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The young Dylan on TV
October 4, 2008 4:32 AM   Subscribe

Back in 1963, a TV special called "Folk Songs and More Folk Songs" aired, which featured a cross section of the "folk" artists who were at that time just beginning to receive wider media exposure. Aside from the squeaky-clean, white bread embarrassment of groups like The Brothers Four, the show redeemed itself with performances by a very young Bob Dylan, who sang The Ballad of Hollis Brown (with banjo and bass accompaniment) and Man of Constant Sorrow. And here's two more very early Dylan TV appearances, from Canada, 1964: A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall and Girl From the North Country. Here's the same Girl From the North Country performed years later, once again on broadcast TV, in duet with Johnny Cash, from the Johnny Cash Show.

The wonderful Staple Singers were also a part of "Folk Songs And More Folk Songs", but unfortunately their segments of the broadcast haven't shown up on YouTube. Only the show intro (linked in this FPP under The Brothers Four and the outro (I'll link to it here, though it's kind of awful) are to be found on YT. So, I'll just go ahead and add a link here to the Staple Singers' classic, I'll Take You There, accompanied, of course, by the ace session men of Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
posted by flapjax at midnite (23 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
The glorious paradoxes of art: We all turned to "folk" music in the mid-sixties, seduced by its directness, simplicity, and authenticity... But what could be less authentic than a 20-year-old, middle class jewish boy, with a sheltered and privileged past, croaking in an old man's voice that he was a "Man of Constant Sorrow"? Surely, the Brothers Four, who appeared to be more or less exactly what they were, are the more "authentic" act. Yet Dylan, playing a character role no lesss ably than Jayne Mansfield or John Wayne, is mesmerizing and electrifying -- a completely convincing actor. (As he himself has said of this character, "Bob Dylan is somebody who I am just every once in a while"). The man is a miracle of art in 1963, the culture was not crying out for a skinny, dirty-haired, distant-eyed growler of not-particularly melodic versions of old folk songs, blowing wheezy, tuneless harmonica riffs. Bob Dylan created the demand for Bob Dylan all by himself. An incredible achievement. Who could have predicted the impact that this little scrap of obscure artistic ambition would have on world culture? That's why these early clips are so fascinating. (What's always intrigued me about the Johnny Cash-Bob Dylan "Girl From the North Country" clip, as well as the "Nashville Skyline" cut, is the sheer horribleness of the singing, the near-total absence of vocal synchrony, the lack of harmony and utter incompatibility of the singers. As a duet, it's a train-wreck, kept from tumbling into the canyon only by the strength of the basic melody, which, like all good folk songs, is almost indestructible.)
posted by Faze at 5:25 AM on October 4, 2008 [12 favorites]


Listen to the new Dylan "Bootleg Series" release free here: Disc 1, Disc 2.
posted by EarBucket at 6:06 AM on October 4, 2008 [6 favorites]


Hey, thanks EarBucket! I'm just now listening to that first tune on Disc 1, sounds great.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:09 AM on October 4, 2008


No problem--I was actually on my way to post it as an FPP, but I figured two Dylan posts in a row might be excessive.

I'm only five songs in myself, but so far the biggest surprise has been track four, the alternate version of "Someday Baby" from Modern Times. It's a vast improvement on the version from the album, in my opinion.
posted by EarBucket at 6:13 AM on October 4, 2008


Agreed EarBucket - and thanks for the reminder!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:55 AM on October 4, 2008


EarBucket is a fucking hero.
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:20 AM on October 4, 2008


I discovered that "Girl from the North Country" clip a month or so ago and even after watching it 20 times in a row (and again just now) I am still overwhelmed by the beauty of it, every single time.
posted by hecho de la basura at 7:47 AM on October 4, 2008


Oh wow, just listened to Standing in the Doorway. I love the official, but that is badass.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:51 AM on October 4, 2008


Upon further investigation, it's Dreamin' of You that is badass, but has several lyrical bits from SitD.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:56 AM on October 4, 2008


Yeah, I've noticed that in several of the unused tracks he salvaged phrases and used them in other songs. Depending on your opinion of Bob Dylan, this either demonstrates his brilliant, agile, magpie-like lyricism, or his tendency to come up with interesting couplets and stick them together in more or less random order.

Or both.
posted by EarBucket at 8:04 AM on October 4, 2008


Oh, I'd say both, for sure.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:06 AM on October 4, 2008


And as far as the salvaging phrases and using them in other songs, that's not especially unusual among songwriters, I'd say. It's just that with someone of Dylan's caliber, the outtakes, bootlegs, etc. are so studied and pored over and heard, that, well, we just know about those bits, and we see the process. With lots of other songwriters, we don't get as many peeks behind the curtain.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:09 AM on October 4, 2008


Yeah, that's a good point. There's a fascination with Dylan's creative process that I don't think is equaled in another pop artist's work. You almost have to go to classic literature criticism to find the same kind of inspection of the sausage-making.
posted by EarBucket at 8:13 AM on October 4, 2008


But what could be less authentic than a 20-year-old, middle class jewish boy, with a sheltered and privileged past, croaking in an old man's voice that he was a "Man of Constant Sorrow"?

though i agree that Dylan was a conduit for authentic americana, it must be pointed out that being a middle class boy from Duluth and Hibbing is rather different from being a middle class boy from the suburbs of some big city. it is impossible to grow up here without coming into regular, even incessant, contact with working class sorrows and the men and women (and world) for which he was lucky enough to speak. besides the fact that the middle class here has always been a breath away from being working class. boom and bust. mostly bust.

hard times are the air we breathe in these parts. and though i never thought much of Dylan until i moved here, his voice means a great deal to someone who's experienced the vast wasteland of a pit mine.
posted by RedEmma at 9:30 AM on October 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


Upon further investigation, it's Dreamin' of You that is badass, but has several lyrical bits from SitD.

Available as a free download on his website.
posted by Knappster at 12:51 PM on October 4, 2008


Available as a free download on his website.
posted by Knappster at 3:51 PM on October 4 [+] [!]

Eponysterical!
posted by RussHy at 3:47 PM on October 4, 2008


Still my hero...
posted by blessedlyndie at 3:48 PM on October 4, 2008


Just spent the evening searching for Dylan tracks on YouTube, and now this wonderful post! This is going to be a great month, what with the release of the new Bootleg CD... and I'll be taking my wife to the opening night (in Victoria, BC) of Dylan's North American tour, on October 23.

This version of Cry A While kicks absolute ass.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:48 PM on October 4, 2008


Go ahead, laugh at the Brothers Four. But there was that moment in the mid-sixties when they bridged the gap between Suited Crooner (think Mel Torme) and the Grateful Dead. That is no small feat.
posted by telstar at 11:29 PM on October 4, 2008


I just watched most of the Man of Constant Sorrow video, and Goddamn, That Was Horrible. I can't watch any more.

Also, what Faze said.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 11:52 PM on October 4, 2008


Thanks, flapjax at midnite. These are great videos.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:32 PM on October 5, 2008


As per Faze's comment: Johnny seldom meshed well in duets with the guests on his shows, even the ones he seemed to get along with...(if Youtube clips and my memories are any indication).
posted by bonefish at 2:08 AM on October 6, 2008


Mr Cash was never good duets guy. No one can blend with that freaky baritone he had.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:27 AM on October 6, 2008


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