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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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Friday, October 24, 2008


That wonderful Dylan song 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune', the like of which he has never repeated, was recorded 45 years ago today, in New York City.

It was an outtake from the sessions for The Times They Are A-Changin’ (and recorded the same day as the album's title track). Two days later Dylan performed it, for the only known time, at his Carnegie Hall concert.

Hard to say which of the two versions is the more nearly perfect.

I first wrote at length about the studio version in the original 1972 edition of Song & Dance Man, giving it a chapter - 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune: Drugs and Mysticism' - and I remain grateful to Dylan's music publisher for allowing me to quote fully a lyric that was, at the time, officially unreleased. This was, I think, the first time they had ever given such a go-ahead for material only known to fans from a bootleg (a real bootleg). An updated, amended and annotated version of that chapter made it through to Song & Dance Man III, and some of this material was then re-shaped into an entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia.

I look out of the window here in this part of France, and it's too early to say that the last of leaves are falling from the trees and clinging to a new love's breast - it's not winter yet, but it's getting there. Leaves are starting to fall, and we have indeed been walking through the leaves falling from the trees.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a completely tangential point, I was wondering if Dylan has ever made any reference to being influenced by the great Gospel singer and great political activist, Paul Robeson.

I can hear traces of Robeson's influence on some recent Dylan songs, especially on 'Missisaipi' and on 'Sugar Boy'. Perhaps, however, this influence could have been mediated through Odetta, who Dylan has eferred to as an important influennce..

7:04 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

I don't recall his ever having name-checked the great Paul Robeson, but he may have done. I don't think he would have needed Odetta to bring Robeson to his attention, though. When Dylan was growing up, everyone's parents played Robeson records, even when they disapproved of his politics (as my father did, for instance: hated the "communism", loved the voice). And if Dylan had needed a guide to introduce him to that voice (and those politics), you might as plausibly suggest Harry Belafonte or Pete Seeger or any number of others. As with Mahalia Jackson (the young Elvis Presley's favourite singer) Robeson crossed the race divide even among racists.

I want to make another point here, though, and it may sound snotty but I can't apologise for it: I thank you for writing but this is the last time I press the Publish button instead of the Reject button when so carelessly typed a comment comes in. It's simply not polite to any of us to send in something you haven't even bothered to read through.

I belong to an e-mail discussion group about the pre-war blues, and there is one frequent correspondent whose messages are rife with, and uglified by, serial typos - every time. The more you read them, the more irksome and inconsiderate they feel. I hope you understand.

11:49 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My apologies. As someone who believes in clearly written English, I am glad you pointed out the numerous errors in my last post..

Although in a Bob Dylan forum, such ramblins could be allowed..

4:56 am  
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1:22 am  

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