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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Saturday, January 20, 2007


I thought of Dylan immediately when I read this in the latest edition of that most interesting weekly newsletter World Wide Words:

OY GEVALT! Last Monday's New York Times reported that: "In certain precincts of the Jewish community, a person who insists that the sky is falling, despite ample evidence to the contrary, is said to gevaltize - a neologism derived from the famous Yiddish cry of shock or alarm."

Thinking of Dylan's readingess to walk around with a sandwich-board (artistically speaking) declaring that the end of the world is nigh, this provides a new label to apply to this side of him - Dylan the Gevaltizer.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have been reading "Song & Dance Man' recently and must say that I have really enjoyed it.

However, I have some reservations about your disacussion of Nashville Skyline & the attitude towards 'country' music that you display there.

It seems to me that to argue that Nashvile Skyline is an album 'unrivalled' in country music is simply untrue and is a slur on the work of some of the great country artists like Hank Williams, George Jones and Merle Haggard (who is prob. the only living american songwriter whose career comes anywhere close to Dylan's in terms of longevity and quality).

It seems to me that this argument resembles those who would argue that Eric Clapton's albums are the equivalent of Robert Johnson's.


5:23 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Dear Anonymous
Well it wasn't my intention to denigrate Hank Williams, George Jones or Merle Haggard, but merely to suggest that "Nashville Skyline" brought something of a different order to the genre: a loving understanding of these predecessors' musics, and of Nashville country pop, but re-worked with Dylan's uniquely deft intelligence... making it, I'd still like to say, "unrivalled".

I reject your parallel to the Clapton-Johnson case. You have only to read my entries on these two figures in THE BOB DYLAN ENCYCLOPEDIA to know that I'd be the last person to say that Eric's are "equivalent" to Robert J's.

There's nothing wrong with Cream, though...

7:50 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for your reply.

I would still stick to my opinion that the best albums by Hank Williams, Merle Haggard are better country music than is Nashville Skyline ... although, as a long-time Dylan fan, I appreciate the merits of your argument.

What I also thought is that - despite being the best book on Dylan, 'Song & Dance Man' does not address Dylan's debt to folk and to county music in anything like the same depth as it does what he owes to the Blues.

This - it seems to me - is also borne out by dylan's choice of music on his radio programmes.

4:44 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Went back to Song & Dance Man's discussion of country music & found a line that I hadn't really noticed first time around - and in which you say that 'county music just isn't that valuable.'

It seems to me to be odd that a genre which has produced artists of the calibre of say, Jimmie Rogers, Hank Williams, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson & Lefty Frizzell can be dismissed in such an offhand way...

is there anything on 'Nashville Skyline' that rivals the mastery of the form shown in say 'I'm so lonesome I could cry', 'Today I started Loving You Again' or 'She Thinks I stil Care'.. I don't see it, to be honest.

Indeed, Dylan's best 'country' performances are probably to be found more on "John Wesley Harding' than on 'Nashville Skyline'...

On a completely separate point, I remember after Dylan's heartscare, he gave an interview in which he talked about a quote that remained fixed in his mind about 'Work, while you can, for the Night comes, wherein no man can work.'

Dylan couldn't remember where this quote came from, but I came across it today, while reading Thomas Carlyle's Sartor Resartus.

I don't know if this is where Dylan first read it, but maybe a thesis needs to be written on Carlyle's influence on Dylan (maybe he is where the whole sage/ prophet thing started)...

1:37 am  

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