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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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Tuesday, September 27, 2011


It's not often the New York Times arts section quotes from this blog and links to it, but it has now. I wonder if this will yield any increase in comments. The link back to the NYT article is here.


Anonymous John Carvill said...

Yes, I do wonder at the lack of comments on your previous post. Sixteen (including one from me)? Surely you'd think this would inspire more discussion?

Anyway, the whole sorry saga just got significantly worse. If you haven't yet seen this latest humiliating detail, here's a link:

They guy who reckons his Flickr stream provided Bob with some of the source photos he copied, went to see the 'Asia Series' show in New York (despite a 100 page catalog, there are only 18 paintings, by the way), and discovered that Bob had even incorporated into his painting elements that were added by the Flickr poster, and weren't even in the original photographs:

"Prior to posting on Flickr, I had added an "artificial tag element" to an image that was re-painted into Dylan's work hanging there in the Gallery !"

Although I can certainly see the funny side, I felt a bit sick when I read that. Here's this gallery touting Bob'd daubings as representing scenes that have caught the great man's eye as he wanders the globe, and in fact they've caught his (or maybe an assistant's) eye as he browses Flickr.

God knows whether I would still see the funny side if I were sufficiently well-endowed with disposable income as to have splashed out on an 'original' Bob Dylan painting?

3:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tuesday update:

7:17 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Hi John
Actually I wasn't bemoaning a paucity of comments - just speculating on whether the NYT giving me a blog link would lead to an increase. It hasn't!

10:10 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

The link to the Art Info article is worth following. It's a very robust piece, even though the "Love and Theft" bit is, I think, silly. But the information towards the end, about copyright ownership of some of the photos, and about the successful suing of Richard Prince and the Gagosian - because the images he re-used were not, in his very expensive paintings, transformative enough . . . all this is very interesting.

10:23 am  
Blogger Pope Leo said...

The surprise about this is the surprise it appears to have generated. Dylan has borrowed tunes and song structures since day one and has shown a sharp ear for quotable phrases for just about as long. (ArtInfo's 'purloined text' accusation is just silly, as Michael implies.) While his Drawn Blank sketches were probably original, the ways in which he subsequently painted them were derivative in many cases. His niggardliness in acknowledging his sources goes back to his Village days (as Dave van Ronk well knew). Finally, that Dylan can be graceless is also well known and is given ample testimony to in Don't Look Back.

For all that, he remain a massive cultural figure with a massive body of superb work that continues to give huge pleasure to many. As DH Lawrence said (and I am aware of the nice irony of this quote in the current context!): "Never trust the artist. Trust the tale."

So, to the neo-would-be Webermans (you don't need a weberman to tell which way the wind blows…) I'd simply say this: stop your arid sniffing around and get on with enjoying all the Dylan stuff that doesn't worry you with regard to its provenance.

8:02 pm  
Anonymous Dave said...

excusing the paintings because 'Dylan has borrowed tunes and song structures since day one'doesn't really stand up. Or it would if when he put House of the Rising Sun or any other cover out he'd put his name in the writing credits.

10:20 pm  
Anonymous Kieran said...

I rarely disagree with a Pope, but I think this once I'll dip my toe! Bob's songs are art - these paintings are mere art "exercises". They're the kind of thing a kid might learn in school - how to copy a source material, to master things like composition, etc.

Had they been original ideas, they might have graced a gallery, but these are cheap imitations. When he lifts lines in a song, we can say he's locating himself firmly within a tradition of such activities. He also knows his songs are the most examined in history, so he realises that he'll be rumbled on it - and he gives us the credit for understanding what it is he's doing.

This? This isn't remotely similar. I defended him earlier, but I didn't know the extent of it. This is pretentious, lazy and deceitful. Had his name not been Bob Dylan, he'd never have been accepted in the gallery in the first place, but such an unimaginative approach to art - and disrespectful, to boot - is a low characteristic and I think they should withdraw the exhibition.

