Bob Dylan gives a 30-minute speech
February 7, 2015 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Dylan performed no songs at the tribute to him. He just talked and talked. Here are some excerpts.
posted by Sir Rinse (30 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
from that second link:

"If you sang 'John Henry' as many times as me --'John Henry was a steel-driving man, died with a hammer in his hand. John Henry said a man ain't nothin' but a man. Before I let that steam drill drive me down I'll die with that hammer in my hand.' If you had sang that song as many times as I did, you'd have written 'How many roads must a man walk down' too."

posted by philip-random at 12:41 PM on February 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

Dylan seems to be in an interesting space right now. This speech seems more introspective and outwardly expressive than nearly any other public appearance he's ever done. (He's usually so enigmatic, given historical interview footage I've seen from him.)

His new project, an album of crooner songs, is a fascinating choice for him to make at this point in his career, and what I've heard of it is pretty fantastic. Not the turn you expect from Dylan, but when has he ever made turns anyone expected?

I wish a filming of the actual speech was available, because it sounds like a pretty great speech.
posted by hippybear at 12:50 PM on February 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Man, dissing Tom T Hall is like punching a kitten in the face.
posted by selfnoise at 12:55 PM on February 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

I spent the last month getting ready for two gigs (one last night, the other tonight) where, with 2 other guys, we do about 30 Dylan songs.
So I've spent a lot of time listening to him this year, and I have to say I'm really liking his voice and songwriting in the 21st century.
I'm going to have to share this post with them. Thanks.
posted by MtDewd at 1:45 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Dylan also poked fun at critics who trash his singing voice. "Why don't they say those same things about Leonard Cohen?" Dylan said. "Why do I get special treatment?"

If the Junos committee doesn't find an excuse to give Dylan a best male vocalist award, too, there is no justice in this world. (As I've said at length before, I think both men are great singers who have gotten better with age.)

If y'all want to hear more from Dylan in his own voice [1] but on the printed page, you must, must, must get Chronicles: Volume 1, and join me in wondering when Volume 2 will come out.

[1] Well, maybe a lot of people's voices. Huh.
posted by maudlin at 2:11 PM on February 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

Is it just me or did the shade-throwing seem unnecessary? Even for legends.
posted by BluesRedsYellows at 2:44 PM on February 7, 2015

Full transcript of speech
posted by hippybear at 3:46 PM on February 7, 2015 [8 favorites]

His new album is Frank Sinatra songs, not "crooner" songs. It's pretty great.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:54 PM on February 7, 2015

Thank you hippybear, and Sir Rinse for the post. Such a great speech!
posted by maupuia at 4:27 PM on February 7, 2015

"The album does include ten songs all originally recorded by Sinatra, but it’s maybe more accurate to think of it as a conscious return to the compositions of the pre-rock era (or, if you prefer, the pre-Dylan era), much in the way that Dylan’s two early-nineties records, Good As I Been to You and World Gone Wrong, were callbacks to country blues." [New Yorker]
posted by blucevalo at 5:30 PM on February 7, 2015

Bet you can't guess what he's grillin', though.
posted by ostranenie at 5:45 PM on February 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

You can look at Nashville pre-Kris [Kristofferson] and post-Kris, because he changed everything. That one song ["Sunday Morning Coming Down"] ruined Tom T. Hall's poker parties. It might have sent him to the crazy house. God forbid he ever heard any of my songs.

So good.
posted by Mothlight at 6:30 PM on February 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

I heard something today I never expected to hear, especially when I was 17 years old with the headphones on trying to hear every word in "Desolation Row."

Today my wife shouted at me from downstairs: "You got a free Bob Dylan CD in the mail from your friends at AARP."
posted by marxchivist at 8:04 PM on February 7, 2015 [7 favorites]

Yeah, 'ol Bob's on point:
Rock 'n' roll is a combination of blues, and it's a strange thing made up of two parts. A lot of people don't know this, but the blues, which is an American music, is not what you think it is. It's a combination of Arabic violins and Strauss waltzes working it out. But it's true.

The other half of rock 'n' roll has got to be hillbilly. And that's a derogatory term, but it ought not to be. That's a term that includes the Delmore Bros., Stanley Bros., Roscoe Holcomb, Clarence Ashley ... groups like that. Moonshiners gone berserk. Fast cars on dirt roads. That's the kind of combination that makes up rock 'n' roll, and it can't be cooked up in a science laboratory or a studio.
The bit about the blues is particularly nice.
posted by hap_hazard at 8:04 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wow. That was heartfelt and amazing.

All these songs are connected. Don't be fooled. I just opened up a different door in a different kind of way. It's just different, saying the same thing. I didn't think it was anything out of the ordinary.

He talks about critics treating him differently than other people, e.g., Linda Ronstadt, Harry Connick Jr. and others who record standards, or other old white guys who have non traditional voices, and kind of bemoans that criticism and asks why he gets it. UM BOB IT'S BECAUSE YOU ARE A MUCH MORE IMPORTANT ARTIST THAN ANY OF THEM. Your songs changed history. You're one of the most important artists of our time. It's extraordinary to me that he traces those connections through his songs and finds them the sort of ordinary result of the folk standards he was living and breathing. I mean, you see his point -- you see where they come from -- but no one but Bob could have added that wild, crazy, apocalyptic poetry to those themes.

I appreciated him acknowledging people he owed debts to and was proud he didn't leave out Baez.

