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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, August 30, 2008


First, I thank everyone who has responded to my posting Tell Tale Signs Part 3 - the dialogue has been very interesting (and as regards the price of the 3-CD set, widely paralleled on other Dylan-centred sites and blogs, as you'd expect). I'm hoping to pitch in with some further responses myself in a day or two - and meanwhile a very beautifully-written new comment has just been added by "Mick", largely defending Dylan for taking money from advertising underwear and Cadillacs. I don't agree with it but it's a warm and almost compelling argument . . .

My posting has been sluggish again lately, I know: partly because it's full-on summer weather here in South-West France now, and the sun and the swimming pool are far more alluring than the computer. And then there's been a whole slew of family birthdays in the last two weeks, including my own on the 25th (which was also, as it neatly happens, the 35th anniversary of the publication of the Japanese hardback of Song & Dance Man). And thirdly because we made a quick trip over to Edinburgh last weekend to attend the awards ceremony for the James Tait Black Prizes for Biography and for Fiction. My most recent book, Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell (London: Bloomsbury, 2007) was one of the five shortlisted biographies - apparently out of about 90 that were considered by the judges. Unhappily for me, I didn't win (Rosemary Hill's God's Architect, about Pugin, did) but it was a good evening. Travel Hell in both directions, though, getting back here 12 hours late and very out of pocket. Cheap flights often aren't.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just back from my own holidays, where Hand Me My Travellin' Shoes was my preferred reading - a remarkable feat of dogged determination to find the truth, it kept me rivetted. I just wanted to add one small bit of information - in the section about 'primitive' women on page 300 (hardback edition), you've transcribed a slightly obscure bit of speech from Willie that I believe corresponds to the saying "Come day, go day, God send Sunday" as used in Irish folk-songs ('Whiskey on a Sunday' for one) and many other places. Just another example of the richly blurred language of the American South...

1:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just read the post that you were referring to defending Dylan's advertising underwear, etc. Got to agree 100%. What does it matter to us what he decides to advertise or promote? He's never pretended to be the "spokesman for his generation" that many tried, and probably still try, to force upon him. You, of all people, should realize that he's "just a song and dance man".

But that is completely different from the cynical exploitation of those who enjoy his music represented by the latest in the Bootleg series. In his defence I can only suppose that he's having a good laugh at those who are anal enough to have to have everything that he's ever recorded. In fact, recalling the prices of some of the bootlegs I saw in the record shops on Bleeker St. (of all places!), perhaps it's only fair that Bobby get's a cut of the money being made by the rip-off merchants.

"Just because you like my stuff doesn't mean I owe you anything."

10:31 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Dear Paul
Lovely comments about my book - thank you. And thanks for the note about the Irish folk-songs connection. I imagine you're right that this is more accurately what Willie said: very interesting.

Dear McHenry
Can't agree, of course. When I called my book SONG & DANCE MAN, it was to be ironic - to imply that Dylan was something on a whole other level: a great artist, in fact. And when I used that quote from Dylan at the beginning of every edition of the book, it was always paired with a salutary corrective quote from D.H. Lawrence: "Never trust the artist, trust the tale."

And I don't say he was the spokesman for a generation - but he was a defining artist of the times, and he couldn't have achieved that if he had tried to make TV adverts for all-American consumer products at the same time as coming up with 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall' or 'Gates Of Eden' OR 'Visions Of Johanna'. Of course he doesn't owe me anything - but he reduces his stature as an artist, which surely includes retaining integrity and eschewing greed, when he ends up taking the crude money rather than not.

5:00 pm  

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