It's phony!

10:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every fresh instance of Dylan’s pilfering, be it in prose, song, or (as we have now) on canvas, prompts the same tedious debate about whether Dylan’s actions are legitimate. I say tedious because at least from where I’m standing there does not seem to be any real dialogue. On the one side you have the defenders, who invariably use the great artists steal quote. On the other side there are those who are disappointed or troubled by what Dylan is doing.

What I find more interesting is Dylan’s motives in doing this. I brought this up long ago on the Expecting Rain forum but most people seem to be more interested in either defending him against or condemning of plagiarism. Surely we should be asking exactly what is going on in Dylan’s head.

Just picture a bank robber who robs a bank, gets spotted, and from that time on it becomes obvious to him that the police are watching his every move. He keeps up the serial bank robbery, fully aware that he can never be masked and anonymous – someone is always going to be there to identify him as the thief. Will the cat and mouse game go on to the point where he is finally brought to justice for it? Is he doing it simply for the money? Is he in it simply for the thrill of the chase? He certainly knows he can’t avoid the finger of blame.

Dylan has been “found out” at various points during his career, but particularly in latter years. He lifted lines from Hollywood movies wholesale on Empire Burlesque. He stole from all and sundry on “Love and Theft,” and even had the gall to call attention to it in the album title (a bit like a robber calling his mansion Ill Gotten Gains House). He stole from Saga, he purloined the lines of Timrod, he copied out whole chunks for Chronicles, and now he’s done the same thing with paints. So this begs the question: does he really believe that he can get away with it? Surely he would, at this point, have to be more than a little naïve to think that. He must know that there are hundreds, probably thousands, of fans who see identifying his sources, even the most obscure sources, as some kind of game.

Your average plagiarist steals and covers up the theft hoping that he will never be found out. Most plagiarists wouldn’t even contemplate copying if they suspected they were going to be caught, just like regular thieves. The definition of plagiarism is trying to pass off someone else’s ideas as your own original work. If you are aware that the plagiarism is going to be exposed eventually, because everything you create is scrutinized and its sources identified, do you have the same motives as any normal plagiarist? Is it perhaps more likely, though scarcely justifiable perhaps, that you are instead playing some sort of perverse game. If this is the case, of course, it does not protect Dylan from the charge that he has run out of ideas. But surely we do not have any kind of typical case of plagiarism here.

We can express this as a trilemma.

1) Dylan is genuinely trying to hide his sources, and still believes, after repeated exposes by fans and Dylanologists, that this time he can get away with it. He is plagiarizing with the usual motives, then.

2) Dylan is doing it for the money. He has lawyers to protect him after all. He does not care whether he is found out or not, because he is rich enough and therefore can live outside the law.

3) Dylan is playing some kind of game with us. The latest and last stage in his attempts to deconstruct his myth, perhaps? Declaring that a series of copied paintings are “a visual journal” of his “firsthand depictions” of his subjects sounds to me as if he is deliberately calling attention to the area of his sources by all too obviously trumpeting their authenticity. Just imagine a thief advertising his for-sale stolen goods with the claim: “Everything acquired lawfully and legally from legitimate suppliers.” You’ve got to smell a rat.

I think number 3 is our man. Not that that makes it any easier to live with a Dylan who has seemingly run out of original things to say.

11:35 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

I especially thank the last person for his or her contribution, which is a substantial one that demands, with some rigour, that centrally we consider Dylan's own thinking or approach to all this - even if we can only speculate. It's a fascinating, and apparently fresh, tangent from which to approach this debate. Much appreciated.

Thanks too to everyone else. And yes, I think I agree with Dave that "excusing the paintings because 'Dylan has borrowed tunes and song structures since day one' doesn't really stand up." As I said all along, those borrowings were in a context where everyone knew and understood what was being borrowed and how much it was being transformed. Not the case at all with these paintings.

