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David Porter » Entries tagged with "Bob Dylan"

Bob Dylan’s Achievement Awards Are Still One Short

Lauded, awarded praised and endlessly debated, Bob Dylan reaches 70 in May 2011. Isn’t it about time he won the greatest honour of all: the Nobel Prize? On May 24th 2011, the most analysed poet of the 20th century, Bob Dylan, celebrates his 70th birthday. At an age when many are in retirement, Dylan shows no signs of slowing. His Never Ending Tour, a popular name for his touring schedule, has played around 100 gigs a year since June 1988. It continues. While Dylan and his backing band evolve as the tour progresses, the opening announcement remains unchanged. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the poet laureate of rock and roll. The voice of the promise of the Sixties counter-culture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock….’ He is all … Read entire article »

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Blonde on Blonde Revisited and Reinterpreted for Today

From a man as controversial as Bob Dylan, who reinvents himself regularly, it’s hard to choose one album to mark a pivotal turning point, but this is it. In a 2006 review of the All-Time 100 Albums on Time, Alan Light included Blonde on Blonde (1966), coming at the end of a 14-month period of creativity from Dylan, that he never equalled. Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited preceded what became labelled ‘rock’s first significant double album’. Significant it was, and remains a seminal work. Light described it as having ‘a tense, shimmering tone’, and after the ‘tiresome’ opener, Rainy Day Women 12 and 35, it went on to achieve Dylan’s greatest heights, ‘the very pinnacle of rock’. British Dylan devotee Roger Ford agreed, publishing a major work, reconstructing … Read entire article »

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Protest Theatre Is Everywhere: Past, Present and Future

Protest by performance is as old as mankind. It seems that In an age of future conformity, there’ll always be protesters somewhere breaking boundaries. What artists in all genres choose to protest about/against, how they seek to effect change, is open to different interpretations, from geographical to racial, from historical to social and from environmental to economic. After the 1960s, Bob Dylan denied his songs were part of the protest movement (war, nuclear bomb, drugs, youth), yet clearly, songs like Maggie’s Farm, Blowin’ in the Wind, Hurricane, Oxford Town, With God On Our Side, for instance, convey messages strong enough to stir emotion against injustice and prejudice. That is just what protest theatre does, whether it be on stage, in song/dance, through paintings, movies or speeches declaimed like Martin Luther King’s 1963, … Read entire article »

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Hotels in the Arts: Special Places in Film, Music and Literature

Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” and The Eagles’ “Hotel California” are not the only hotels, real and imagined, that have played a major part in great arts. Hotel businesses market themselves on historical events or people, celebrity connections, geographical/movie locations to develop customer bases. Lucy Komisar, in The Travel Lady said: “no longer just places to sleep and shower, hotels are now environments for experience.” She reckoned in Paris, for example, the left bank Bel Ami (utilising Guy de Maupassant’s 1885 novel) and for art links, the right bank Hilton Arc de Triomphe, should be visited. Such boutique hotels sit alongside guest houses, inns, pubs, clubs and restaurants the world over, exploiting all connections to boost trade. Hotels in Literature Hotels are perfect settings for creativity. Hedwig Baum’s novel Grand Hotel (1929; movie 1932) was set … Read entire article »

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Pop Songs and Band Names Inspired By Places, Names and Numbers

A great party game, or one to occupy everybody on long journeys: think of all the song titles about places, people, night, day, love, clowns, food, colours. From time to time, a band comes along with an original, unusual or plain weird name. Who’d have thought The Grateful Dead, The Kinks, The Mindbenders, Moby Grape, Limp Bizkit, A Flock of Seagulls or The Electric Prunes would take off? Other out of the ordinary, left field names, like Large Marge and the Tell ‘Em I Sent Ya’s or Dead Ant Farm are known by fans alone. Actual places have become common inspiration for band names: Alabama, Boston, Chicago, Europe, Asia, Bay City Rollers; while locality inspiration struck E Street Band, Kansas, Sugarhill Gang, and Backstreet Boys. However, it’s what inspires songs that is … Read entire article »

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Musicians of the 1960s: 21st Century Relevance and Respect

Many of those singer-songwriters, performers who used talents to launch careers four decades ago, can still speak with weighty voices to today’s youngsters. Jack Madani’s Pop and Rock Music in the 60s: A Brief History gave a concise account of the main artists, the movers and shakers who led up to the explosion of 60s’ music. Starting with the roots of rock and roll, before the decade began, right up to the early 70s, when the dream began to unravel. Many stars who shone, particularly in the late 60s, are no longer around for whatever reason. Their brightness has dimmed. Death took Janis Joplin, Jimmi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and John Lennon, for example. Who knows what they would have achieved musically if they had lived? Others are still doing gig circuits, … Read entire article »

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The Arts and Mathematics Are Sometimes Close Relations

From the Geometry of Innocence to Mondrian’s abstracts to Mozart’s Effect to Minimalist music & painting, the arts owe a debt to the science of mathematics. Maths is popularly thought definite, absolute and provably true, while art is the exact opposite, often defying logic. However, there are few certain realities, and some of the greatest works of art have drawn on mathematics to demonstrate that. Geometry as Artistic Fundamental Albert Einstein said: In so far as statements of geometry speak about reality, they’re not certain, and in so far as they are certain, they don’t speak about reality.’ Geometry is the essence in architecture and design, but is also a powerful image-maker. The Geometry of Innocence is a book (2001) by US photographer Schles, about which Library Journal says: ‘his critical eye brought him … Read entire article »

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Bob Dylan and The Movies: His Songs and His Acting

 Poet, singer, songwriter, musician, painter, actor: there is no limit to what Bob Dylan brings to the world through his creativity and originality. Bob Dylan is no stranger to screen, whether concert recordings or documentaries. He has helped make and participated in movies, using his music and his many-times reinvented persona. Documentaries About the Man According to Internet Movie Database (IMDb), D A Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back (1967), famous for opening with Subterranean Homesick Blues word cards, was a portrait of the artist as a young man, following Dylan round a three week British tour two years earlier. Among others, Joan Baez and British troubadour Donovan are featured. IMDb also rate Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005) as a portrait of an artist as a … Read entire article »

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Bob Dylan, His Lyrics, The Bible, Scripture and Religion

The Bible sits in the centre of much of the world’s cultural heritage. So does Dylan, echoing or thundering its imagery, often in ways people don’t realise. Folk purists who booed him when he went electric in 1965/66, serious students of the man and his canon (Dylanologists) or friends/fans who feel they know him personally (Bobheads), have to agree to disagree about the importance of the Bible/Christianity in Dylan’s writing. Others might argue that music is the medium and words don’t work on the page anyway. Are the lyrics actually poetry? Aren’t they meant to be oral performance, not literary study? Dylan, the Well-Read Jewish Writer So how does a Jewish-American boy born of a father named Abram Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, raised in Hibbing, … Read entire article »

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Weird and Wonderful Song Titles, Lyrics and Band Names

Some big music hits have come from the most unlikely words, the strangest titles and by the oddest named groups; but if they strike a chord, who cares? In 2009 self-confessed ‘failed musician’, Johnny Sharp, published Crap Lyrics, (Portico Books, Annova), dedicated to “thousands of songwriters over the years who’ve sweated blood in the pursuit of song writing excellence”. It’s catalogued “humour”, but raises serious issues about how lyrics are written, titles chosen and bands name themselves. Where Do Those Lyrics Come From? Lyrics.time identifies several thousand weird, out of left field or just plain bad lyrics. Words in the cold light of a printed page, may seem strange; but married to melody, bizarre words can make hits. Johnny Sharp includes Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin … Read entire article »

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