The Mysterious Norman Raeben
January 11, 2003 11:56 AM   Subscribe

The Mysterious Norman Raeben, the son of Shalom Aleichem, the man behind Bob Dylan's Blood On The Tracks.

Norman Raeben was one of the most influential people in Bob Dylan’s life. It was Norman Raeben, Dylan said, who, in the mid ‘70s, renewed his ability to compose songs. Dylan also suggested that Norman’s teaching and influence so altered his outlook upon life that Sara, his wife, could no longer understand him, and this was a contributory factor in the breakdown of the Dylans’ marriage. (More inside)
posted by y2karl (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From Obscure Articles on Bob Dylan, where I also found Hasidism, Mysticism, and the Songs of Bob Dylan, which leads me to add Jewish Dylan Anecdotes from Bob Dylan: Tangled Up In Jews.

My girlfriend gave me Bob Dylan Live in 1975 for Christmas, of which I can not say enough nice things about--best Mr. Tambourine Man ever!--and after listening to the version of Tangled Up In Blue, I was prompted to look up Norman Raeban.
posted by y2karl at 11:57 AM on January 11, 2003

Dylan first began to talk about Raeben in the round of interviews he did in 1978 to promote his movie, Renaldo & Clam,

It's Renaldo and Clara.
posted by 111 at 2:30 PM on January 11, 2003

Well, if you'd seen it, you might understand the mistake...
posted by y2karl at 2:35 PM on January 11, 2003

Mistakes, my friend, are not to be understood, but corrected.
posted by 111 at 2:36 PM on January 11, 2003

Fantastic links...fascinating and moving to see how kaleidoscopic "Tangled Up In Blue", which meant so much to so many different listeners, also apparently lay close to the changing heart of its composer and singer.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 3:02 PM on January 11, 2003

> Mistakes, my friend, are not to be understood, but
> corrected.

Too late. I'm going to think of it as Renaldo and Clam for the rest of my life.
posted by jfuller at 3:46 PM on January 11, 2003

foldy, hold on to your hat, we may have fond common ground here. I remeber first hearing "Tangled Up In Blue" as a 14 year old discovering Dylan's and thinking "Wow, he's talking about the sixties, man," and think myself very deep and perceptive.

Now, as a 32 year old man with the usual burdens of memory and regret, the last verse hits me harder than ever:

So now I'm goin' back again,
I got to get to her somehow.
All the people we used to know
They're an illusion to me now.
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenter's wives.
Don't know how it all got started,
I don't know what they're doin' with their lives.
But me, I'm still on the road
Headin' for another joint
We always did feel the same,
We just saw it from a different point of view,
Tangled up in blue.

Like Jackson Browne, Bob Seger and a few others Dylan is once of those artists for whom my affection just keeps getting stronger
posted by jonmc at 5:23 PM on January 11, 2003

This is awesome! I can't believe I've never read these articles. I thought I'd pretty much covered the main Dylan resources on the net a long time ago.

Blood on the Tracks is one of the greatest albums of all time, and that's a criminal understatement. It's not perfect: Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts (thought an awesome song in its way) is just too much of a tonal break. But even as an imperfect album it's incredible. If Norman Raeburn is responsible for it, he's a good guy in my book.
posted by Hildago at 8:18 PM on January 11, 2003

posted by Hildago at 8:19 PM on January 11, 2003

A great post, as always, y2karl - you always manage to dig up the most interesting new or obscure things on topics I enjoy - thanks!
posted by madamjujujive at 8:30 PM on January 11, 2003

I went back and reread that essay, f_m, and I happen to have both the September and Boston versions, and I might have an ra file or something lying around. I much prefer the September version to official version, and the other one is live in 75, and god, this is like a peak in his singing, on this new album.

You know, if he picked the songs for Hard Rain, as he picked the songs for the equally sucky Dylan and the Dead, which latter choice the Dead were not happy with, I might add, he should never be allowed to do this again. This music is so much better than I expected, it's like a revelation. I just cannot believe they didn't put this out at the time.

And he now reads the Bible and thinks about death ("all the people I used to know, at least the ones that ain't in the grave").

You know, Eyolf, who wrote that Tangled Up In Blue essay, runs the lyric/tab and dylanalia wonder site My Back Pages, whre he has, among so much, detailed tab for each available recorded version of a song--like check out this Mr. Tambourine Man page, for example--not to mention for every official album. It's like a national treasure for living room guitarists.

