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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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Wednesday, January 27, 2010


It's reported that Dylan has accepted an invitation to perform at the White House on February 10, at an In Performance concert to celebrate the songs of the Civil Rights movement.

Morgan Freeman and Queen Latifah will MC. Other performers will include Smokey Robinson, Seal, Blind Boys of Alabama, Natalie Cole, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend and John Mellencamp. The concert will be streamed live on the White House website starting at 5:15 p.m. ET. PBS will broadcast a television special the following evening, Feb. 11, at 8 p.m. ET. A one-hour "concert special" is slated to be posted online at NPR Music.

No Joan Baez?


Anonymous Rainer said...

No Joan Baez?

Well, the Obamas have musical taste, I guess ....

1:17 pm  
Anonymous Stephen said...

I don't know if this tells us anything about the Obama White House. Perhaps it's just a sign of modern times. When Jimmy Carter was there, he paid tribute to America's jazz musicians by inviting some of them to play at the White House. Charles Mingus and Cecil Taylor were among them.

It seems obvious for the current administration to pay tribute to the civil rights movement. But could they not do this by including people who were actually involved in that movement? Yes, Joan Baez deserves to be invited. What about Pete Seeger? Mavis Staples? Doubtless there are many others, perhaps less well known and deserving of recognition.

The only good thing about John Mellancamp is that he is not Jon Bon Jovi. Seal is British, but has been clogging up the airwaves recently with a glutinous cover of A Change Is Gonna Come. Enough, apparently, to secure an invitation. John Legend, well, he isn't, is he? I had to google Jennifer Hudson. She was on American Idol, apparently.

I just hope Dylan isn't forced to duet with someone horrible. I'd like to see him back with Wynton Marsalis's group, but I have a dreadful feeling that a communal I Shall Be Released is in the offing.

1:31 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Completely agree, Stephen. And nicely put. So, Rainer, Mellencamp: musical taste?

4:07 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

maybe joan turned Obama down

9:13 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

ps michael
I suggest everyone in the dylan world read Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby

its a hoot and very to the point


10:01 pm  
Anonymous Rainer said...

okay, okay ... poor taste! But still, forced to decide I'd rather listen to Mellencamp.

9:16 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Strong disagreement with you there then, Rainer. The Rolling Thunder duets with Bob on 'Deportees' and similar (even including 'Never Let Me Go') are something special, admittedly in only small part due to her. Imagine Mellencamp duetting with Bob in her place...

Second, there's her wonderful song 'Diamonds and Rust', which her recording surely does justice to. It's a highly distinctive song in its own right and it's eloquent about Dylan. Mellencamp is computer-program American Rock, and I'd be surprised if he's ever been eloquent about anything except his ego.

1:28 pm  
Anonymous Rainer said...

hmm ... she's a nice girl, though!
I do agree, Michael, the Rolling Thunder duets are fine, but that was the only time their voices blended together that good. Just look at the Newport DVD or listen to Live 1964. That's truely horrible.

@Joe: Yes, Juliet Naked should be on the reading list of every Dylan fan (and maybe their partners, too..)

2:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am definitely with Michael on this one.

Joan Baez should have been invited because of her political activism and her musical pedigree.

I was never a big Baez fan until I had the pleasure of seeing her perform at the Llangollen International Music Festival Eisteddfod a couple of years ago.

Following a warm introduction from Terry Waite, she proceeded to cast a spell with an effortless display of music and song including a great rendition of Lily of the West. Baez was very modest and appeared somewhat embarrassed by the great response she received from this audience.

The recent Baez documentary on BBC TV which looked closely at her political activism has increased my respect for her.

I agree that the Dylan duets are something special.

Joan Baez was the inspiration for some of Dylans best songs and an early champion of the young Dylan.

Jennifer Hudson and Seal !! A disgrace.


4:10 pm  
Anonymous McHenry Boatride said...

Not a fan of Farm Aid then, Michael? John Mellencamp was pretty vocal then in support of small farmers, and he was also quite a prominent Democrat supporter during Obama's campaign. So it's not that surprising that the favour is being repaid. And it's hard to classify either of those as merely supporting his own ego.

8:29 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Fair point well made, McHenry. You don't choose to comment on "Cougar"'s musical strengths, though, I see...

11:16 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dylan hasn't played something alone with just his guitar for a good while.
That would be what I'd like to see.
Pat Ford

3:07 am  
Anonymous McHenry Boatride said...

As a musician I have no particular strong feelings about John Mellancamp, in any of his guises. There's plenty better, and plenty more worse. Same goes for Joan Baez.

But whether or not he is a good musician is, I think, irrelevant to the point you made, which is what I was commenting on. Because someone is a poor musician doesn't necessarily make him an out-and-out egoist.

10:31 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Now McHenry, you're getting nitpicky here. It was quite clear I was contrasting Joan B's eloquence in song to Mellencamp's lack of it.

I could have added, by the way, that Mellencamp's being what you call "quite a prominent Democrat supporter during Obama's campaign" doesn't mean an event to celebrate the songs of the Civil Rights Movement is the right place for "the favour [to be] repaid."

As for "There's plenty better and plenty more worse": that's hardly a stance to satisfy a critic, and in this case can't but blur the point being argued - which was that Baez is a distinctive figure while Mellencamp represents the kind of American Rock a computer could have created.

Pat - yes indeed. My own fantasy is that he comes on with just an acoustic guitar and sings the lovely attentive version of 'When The Ship Comes In' that he failed to achieve at Live Aid, followed by an exquisitely calm-centred 'Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll'.

3:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"When My Ship Comes In" would be perfect. I'd like to see him precede it with "What Good Am I."
Pat Ford

11:48 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

let cha be in my dream if i cn be in yours

11:49 pm  

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