Monday, May 9, 2011

The big seven-oh

Did you know that both Bob Dylan and Citizen Kane turned 70 this year? The influence of both on their respective art forms has been inestimable. We have quite a few super-cool Dylan items at present, including a two-CD set of demos and an awesome boxed set of the original mono recordings. We also have two illustrated biographies. In one of them, Chronicles, he talks about the musicians that moved him from a number of genres. They include Roy Orbison ("his stuff mixed all the styles and some that hadn't even been invented yet ... he sounded like he was singing from an Olympian mountaintop and he meant business ... he was deadly serious … no pollywog and no fledgling juvenile. There wasn't anything else on the radio like him. I'd listen and wait for another song, but next to Roy the playlist was strictly dullsville ... gutless and flabby."), Judy Garland ("'The Man That Got Away'... always did something to me.... [She] was from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, a town about twenty miles away from where I was from. Listening to Judy was like listening to the girl next door. She was way before my time, and like the Elton John song says, 'I would have liked to have known you, but I was just a kid.'"), Johnny Rivers (Of all the versions of my recorded songs, [Johnny's 'Positively 4th Street'] was my favorite. It was obvious that we were from the same side of town, had been read the same citations ... were cut from the same cloth ... I liked his version better than mine. I listened to it over and over again. Most of the cover versions of my songs seemed to take them out into left field somewhere, but Rivers's version had the mandate down ... It was obvious that life had the same external grip on him as it did on me."),
Harry Belafonte ("Harry was the best balladeer in the land and everybody knew it. He was a fantastic artist ... There never was a performer who crossed so many lines as Harry. Astoundingly and as unbelievable as it might have seemed, I'd be making my professional recording debut with Harry, playing harmonica on one of his albums called 'Midnight Special.' Strangely enough, this was the one memorable recording date that would stand out in my mind for years to come. Even my own sessions would become lost in abstractions. With Belafonte I felt like I'd become anointed in some kind of way."), Mike Seeger (As for being a folk musician, Mike was the supreme archetype ... It's not as if he just played everything well, he played these songs as good as it was possible to play them ... What I had to work at, Mike already had in his genes ... The thought occurred to me that maybe I'd have to write my own folk songs, ones that Mike didn't know."), Duke Ellington ("I'd listen to a lot of jazz and bebop records, too ... there were a lot of similarities between some kinds of jazz and folk music. 'Tattoo Bride,' 'A Drum Is a Woman,' 'Tourist Point of View' and 'Jump for Joy'—all by Duke Ellington—they sounded like sophisticated folk music."), songwriter Harold Arlen ("in Harold's songs, I could hear rural blues and folk music. There was an emotional kinship there ... I could never escape from [his] bittersweet, lonely intense world."), and bebop masters Parker, Monk, and Gillespie ("If I needed to wake up real quick, I'd put on 'Swing Low Sweet Cadillac' or 'Umbrella Man' by Dizzy Gillespie. 'Hot House' by Charlie Parker was a good record to wake up to ... 'Ruby, My Dear' by Monk was another one. Monk played at the Blue Note on 3rd Street ... I dropped in there once in the afternoon, just to listen--told him that I played folk music up the street. 'We all play folk music,' he said.")
Tomorrow: "Rosebud!"


  1. Bobby @ 70! Hard to believe. Seems that the greats never fail to acknowledge their inspiration and influences! Always humbling to hear artists speak of each other with such reverence, which has become a lost art of sorts! Yeah, the Witmark demos are stellar...

  2. i'm no audiophile, but these mono recordings are absolutely the best dylan's songs have ever sounded!