Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan turned 70 yesterday. I was going to blog about this fact yesterday, as it would have made sense to do so, but when it came to doing so I soon realised, what can you say about Bob Dylan? There isn’t a sincerely-intentioned eulogy that hasn’t already been written and read aloud with far more elegance than I could ever dream of mustering in his honour. Pete Hamill, for example, writing in 1974 for the Blood on the Tracks liner notes, declared Dylan “the one who has most clearly taken the roiled sea and put it in a glass.” How very beautiful.

Dylan, undoubtedly, is the greatest poet of several generations. He exudes intelligence and wit and, in my humble opinion, gives more in his weakest moments than myriad others are able to proudly present in their finest. He wrote some of the most important and meaningful songs ever recorded – ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, ‘Gates of Eden’, to name but three – and influenced most of the musicians whose craft we continue to value so highly and therefore tend to speak of most often in this relatively quiet corner of cyberspace. He must have written and recorded at least 500 songs, many of them since reinterpreted over and over again by hundreds of varied performers; indeed, many of the best-known songs released to great critical acclaim by the world’s best-known acts are actually his. Among his serious observations on society and jovial tales laced with characters that literary history’s most accomplished story-tellers would have been pleased as punch to have created, he has given us such mesmeric songs about love (such as ‘To Ramona’ and ‘Nettie Moore’, written 40-odd years apart), as well as the most powerful and passionate songs of hate (‘Hurricane’, ‘Masters of War’).

And just how perfect is the phrase “jingle-jangle morning”?

Anyway… I didn’t write this post yesterday because, simply, I chose to listen instead and allow time for you to perhaps see, hear or read something of particular interest which you may now care to share with the rest of us; to maybe discover a song of his for the very first time; or to reacquaint yourself with one that you may not have heard in ages (as I did, with ‘Mississippi’ from Love and Theft).

If, like me, you can lose several hours at a single stretch doing nothing other than listening to his songs, concentrating on his words and marvelling at his poetic brilliance, please don’t hold back. Your favourite songs, albums, lyrics, concerts – whatever. I believe that I could list 70 of his songs which mean most to me (and in doing so it would later pain me to realise the ones I’d temporarily forgotten about), so I am sure that plenty of you could do the same. If not, and for the sake of blog brevity, seven will do quite nicely; remembering, of course, the many cover versions already touched upon, and using Rolling Stone as a helpful guide.

Or don’t. Just listen and maybe try again tomorrow.

I leave seven of his lines for you to identify and, I hope, be inspired by.

Bob Dylan, for inspiring David and so many of us, we thank and salute you.

1. “Time is an ocean but it ends at the shore”
2. “In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand at the mongrel dogs who teach”
3. “I don’t want to straight-face you, race or chase you”
4. “Everything I’ve ever known to be right has been proven wrong”
5. “He felt the heat of the night hit him like a freight train”
6. “I’m strumming on my gay guitar, smoking a cheap cigar”
7. “For you don’t count the dead when God’s on your side”

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour’s official blog, The Blog (‘Features’ previously being its rather naff title), affectionately – or lazily – shortened to ‘FEd’.

50 thoughts on “Bob Dylan”

  1. He’s a poet, don’t you know it… and he’s as free as a bird on the wing…

    The trailing moss in mystico, the purple blossom soft as snow
    My tears keep flowing to the sea
    Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, it takes a thief to catch a thief
    For whom does the bell toll for, love?
    It tolls for you and me

    Lisa

    1. “He’s a poet, don’t you know it… and he’s as free as a bird on the wing…”

      Now there’s an almost buried treasure! Thanks to David for saving it from the musical necropolis. 🙂

  2. 1. Oh Sister
    2. My Back Pages
    3. All I Really Want to Do
    4. Nettie Moore
    5. Simple Twist of Fate 🙂
    6. Standing in the Doorway
    7. With God on Our Side

    I love the Bob Dylan-penned All Along the Watchtower, which Jimi gave justice like no other; Manfred Mann’s, Mighty Quinn, (really titled Quinn the Eskimo) and It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry as sung on the Concert for Bangladesh album but for me, hands-down my favourite Bob Dylan song is You’re a Big Girl Now (I’d almost give my eye teeth to find a video of him performing it).

    And it’s never too late to give thanks and praise for our many musical blessings! 😉

  3. With all due respect to all you Bob lovers!! …I can’t stand the man… he’s a bit, IMHO, like our own Van Morrison for me, writes great songs with great lyrics but his voice just wears me down.

    An album of Bob covers from David and the likes would be great… apologies FEd and all.

    Peace. :v

    1. I agree 100% Paul and would go further to say that his songs are not that great in retrospect. I much prefer Donovan plus he has a better voice.

