Dylan’s art exhibition raises questions

The authenticity of Bob Dylan’s depictions of scenes seen in his travels around the world, part of his exhibition of paintings and artwork “The Asia Series” now at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City, are up for debate according to the New York Times’ ArtsBeat blog.

… Since the exhibition opened on Sept. 20, some fans and Dylanologists have raised questions about whether some of these paintings are based on Mr. Dylan’s own experiences and observations, or on photographs that are widely available and that he did not take.

Possible non-Dylan sources include images by photographers Henri Cartier Bresson, Dmitri Gessel and Leon Busy.

The post includes a blurb from the Duluth-born folk star from the exhibition catalog.

“I paint mostly from real life. It has to start with that. Real people, real street scenes, behind the curtain scenes, live models, paintings, photographs, staged setups, architecture, grids, graphic design. Whatever it takes to make it work. What I’m trying to bring out in complex scenes, landscapes, or personality clashes, I do it in a lot of different ways. I have the cause and effect in mind from the beginning to the end. But it has to start with something tangible.”

This is like that time a a poem by a young Robert Zimmerman about a dead dog was unearthed by a former summer camp mate and was set to be auctioned off by Christie’s. Then everyone found out the poem  wasn’t an early sign of literary genius, it was actually an early sign that he knew the lyrics to an old country song by Hank Snow.

” … And I’m still waiting for a Dylanographer …”

From Jon Bream’s story on folky Ramblin’ Jack Elliott in Thursday’s Star Tribune Variety section: 

ON THE LAST TIME HE TALKED TO BOB DYLAN
"I saw him about three years ago at a concert in Oakland. He waved to me as he ran in front of the bus, because his bus driver told him that I’d be waiting. I don’t think he saw me wave back because he was moving so fast.

"The time before that was a year or two previous to that. Bog saw me and he said [immitating Dylan], ‘What’s in yoru life, Ramblin’? I repeated the question. Then I said ‘I got a new Ford truck and I drove it here from Colorado just to see you. Took me four days. Fed the cats and got a little sleep and here I am.’ And he must have thought I was reciting haiku because he had a very appreciative giggle and he said ‘Fed the cats. got to feed them cats.’ That’s all he said. And I’m still waiting for a Dylanographer to explain what he meant." 

Dylan’s Christmas music: Wildest holiday party ever

Reposting content from PDD since 2008.

Here is a video for "Must Be Santa" from Bob Dylan’s album "Christmas in the Heart." Frankly, I absolutely love it. I don’t even mind that Dylan looks like Tom Petty circa "Don’t Come Around Here No More," and at the same time barely stars in his own video in a way that is very laid back Snoop Dogg-cool. And the video ranks right up there with the Beastie Boys’ 1987 pie-tossing bonanza "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)." Proceeds from the album go to various organizations dedicated to feeding the hungry.

Here is what reviewers had said about it:

"Dylan’s singing is often nimble and clear — he goes high in "The First Noel" without a hint of gravel. The effect is like a Woodstock snowfall with the defiance of 1970′s Self Portrait: another way of saying his roots are everywhere." Rolling Stone, 3 stars

***

"Is he sincere? Does he mean it? Is this an ageing entertainer’s Christmas gift to his grandchildren, or he is winding us up, knowing that at some time in the future he will repudiate it, as he did Self Portrait? When he sings with a perfectly straight face about the nativity ("Where meek souls will receive him/ Still the dear Christ enters in," for example), is it the product of a resurgence of his interest in Christianity, or simply intended to reflect a generic sense of holidaytime goodwill? You can only chuckle at his ability to keep us guessing when you turn past the conventional cover painting of a horse-drawn carriage speeding through snowdrifts to find a photograph of Bettie Page, the famous cheesecake model, dressed up in a Santa outfit complete with suspenders and bulging bra.

Sceptics should go to YouTube and watch the Must Be Santa video clip. This rollicking song, featuring a rattled-out list of US presidents, is set to a high-kicking shuffle rhythm, decorated by Hidalgo’s exuberant Tex-Mex accordion, and delivered by Dylan as a sort of punk-Dickensian Father Christmas from amid the incipient mayhem of a slightly out-of-hand Christmas Eve party. More fun than Renaldo and Clara, for sure." The Guardian

***

"Bob Dylan is such a fruitcake. He’s spent the last decade revitalizing himself artistically, so what does he do for an encore? That’s right, a Christmas album—a real one, complete with anodyne female choruses and straight arrangements of the standard holiday repertoire: “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Little Drummer Boy,” the works. And of course Dylan plays it totally straight." A.V. Club