11:57 pm  
Anonymous McHenry Boatride said...

I'd have to agree with #3 in Anonymous's analysis. It has always been my belief that Dylan - right from the early days - has been playing games with his audience. I'm sure that he enjoys, with a great degree of amusement, the minute analysis by the Dylanologists of every little move that he makes, every little reference in his songs.

It's a game which we all willingly play along with, with varying degrees of seriousness.

Reporter: What are your songs about?

Dylan: Some of my songs are about four minutes, some are about five minutes and some, believe it or not, are about 11 or 12.

Good answer Bob!

10:59 am  
Anonymous John Carvill said...

Re. Anonymous's analysis: I enjoyed reading it, but I'm not sure this is really such a 'fresh' angle. Surely we have *all* wondered what is going on in Bob's head?! And many have wondered, does Bob not realise he keeps getting caught, why does he keep on doing it? In fact I assumed that *everybody* else was thinking precisely these thoughts.

And although Anonymous is right about the black-or-white world-view of many on the ER forum, surely there are plenty like us, long-time fans who have been through many ups and downs with Dylan? He has enriched our lives, but not always; he has variously dumbfounded, depressed, horrified, amused and delighted us. We don't always defend, or always attack. We take a more nuanced view.

Of Anonymous's 3 choices, it seems to me that (a) is highly unlikely, and surely can only be true of Dylan is suffering dementia; (b) is almost as implausible - I don't know if Dylan needs money, but surely there are other ways open to him, e.g. dipping into his huge view archive; which leaves (c) as the only sensible suggestion of the three. And he/she may be right, this could all be just a game for Dylan. But my instinct mitigates strongly against this.

In fact, I would stick with my original 'analysis', i.e. that Dylan just doesn't give a fuck. He doesn't care about plagiarism, maybe doesn't even recognise it as a concept he should care about, doesn't even think it applies to him, as if he had Divine Right, through sheer force of his genius, to do as he please. He's like, you might say, some feudal lord (and eh certainly seems to have more lives than a cat), who feels free to rape and pillage without having to answer to anybody.

Bob is still Bob. As noted already, he was a slippery character since *at least* the Greenwich Village days, and I still wouldn't trust him around my record collection or my wife. A lot of creative people can behave quite monstrously in private life, we know that. Dylan is the world' greatest living artist, and this painting photographs hoo-hah won't diminish him
a whit. That doesn't mean we have to like it!

I'm more interested to see what he does on the tour with Knopfler. Will it be a standard 'support act then headliner' (in which case I'll be in the bar for the support slot) or will they do something more interesting, such as play 'Infidels' from front to back?

11:51 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Good stuff, John. (I thought it was fresh because instead of just vaguely wondering about Bob's motives Anonymous scrutinised possibilities in some detail and with some vigour.)

But as you said earlier, it is, in any case, a "sorry saga" - and the argument that he doesn't care about plagiarism only holds any sway if it goes along with your Feudal Lord theory - which may well be right! - because when it comes to anyone else making free with Bob's copyright work, well, he doesn't feel so relaxed about it then. You look at the Thanks section of any book about his work and it will include - in my view quite rightly - very detailed and precise listings of which song is copyright to which of his music-publishing companies, which year, and in the case of the older songs, which year that copyright has been renewed. And this is for books that, naturally, specify in the text that these are Dylan songs. And, usually, praise them more than somewhat. And these very specific acknowledgments are there because Dylan's office insists upon it.

In the Expecting Rain forum discussion (for which your earlier comment supplied the URL), someone writes that "the paintings look great so far, and i flat out don't believe in any kind of creative copyright and especially not in regards to photos - the idea that anybody could 'own' a picture seems ridiculous to me - so i have no problem. this isn't the same as supporting piracy, i think artists should get paid for their work, but there shouldn't be any restrictions on what other people then do with their work."... to which someone else appends "Ah, the voice of reason."