      Cheers, Howard

  4. Belated happy birthday Mr. Dylan!

    And in time: happy towel day to all fellow bloggers. 😉

    Regards

    Taki

  5. I only recognised the first one: ‘Oh Sister’.

    Now, how about Bob Dylan and French poetry/literature?

    Hats off to you if you can identify these two songs:

    #1 – One where he refers to the poets Verlaine and Rimbaud and their tumultuous relationship.

    #2 – One where he mentions a fictional character from Victor Hugo’s novel ‘Notre Dame De Paris’, i.e Le Bossu (Hunchback).

    And no, I won’t give you the exact lyrics, so that you can’t cheat. 😉

    1. The same one he mentions Robin Hood, Cinderella, T.S. Eliot and Ophelia … 😉

    2. #2 – A strange, surreal place that The Hunchback of Notre Dame is sharing with Cinderella, Romeo, Cain and Abel, Ophelia, The Good Samaritan, The Phantom of The Opera, Bette Davis… where Einstein is disguised as Robin Hood… 😕

      Oh you know it (the song, not the place 😉 ).

    3. I don’t know where the first one is from but I am extremely surprised to realise that I know where the second one is from. 😀

      I won’t tell Fed (yet) Michèle. 😉

      The only clue I will give you Fed, is that it’s from the first Dylan album I heard and really got into, about 1971 for me but the album is earlier. You might remember I told you about it. I’m chuckling here in case it’s driving you nuts because I’m gobsmacked I know it given I’m a late catcher-up on Dylan.

      I’ll give my answer to Lorraine to be opened if Fed gives in. :))

      ash

    4. Ah, I’ve got it now. 😛

      There’s also a Good Samaritan – he’s dressing, he’s getting ready for the show, he’s going to the carnival tonight.

    5. “Across the street they’ve nailed the curtains
      They’re getting ready for the feast
      The Phantom of the Opera
      In a perfect image of a priest
      They are spoon-feeding Casanova
      To get him to feel more assured
      Then they’ll kill him with self-confidence
      After poisoning him with words.”

      A favorite song off of a favorite album by a favorite poet/songwriter/singer/conduit to another plane of existence!

      “Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
      Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
      But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
      You can tell by the way she smiles
      See the primitive wallflower freeze
      When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
      Hear the one with the mustache say, “Jeeze
      I can’t find my knees”
      Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
      But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel”

      You know, I could happily go on like this all night–and have done so in the past haven’t I?

      🙂 Gabrielle

    6. So… Hats off to you all. 😉

      And Ash, maybe you could google the lyrics:

      ‘Situations have ended sad
      Relationships have all been bad
      Mine’ve been like Verlaine’s and Rimbaud
      But there’s no way I can compare
      All those scenes to this affair’

      By the way, in 1990, Bob Dylan received France’s highest cultural award, the ‘Commandeur dans l`Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’ from Culture Minister Jack Lang (who also allowed Pink Floyd to play at the prestigious Palace Of Versailles in 1988. Wow, well done, Mr Lang! 🙂 )

  6. I got: All I Really Want To Do; Simple Twist of Fate; With God on Our Side.

    Some of my favourites:

    Positively 4th Street – Which has to be the best cynical song ever written.
    Jokerman
    Visions of Johanna
    Mr Tamborine Man
    If Not For You
    Baby Stop Crying
    Tangled Up In Blue
    Not Dark Yet
    Hurricane
    Make You Feel My Love
    One Too Many Mornings
    Is Your Love In Vain
    True Love Tends To Forget
    Dark Eyes
    I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
    It’s All Over Now Baby Blue
    Dignity
    Forever Young
    Like A Rolling Stone

    Always loved Bob Dylan’s songs just not necessarily with him singing them. These days I much prefer him singing them, then again I didn’t like Marmite until I was 28.

    We were lucky enough to see him in concert a couple of years ago, quite funny listening to people trying to sing along to ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, he’s not one for faithfully reproducing the recorded version is he?

    1. “Mona Lisa must have had the highway blues
      You can tell by the way she smiles”

      — ‘Visions of Johanna’

    2. D’oh! :))

      FEd, I hadn’t read down to your lyrical post yet. Such a great song, isn’t it?

      How ’bout ~

      “Your breath is sweet
      Your eyes are like two jewels in the sky
      Your back is straight, your hair is smooth
      On the pillow where you lie
      But I don’t sense affection
      No gratitude or love
      Your loyalty is not to me
      But to the stars above”

      And this one ~

      “I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
      Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
      I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
      Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand”

      🙂

    3. Thank you. 🙂

      In keeping with the theme, I give you Dylan ~

      “Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
      Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
      The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
      Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
      Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
      Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
      With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
      Let me forget about today until tomorrow”

      I think we’d all like to experience a jingle jangle morning, wouldn’t we?