Sunday Morning Coming Down is an amazing song. I used to listen to it with my dad in the car when I was a kid, and my dad appreciated that it told the truth, which was not usually done in that time and genre. I was just amazed that people had beer for breakfast -- my dad let me try a sip as a kid and I thought it was disgusting. (Parents listen up try this when your kids are about 10, I still can't drink the stuff.)
posted by onlyconnect at 8:15 PM on February 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

Pettiness which plays so rough meets Get Off My Lawn.

To recall the young Bob Dylan in Don't Look Back who would not accept or acknowledge some award that Albert Grossman kept trying to thrust into his hands, makes one shake one's head to see him crave such validation in late years.

Then again, this is someone whose performances for years have featured onstage box seats for those wealthy enough to afford them and whose concert riders require all minions who encounter him backstage to turn and face the wall until his Bobness passes by. Both of which are things which one would think his younger self would have found appalling.

And to use the occasion of yet one more award to get even and settle scores -- one would think such vindiction should be beneath a living god but then again he is but all too human. Besides his endless protean self-reinvention, this has been a constant in his life.
posted by y2karl at 10:32 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

whose concert riders require all minions who encounter him backstage to turn and face the wall until his Bobness passes by.

Citation needed. The only reference to this I can find is your unsourced offhand remark in another MeFi thread. The rider page floating around the internet is concerned with towels, ashtrays, and incandescent lighting.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:36 AM on February 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

Tangentially related, my favorite relatively recent Bob Dylan anecdote...

A police officer in Long Branch, New Jersey, picked Bob Dylan off the street because residents had complained about an old man walking around in the pouring rain and peering into the windows of a vacant home. She thereby had the experience that any Dylanologist prays for: Bob Dylan talked to her. A lot. But she didn’t listen to a lot of what he was saying — she just thought he was crazy. Here, she gives her most complete version of the experience. (cont'd...)
posted by fairmettle at 4:04 AM on February 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

...whose concert riders require all minions who encounter him backstage to turn and face the wall until his Bobness passes by.
That's Barry Manilow. Dylan, in my experience, had no such requirement the six shows of his I worked.
posted by Floydd at 6:54 AM on February 8, 2015 [6 favorites]

Well, then, I do seem to recall reading that somewhere and thinking 'oh, no...' at the time. Or perhaps it was something I was told. I stand happily corrected ito hear it apochryphal. As for the speech, I must confess my reaction was to clips I saw on the news last night and thinking, 'Jesus, he's Bob Dylan, why should he need to settle scores ?' But, then again, his award acceptance speeches have always been something else.
posted by y2karl at 7:32 AM on February 8, 2015

That story dates back many, many years and is almost certainly apocryphal. Bill Graham told a version of it that either reveals the possible origin, or confirms that Bill Graham loved to put himself in stories. The way he tells it, while setting up Dylan's 1974 comeback tour, Graham is worried that Dylan (who has been a famous recluse for several years now) will freak out from all the attention, so he tells his staff not to bother Dylan in any way, don't stare when he appears backstage, etc. Several days into the tour things seem to be going well, until Dylan shows up at Graham's door one night looking distraught, and says "Bill, how come no one will talk to me?"
posted by Banky_Edwards at 9:39 AM on February 8, 2015

That story dates back many, many years and is almost certainly apocryphal.

Well, as one who goes ballistic every time he reads or hears someone repeating that canard about Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil, I am glad to hear that. And now I am wondering whether his two favorite books in the Bible really are Deuteronomy and Leviticus, having read that somewhere, too.

The on stage box seats, on the other hand, I have seen more than once and each time, right or wrong, the sight has rubbed me the wrong way.
posted by y2karl at 10:01 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

That's Barry Manilow. Dylan, in my experience, had no such requirement the six shows of his I worked.

Well Barry is well known to have written the songs, so I can see how one might confuse the two.
posted by philip-random at 10:31 AM on February 8, 2015

Bruce Johnston wrote "I Write The Songs", but Barry did do pretty much the definitive recording of that particular number. (To be fair, it is Music who writes the songs in that song, not Bruce or Barry...)
posted by hippybear at 3:03 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thanks for posting! That's about the most succinct exegesis of Dylan's songstrel machinations I do believe I've ever encountered and I'm very happy to have read it. (Is there really no vid??!!)
I think the so-called 'digs' or 'getting even' snatches were about as low key as they come. I didn't sense any sneering contempt at least, but then again, I didn't see/hear the delivery. I felt those mild digs were about displaying completeness of his perspective as much as anything. We've always seen those old pictures and film rolls of an insolent young smart ass rogue, so it'd be hard to believe that he didn't find various people and experiences abrasive. He's setting the record straight rather than settling scores, for mine.
y2karl, I'm sorry BD doesn't match with your version of the perfect Dylan, but you might want to consider that he doesn't deserve any blame for that. I don't think he had your elevated hopes in mind these last 50-odd years. And anyway, what's this about there being cheap and expensive seats?! How dare he!
posted by peacay at 7:24 PM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

All too human is a standard of perfection to which we all can aspire.
posted by y2karl at 7:40 AM on February 9, 2015

As for setting the record straight, for the life of me, the mention of Merle Haggard I found baffling. As did Merle Haggard.
posted by y2karl at 7:55 AM on February 9, 2015

See also: He’s probably our greatest living songwriter and he’s one of my favorite writers.
Man, that makes it even more inexplicable...
posted by y2karl at 12:25 PM on February 10, 2015

Bob Dylan's older voice
posted by y2karl at 10:41 AM on February 20, 2015

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