I don't know where the clam came from. Renaldo and Clara was kind of an interesting car wreck of a movie to me at the time but I would love to see it again.
posted by y2karl at 9:33 PM on January 11, 2003

Why not just wait another year and watch Masked and Clam Anonymous?
posted by Hildago at 10:35 PM on January 11, 2003

Well, in Renaldo and Clara, he's younger and prettier, which applies to his singing, too. Masked and Anonymous, just as a concept, simply gives me the willies.

See also, Renaldo and Clara meet John Cage - Aleatory Cinema and the Aesthetics of Incompetence by David Sterritt, while we're on the topic.

And might I add Bill Parr's Slow Train Coming, subtitled Bob Dylan and Christianity, from the other side. Parr is convinced Bob is still a Christian and severely disses the accuracy and content of the quote

He said, "What are you talking about? What makes you think that? Whoever said I was Christian? Did you see the movie 'Gandhi?' Well, like Gandhi, I'm Christian, I'm Jewish, I'm Moslem, I'm a Hindu. I am a humanist!"

along the way--although according to Jewish Bob Dylan Anecdotes up there...

Keeping a low profile this year over Yom Kippur, musician Bob Dylan attended services at Chabad of Encino. He received an aliyah during the morning service, attended Yizkor and didn¹t leave until the end of Neila, when the holiday had ended.

-- LA. Jewish Journal, 2001
Merav Tassa, Contributing Writer

so the situation is somewhat complex. Still he's quoted thusly in 1991--

Dylan: I believe in everything the Bible says.
Interviewer: Do you read the Bible a lot?
Dylan: Yes.
Interviewer: All the time?
Dylan: Always.
Interviewer: What are your favorite books?
Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
Interviewer: What do you think about the Apocalypse?
Dylan: It will not be by water, but by fire next time. It's what is written.
Interviewer: Which edition of the Bible do you read?
The King James's version.
Interviewer: That's not really a Fundamentalist version of the Bible, is it?
Dylan: I've never been Fundamentalist. I've never been born-again. Those are just labels that people hang on you. They mean about as much as Folk Singer, Protest Singer, Rock Star. That's to say that they don't mean anything at all.

Leviticus and Deuteronomy... *shudders*

Still, that's around the time of World Gone Wrong and if you recall those horrid liner notes. I love the record but I remember thinking,

Bob... Put a sock in it, already--you're embarassing me,

when I first read those.
posted by y2karl at 1:00 AM on January 12, 2003

Thanks for the amazing links and helpful commentary, y2karl. I always love your Dylan posts. And thanks too for the reminder that the next part of The Bootleg Series is out -- I completely missed this and the songlist includes so many of my favorites: I Shall Be Released, It Ain't Me Babe, Isis, Simple Twist of Fate, Baby and Tangled Up in Blue, and holy crap, where on earth did this rollicking version of Hard Rain come from? And thanks for all your hard work on the mouseover comments to the links -- I always enjoy your comments here. So in short, thanks, thanks, thanks!

For the last several years I've tossed around the question of what favorite romantic Dylan song to use at a wedding. (I've thought about his version of Kingsport Town before, assuming the bride had curly hair and dark eyes, or maybe "To Be Alone With You" from Nashville Skyline.) I mention this because there are so many songs on this album that would be *terrible* but hilarious wedding songs: Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You, It Ain't Me Babe, Hard Rain, Isis, I Shall Be Released, It's All Over Now Baby Blue, etc. Hee.

It changed me. I went home after that and my wife never did understand me ever since that day. That’s when our marriage started breaking up. She never knew what I was talking about, what I was thinking about. And I couldn’t possibly explain it.

Then again, maybe not so funny. Sorry, Bob.
posted by onlyconnect at 1:46 AM on January 13, 2003

Interviewer: What are your favorite books?
Dylan: Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

"Well, the Book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy,
The law of the jungle and the sea are your only teachers."
posted by 111 at 9:31 AM on January 13, 2003

[Tina Louise] Oh, Hidalgo! [/Tina Louise]
                as in Oh, Gilligan!

The reviews are in for Masked and Anonymous

and the crowning glory of nonsensical masturbatory hubris, Larry Charles' out-of-time hippie fugue Masked and Anonymous, a Bob Dylan vehicle with one hell of a motley all-star cast (Jessica Lange, John Goodman, Jeff Bridges, Bruce Dern, Luke Wilson and PenŽlope Cruz). If ever there was proof to the adage that the more stars an indie movie attracts, the worse it will be, then this is it.

It sucks, it really sucks...
posted by y2karl at 1:08 PM on February 2, 2003

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