      Peace ‘n’ love to you!
      Gabrielle

  7. Sorry FEd, You know I’m obliged to do more than seven… 😉

    All I Really Want To Do
    Blowin’ In The Wind
    Cold Irons Bound
    Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright
    Every Grain Of Sand
    Forever Young
    Gotta Serve Somebody
    High Water (for Charlie Patton)
    I Shall Be Released
    Just Like A Woman
    Knockin’ On Heavens Door
    Lay, Lady, Lay
    Maggies Farm
    Not Dark Yet
    One Too Many Mornings
    Positively 4th Street
    Queen Jane Approximately
    Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
    Shelter From The Storm
    Tonight I’ll Be Staying Hear With You
    Under The Red Sky
    Visions Of Johanna
    What Good Am I
    X – ?
    You’re A Big Girl Now
    (Love Minus)Zero/No Limit

    I see that David chose ‘Ballad In Plain D’ on Desert Island Discs back in April 2003.

    Here’s a link to other people who have chosen to listen to Bob’s songs in their solitude, On An Island.

    Oh! By the way… By sheer coincidence, Roger reveals his choices this weekend.

    Should be interesting…

    I wonder which one(s) he’ll choose, being as the prelude to The Wall show contained several of the great man’s songs.

    1. Thanks, Ken. That’s another half-hour lost to Dylan, then. Let’s see who, in my fickleness, I will now decide that I quite like actually. I’m not sure that a fondness for Bob is enough to redeem Michael Eavis, though. Let’s see what else he chose.

      Looking forward to this weekend’s Desert Island Discs, which everyone can listen to online, don’t forget.

  8. What a difficult choice.

    Here are the seven songs I would include in my list this morning, but I know everything could be different tomorrow, or even in the next hour. 😀

    – When the Ship Comes In
    – Chimes of Freedom
    – Like a Rolling Stone
    – Visions of Johanna
    – Masters of War
    – License to Kill
    – Shelter from the Storm

    I’ve always loved Bob Dylan’s writing style, even if, honestly, some of his lyrics are not so clear to me. For example, “Desolation Row” is a song I really like. From an aesthetic point of view, it seems great to me, but I don’t think I will ever completely understand its meaning.

    Probably, my English is not good enough to decode them, but this kind of Dylan’s songs makes me feel like waking up after having a dream which, I’m sure, was significant, but whose meaning has almost slipped away. :))

    1. I love ‘Chimes of Freedom’. What a poem that is.

      “Even though a cloud’s white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
      And the hypnotic, splattered mist was slowly lifting
      Electric light still struck, like arrows
      Fired but for the ones
      Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting”

      Absolute brilliance.

  9. I have to say that until I discovered the blog and the Bob-lovin’ F’ed I had hardly any knowledge of Mr Dylan’s work – apart from the very obvious hits and standards that almost anyone would know. I also have to confess that whilst his legendary status, universal respect, great longevity and body of work are not open to question, I still haven’t exactly majored in him!

    No doubt this is partly because of his distinctive delivery which I find rather unmusical and I guess because the general tone of what I hear is not really “my kind of thing” ….. Typically I’m drawn to dynamic music rather than lyrics / poetry in my listening.

    If anyone would like to educate me as to songs I really really ought to listen to, feel free, but otherwise I feel so off the ball on this one that I can’t see myself ever catching up.

  10. Some of my favourite Bob Dylan covers:

    – Just Like a Woman – Joe Cocker
    – All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix
    – Mr. Tambourine Man – The Byrds
    – Like a Rolling Stone – Jimi Hendrix / Rolling Stones
    – My Back Pages – The Byrds / Ramones
    – The Times They Are a-Changin’ – Tracy Chapman
    – It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue – Joan Baez

    And have you ever heard Rage Against the Machine’s cover of “Maggie’s Farm”? I’m not sure if I like it, but it’s certainly a strange experiment. Here it is, if someone is interested, but be careful with the volume, especially at the beginning. 8|

    1. Me too. I’m almost certainly in the “Bob’s songs are best when covered” camp … but then, if he’s a writer and poet, there’s no disgrace in that.

    2. You’re welcome. 🙂

      More covers:

      – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Guns N’ Roses
      – It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue – Van Morrison

      “Percy’s Song” by Fairport Convention is also a beautiful (and very sad) song, in my opinion.

      I found it while browsing on YouTube and I immediately liked it, but I can’t say anything about the original version, because I never listened to it. I didn’t know Bob Dylan wrote this song.

    3. Here is the original version of ‘Percy’s Song’ by Bob Dylan, I think. Sounds like an old vinyl record. 🙂

      I love it, the story, the melody, the acoustic guitar and above all the harmonica at the end of the song.

