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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, June 02, 2010


He was 74, and died - like Frank Zappa - of prostate cancer diagnosed too late.

An interesting figure in his own right in more than one branch of the arts, and a very hardworking film-maker, his name occurs on the fringes of Bob Dylan's work a couple of times, if seldom directly. Dylan's Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid co-star Kris Kristofferson made his film debut in the Hopper-directed The Last Movie in 1971, while Tim Drummond, co-composer of the title track of Dylan's Saved album and bass-player for Bob in the studio and on the road, played on the soundtrack of Hopper's 1990 film The Hot Spot, in (as mentioned in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia) a heavyweight ensemble led by Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker and Taj Mahal. Decades earlier, Hopper had also directed the film Easy Rider, to which Dylan did or did not contribute a morsel or two of what became Roger McGuinn's title song.

Less tenuous connections are that Dylan's rather lacklustre 1989 recording of 'People Get Ready' appears on the soundtrack of the 1990 film Flashback, which starred Dennis Hopper, and is not to be confused with the same year's Backtrack (aka Catchfire), which was directed by Dennis Hopper and Alan Smithee, in which Bob appears briefly, and unbilled, as a "chainsaw artist".


Blogger Paul Duane said...

He also appeared - I don't know how many times - as part of the Rolling Thunder Revue, reciting Rudyard Kipling's poem If.... He did this party piece on TV's Johnny Cash Show some time later, too.

11:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was a great actor, and friend of Neil Young. He took on challenging movie rolls, always keeping it fresh.

Malcolm P. MacPherson

4:58 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:30 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Paul, thank you - I'd forgotten about that. I'm wondering if that's where Joni Mitchell first had that poem brought to her attention since schooldays? (Her turning it into a song yields, in my view, the only poor track on her fine recent album Shine.)

Malcolm, which movies did he eat all these fresh rolls in, anyway?

11:56 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Concerning Backtrack, it was, as I recall, directed by Hopper, but when cuts were made against his wishes, he had his name removed and 'Alan Smithee' used instead. (This is a name commonly employed by irate directors for this purpose and was first used with Death Of A Gunfighter in 1969.)


12:15 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Thanks, MZ: I wish I'd remembered the "Alan Smithee" info before: because I knew the name was familiar and didn't take time to google "him".

Odd name to choose: any explanation? Now I know the context, I see it as an elipse of "smithereens" - which is what Hopper felt they'd smashed it into, presumably.

2:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Was wondering why John Hiatt doesn't feature in the Encyclcopedia,

Doesn't Dylan cover two of his songs (i think) in that dreadful film, Hearts of Fire?

11:20 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Re John Hiatt: in my hardback copy he's mentioned on page 376, has a paragraph on page 476, is mentioned on page 517 and is mentioned again on page 544. The index is pretty poor, and indeed is hopeless about the Hiatt pages - but I think that even without it you might have found the paragraph about him in the entry musical accompanists to Dylan, other .

2:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops - apologies about that.

What I looked for was an individual entry on Hiatt, which the para. on p. 476 sort of provides.

The entry there is rather grudging and doesn't mention Bring the Family, which is perhaps his finest album.

'Grunge country' is hardly an apt description for Hiatt's more recent work - you should check out the excellent "Crossing Muddy Waters'.

10:52 pm  

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