat to hear his song sung by someone with those kind of chops. Sure: Tom Jones is not exactly Frank Sinatra, and he is 70 years old now, but he’s a seriously musical singer all the same. It’s some kind of compliment when he picks your song and gives it the full treatment, I would think.

Bob performed What Good Am I? on June 3rd in Sofia, Bulgaria, and on June 12th in Linz, Austria. A clip of the latter performance might be heard at this link. It’s good stuff, and I do think it owes quite a bit to the arrangement by Jones, although the song by its nature really has to be done in this kind of slow, reflective manner. Still, maybe Bob has decided to do What Good Am I? just like Tom Jones from now on, kind of like he does All Along the Watchtower à la Jimi Hendrix …

What good am I if I know and don’t do
If I see and don’t say, if I look right through you
If I turn a deaf ear to the thunderin’ sky
What good am I?

Elton John in Israel

As I alluded to previously, one nice thing about Elton is that he doesn’t take kindly to people telling him where he can and can’t play his music. Last night he played in Tel Aviv. Considering the kind of pressure that’s brought to bear on any artist once they announce a gig in Israel these days, it’s a testament to the principles of each one who sees it through.

And Rod Stewart will be performing in Israel on June 30th. So kudos to Sharon and Phyllis, who, I don’t mind saying, are really putting Bob Dylan to shame in this regard.

Addendum: Those unfamiliar with “Sharon” and “Phyllis” would find an explanatory reference in this interview with Elton, in which, oddly enough, he also credits Sarah Palin with having grande cojones, and not in an entirely uncomplimentary sense.

Is Elton a budding neo-con?

Addendum II: Some remarks Elton is reported to have made at the show in Tel Aviv last night:

“Shalom, we are so happy to be back here! Ain’t nothing gonna stop us from coming, baby,” John said, with a fist in the air.The piano man then took a swipe at those artists, including Elvis Costello, Santana, the Pixies and Devendra Banhart, who have bailed on Concerts in recent weeks.

“Musicians spread love and peace, and bring people together. That’s what we do,” he said. “We don’t cherry-pick our conscience.”

You go, Reggie!

Hentoff on Obama: One of the most dangerous presidents we’ve ever had

There’s a short question and answer session with writer Nat Hentoff at this link: “A Steady Voice on Jazz and Politics, Still Going Strong.” He has just passed his 85th birthday. There may be a lot of Dylan fans out there who know him only by virtue of that classic Playboy interview with Bob from the mid-sixties, but he’s done a fair few things besides that. The interviewer in this case is trying to tie together Hentoff’s appreciation of jazz with his political perceptions, which may well be a pointless endeavor, but leads to this exchange:

Q: I’ve read that Barack Obama is a jazz fan. What do you think he could learn from listening to jazz?

I heard that, too. Somebody told me that he has Coltrane on his iPod. But that doesn’t mean that anybody who listens to John or listens to Louie Armstrong’s “West End Blues” is going to be then transformed. Shelby Steele, who’s a very astute writer, wrote a book about Obama just before he came into office. And he said Obama is a man of many masks. And it’s hard to find out who the decent Obama is. In terms of civil liberties, I don’t see anybody there. And it could be that he responds to Coltrane.

But my sense of Obama, and I certainly have followed him very closely, is that his main concern is himself and how he’s going to look and achieve the power and the prestige that he wants. I think in many ways, and it sounds very hyperbolic, he’s one of the most dangerous presidents we’ve ever had. So as you can tell, I am not an admirer of Barack Obama, even though he listens to John Coltrane. If John were still alive, I would have the temerity to say, “Why don’t you see if you can get to talk to this guy?” And furthermore, “Maybe you can get deeper into this guy.”

Bob Dylan and the New World Order

Thanks very much to reader Jay for this: A few days ago, on the Alex Jones (AM) radio show in the U.S., the subject of Bob Dylan came up. Jay happened to be listening to the station and heard it. I haven’t been a listener to that show myself, but I guess you could say that Jones partakes in a brand of rather edgy talk radio. Jones apparently referenced Bob Dylan in relation to the “New World Order” on a previous show, and in this segment (listen to the clip here) he responds to a caller who questions him about it. His fundamental point is that, “Bob Dylan knows all about the New World Order.” To buttress his belief, he quotes Continue reading “Bob Dylan and the New World Order” »