      And I played my guitar
      Through the night to the day
      Turn, turn, turn again
      And the only tune
      My guitar could play
      Was, “Oh the Cruel Rain
      And the Wind”

  11. With all due respect to all you Bob lovers, but: did you ever listen to a modern day concert of him?

    Crap!

    He may have been on the front-line of pop music during some years, he disappeared in the mists of – very very loud – R&R afterwards. And he did so with his back to the public (literally and poetically).

    And yes, I like some of his texts and some of his music but refuse his declaration into saintliness.

  12. Thank God for David, though it seems David has gotten me through more times than the man upstairs.

    I love the site.

  13. I read on some “news agencies” about how Bob’s concert was censored in China. His response seemed to be, nope, it was fine.

    The next day the news indicated something of a past that included the use of drugs… really??? That’s all they had???

    If Bob had said, yes, they censored me, would the next day’s news have been: he saved an entire village from from the savage attacks of goats or whatever…

    Poor Bob, he is 70. He not only got to see China but he got to play his music for them. He appears to have been able to show the regular Chinese that us regulars like this music too, it’s nice to be friends… seems like David reached out to places like Gdansk and showed them the beauty that exists here too.

    I have never thought of David Gilmour and friends as well as Bob Dylan to be a better version of the foreign office than what we presently have… but I have to say, if I want myself represented across a foreign border because I’m too busy, then David and Bob are probably a good choice to represent my views to folks who may wonder if I’m okay or not.

    Happy birthday Bob! Thanks for letting me go on about this David, you guys make these times more secure than any missile.

    Andrew

  14. Love Bob Dylan. I think I posted a favorable review in this site of a concert of his that I attended a couple years ago. However, I couldn’t care less about whatever it is he’s rattling on about. I’m just in it for the music and pretty much just consider the voice of the singer/singers of any musical act as just another musical instrument. I don’t know what the hell it is they are saying most of the time anyways let alone trying to put it all together into anything meaningful. Don’t need any sermons/messages/political views etc. in musical form from anybody. If I want good words I’ll read a poem.

  15. Later … with David.

    Hey FEd, gang,

    Dutch TV station “Nederland 3” has programmed “Later with Jools” tomorrow at 00:35 (GMT+1)

    More info over on gids.publiekeomroep.nl

    Have a nice weekend,
    Ralph

  16. Happy birthday Bob.

    On another note there is a nice write up about Syd Barret in NME.

    Regards Damian

  17. How to spend (waste? 😉 ) a few more hours:

    Here, plenty of quizzes about Bob Dylan.

    I particularly recommend this one to all Math lovers. :))

  18. Off topic, but just wanted to celebrate the 4th anniversary of David´s 3 concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. I attended the one one May31st, and as you can see, I will never forget this spellbinding event!

  19. Song for Woody

    Hey, hey Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song
    Bout a crazy old world that’s coming along
    Seems sick and it’s hungry, it’s tired and torn
    It looks like it’s dying and it’s hardly been born.

  20. Hey David, we hope for your covers of Bob Dylan soon!!! Please do the version of “Spanish Boots Spanish Leather”.

    And I hope to see you in Argentina soon!

    We love you!!!

  21. This is off the subject but regards “The Wall” video. Just saw it today (May 31). I had heard of the O2 a few months ago. Had a feeling that when David joined Roger it might be there.

    Nice of Roger to release the videos. Gives us poor people in the colonies a chance to see David, Roger and Nick together.

  22. Hello!

    Some Bob Dylan concert recordings can be heard and seen on Wolfgang’s Vault.

    I found a note about that site in a magazine on my flight back from Athens/Greece yesterday. Never heard about Wolfgang Grajonca before, so I might tell you an old story… he was better known as Bill Graham.

    And there are not only Dylan recordings…

    Regards
    Herbert

  23. Bob Dylan is really great and the best. 😀 I like the three books of drawings and paintings that he published. It was all nice and his work has been exhibited in major art galleries.

    Belated happy birthday to Mr. Bob. 😉

  24. I was thinking that “Changing of the Guards” is another beautiful song, in my opinion. I like both the original and this cover version by Patti Smith.

    1. I too enjoyed reading that he won Prince of Asturias Award for Letters and also Riccardo Muti (such a fabulous conductor!) won the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts.

  25. Thanks David.

    I concur, what an astonishing influence Dylan’s had on contemporary music and poetry. But I would go further and dare to suggest that he may possibly be the most influential artist of the 20th century. It’s hard to imagine anyone having done more to affect modern artistic (Western) culture than Dylan. In politics to poetry, folk to rock, he’s has always managed to re-invent and redefine his craft, and remain relevant.

    What a deficit we would have if he’d never lived to breath life into the hearts of so many.

    In times of need, and inspiration, I always turn to music. And often Highway 61 Revisited is amongst those islands of pleasure I visit in the sea of life.

    Tristan

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