***

"Dylan’s thing has never been palatability, and he’s clearly enamored with contrast– in this case, between his worn, gravel-gargle voice and everything else. And it’s his unhinged vocals that make Christmas in the Heart interesting, and, in some ways, appropriate to its subject: In practice if not in theory, Christmas songs aren’t about perfect pitch and studied harmonies, they’re about slouching around an out-of-tune piano with your relatives, sloshing back store-bought eggnog, and hollering songs you learned in kindergarten and have been singing– with abandon, without training, without self-consciousness– nearly all of your life. It’s Christmas: Even Bob Dylan’s allowed that." Pitchfork, 6.8

 

Bits of A&E: Isbell, SXSW, Dylan

The Washington Post has a review of "Teddy Roosevelt and the Ghostly Mistletoe," by UMD professor Tom Isbell and political humorist Mark Russell. The story centers on the hijinks of three Roosevelt children who attempt a stunt out of "A Christmas Carol" to coax their presidential father to get them a Christmas tree. (Here is a link to an older post on this). It is a sequel to "Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major." From the review, deemed an "equally witty and winning sequel": "As they did in "Ursa Major," Isbell and Russell whip up a well-balanced eggnog of juvenile humor (Kermit, Ethel and Archie like to make farting noises when foreign dignitaries bow), jokes for adults (Roosevelt has a nightmarish vision in which Kermit grows up to be . . . a lobbyist), and allusions to U.S. history. Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland and Franklin Pierce all decorated Christmas trees, the Roosevelt young’uns inform their father."

***

The band lineup for the next SXSW — March 12-21, 2010, in Austin, Texas, got recent updates. Minnesota bands included in the lineup: Gay Witch Abortion, Jeremy Messersmith, Peter Wolf Crier, Romantica and Solid Gold.

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Here’s your obligatory Bob Dylan note of the day: The LA Times has a review on a book featuring European graphic artists comic book style illustrated interpretations of songs by Bob Dylan. From the review: "Indeed, nearly all the graphic interpretations are visually striking, some even breathtaking in their powerful imagery. Only a few, however, rise to the level of Dylan’s thought-dreams, let alone go beyond them." Amazon posts a look at some inside pages.

Is Dylan’s voice a Hibbing thing?

The Atlantic has a story by Graeme Wood, a correspondent who travels to Hibbing to find out why Bob Dylan sounds like that. Is it a Range thing, he wonders? (via @MNstories) From the story:

I have long wondered where that tortured wheeze comes from, and why – aside from Zoot, the blue-haired, bespectacled Muppet—Dylan is the only person who seems to have it. He was already singing with that distinctive accent on his self-titled debut album, which he released at 21, so he must have picked it up somewhere in his early youth. Many hate the Dylan voice—Joyce Carol Oates, in one of her less felicitous similes, said it was "as if sandpaper could sing"—but it is in the end inseparable from the glory of his best work.

Hibbing reunion without Dylan


DNT 1998 File Photo / Bob King
Bob Dylan performs for a crowd of nearly 8,000 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Arena. Dylan played nearly 100 minutes, starting the concert with "Gotta Serve Somebody" and ending with "Forever Young."

A journalist from the Telegraph UK crashed Hibbing’s class of 1959 high school reunion recently, and wrote about Bob Dylan’s former classmates. Yes, I got this via PDD. But I did all the cutting and pasting on my own. It’s a fun read, and here are a few of the highlights.

"Some of our classmates have been selling their yearbooks," says local resident Sharon Kepler, who helped organize the reunion. "If Bob has signed it there are people who are willing to pay quite a bit of money…"

***

As much as Bob might have helped create his own myth, at fifty years distance, the memories that the 1959 graduates of Hibbing High School have of the young Bob can’t help to add to the Dylan legend. From the charming ("He was the first boy to ask to ask to swap seventh grade pictures") to the utterly cinematic ("I remember Bob saying, ‘Believe in yourself, and never give up…’"), each memory can’t help but add to Dylan’s mystique.

***

Bob Dylan last attended a High School Reunion in 1969. As the ’59 class remember it, he, accompanied by his then-wife Sara, flew into Hibbing Airport, and were then driven into town, where the other graduates of 1959 were gathered at the Moose Lodge, at 1510 Howard Street. While things hadn’t changed much in Hibbing, things had clearly changed a great deal for Bob, now a massive star, if one then in self-imposed seclusion.

"It was very different," says Sharon Kepler." My memory of that is of Bob standing in one corner and of people going up and shaking his hand. I didn’t like that….I would have been happier if he had just been able to sit down and be one of our classmates."

As it turned out, this proved impossible. While Sharon Kepler talked to Sara ("Such a pretty woman, with long dark hair…"), Bob charmed the ladies ("He kissed me on the cheek!" remembers another classmate, Karen Lindall). However, some men at the gathering didn’t approve of Bob’s presence, and words were apparently exchanged. Swiftly, Bob and Sara left.