I think it's more like the voice of idiocy, myself. So people should get paid for their work, but not if they're photographers? And/or artists should be paid for their work but only once, and after that it's a free for all? I don't think Bob Dylan would agree with that for a moment. Let's say he makes a record called 'Blowin' in the Wind'; he gets paid for it; then a hundred other people say "Hey, I like that. I'm going to make a record of that. And I don't need to pay Bob Dylan, because he's done his version and been paid for it. Great! In fact when I release my version, I don't even need to mention his name!" Er...

12:36 pm  
Anonymous Kieran said...

You're right, Michael. We've all commited to Dylan's music to varying degrees over the years, in fact, it's a periodical obsession. But the idea that now he's "joking" with us, or even worse, "dismantling his myth", seems pathetic and arrogant.

"There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke,
but you and I have been through that, and this is not our fate,
so let us not talk falsely now - the hour is getting late..."

The hour is getting even later - but Bob's the one talking falsely now. I often wonder what the young firebrand Dylan from 1965 - who was razor sharp and turned everything he touched into fiercely gleaming gold - would make of this old gnomic geezer, whose late career seems dedicated to taking easy options, or making a joke of his work.

As you say, it's fine for him, but he has a tidy operation behind him to make sure no-one else is taking similar liberties.

Interestingly, in an interview on his website, he says this:

"Playing music is another thing. Music is loose and tight at the same time. A painting is a strongly structured picture. The main thing is, is it interesting in its own right? Is it something worth seeing? In either case, the only relationship I see between the two is the idea not to repeat yourself, not to fall into any set patterns. Every standpoint has to be different."

It doesn't seem right, somehow. It sounds like a salesman's pitch.

Anyhow, I'd defend him on his songs, but this is something darker, and different...

2:08 pm  
Blogger Pope Leo said...

I really enjoyed reading Anonymous' posting (Every fresh instance...) - it was interesting and considered.

Caught on the horns of his posited trilemma, I'd like to think that the third suggestion is the accurate one. Dylan has, after all, spent a professional lifetime wrong-footing his critics and followers.

The assumption must be that he knew his sources would eventually be discovered. Why else would he choose a Cartier-Bresson amongst them?

But then...but then, this disturbing thought arises. What if it was a Dylan lackey who garnered the photos for copying, with Dylan never realising that some of them were relatively well known? One can think of another ageing colossus (who also has far eastern connections in his right-hooking wife) who appears to have lost touch with what his lesser hirelings are doing. What an appalling thought.

I'll stick with Anonymous' third proposition, accepting sadly that, as he says, Dylan has run out of ideas. I can think of great poets - Wordsworth springs to mind - who ran out of ideas when they were years younger than Dylan. What a shame he couldn't (perhaps he still can..) be a Yeats, rummaging around in the rag and bone shop of the heart well into his seventies.

6:43 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to respond to a couple of points here. If Michael will forgive me, I'll post it in two segments.

1) The “feudal lord theory” put forward by John Carvill is interesting, but it still doesn’t tell us why he does it in the first place. Why does a person create art? Surely not giving a fuck is no answer. There has to be a motive for doing it. A reason for bothering. A reason to get out of bed in the morning. People create art for the love of the art, or for the money, perhaps even to give themselves a sense of fulfillment, to strengthen their ego (there might be a few other reasons, but those are the ones that come to mind). I wonder what Dylan’s reason is now. Can it still be for the pleasure of creating, no matter if his “creating” is no more than piecing together other people’s scraps like in a collage, or repainting old photographs? Is it for the money, and is he using other people’s ideas because it makes the road to the finished product that much smoother? Is it for sport, the impulse to create a puzzle that will send the Dylanologists off in search of his sources? It would be strange if he was creating these things to give his ego a boost, first because his ego doesn’t need a boost, and second, because they seem to be having the opposite effect. I honestly can’t understand what he’s up to. Why does he bother, I wonder, if he has nothing substantially original to contribute any more? Ultimately thieves don’t steal because they don’t give a fuck. Their not giving a fuck would give them the courage to steal, but it doesn’t explain their motive. I find it very distressing.

10:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2) John also writes: “Surely there are plenty like us, long-time fans who have been through many ups and downs with Dylan? He has enriched our lives, but not always; he has variously dumbfounded, depressed, horrified, amused and delighted us. We don't always defend, or always attack. We take a more nuanced view.”
I understand where he is coming from, but I can’t help feeling that the downs have markedly increased in latter years. Looking back at the words of the man who Cameron Crowe interviewed for Biograph, I find a soul of considerable courage and integrity. I don’t always agree with everything he said, but he seems to me to be a man with shining values. The fact that he seemed to be struggling with writer’s block was forgivable. I could say the same thing about the man who turned electric, or retreated into domestic bliss, or even the man who found Jesus. You may not have agreed with his evangelism, but you have to admit that he was a man of values then, even if you think they were the wrong ones. Even his comments at Live Aid – I can relate to that Dylan. But something seemed to change about the time of the nineties. The licensing of his music to adverts, the Victoria’s Secret commercial, the licensing of the Gaslight Tapes to Starbucks, the constant borrowings used to bolster weak material. I can’t imagine the younger Dylan doing this stuff, as Kieran says, but I can’t imagine the mid period Dylan doing this stuff either. Of course, some will come back that he always borrowed. Alright, well, he borrowed sometimes blatantly but he invariably managed to create something that mostly original, perhaps laced with a few borrowings here and there, or superior to his sources. He would not have allowed his music to be so used by third parties in that way either.

I remember seeing a BBC arts programme in the early 90s that had a segment about Dylan and the Bootleg Series. During the course of the programme (which included contributions by Shelton, Heylin and Bauldie as I remember) the presenter said that over the years some Dylan fans had become jaded and thrown in the towel. I was a young fan then, utterly smitten, and couldn’t imagine how anyone could give up on Bob. Now, I am starting to understand why someone might. Has something changed in recent years? Has he always been thus, or, as I increasingly think, did his attitude somehow change beginning in the nineties or so? I would be interested to hear what a long time Dylan commentator like Michael has to say on this, and whether he has become disappointed in Dylan in a way and to a degree that he never was in the past.

10:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that an attitude towards the judgement of others that worked well for him, especially in 1965-66 & 1979-81, has led him to produce fake rubbish.

I am curious why as an extremely rich man he performs 100+ concerts each year with a knackered voice, presumably making it even worse.

I thought his performance at The White House was a way forward for him; a few concerts each year put together with careful thought for what will work for him now. Jack

8:57 am  
Anonymous John Carvill said...

Re. Anonymous's reply, I think he may be taking too narrow a view of my 'feudal lord' theory. It's not that I'm suggesting Dylan is 'stealing' because he doesn't give a fuck. It' more that I'm suggesting he doesn't and never has given a fuck that he ends up stealing.

Why is Dylan painting? Well, he has done so for many years, and his interest in painting has been well-known, and a component of his songwriting, since at least 'Blood on the Tracks'. So now, haveing been shunned by the mainstream media for decades, then rediscovered around the time of 'Time Out Of Mind' (for years they had him locked in a cage...), maybe he is 'cashing in' now, selling his paintings because he can.

Re. giving up on Bob, I would say two things: (a) during this 'Dylan Renaissance' period, he has given us a great deal to be thankful for, not least the aforementioned TOOM, plus 'Love & Theft'. That's more, by far, than any other living artist has offered the world. So, (b) you may be forgiven for giving up on the current Bob, but even the very recent Bob - not to mention the 60s Bob, the 70s Bob, and the 80s Bob - has been a Bob you'd be a fool to give up on. He contains multitudes. Cherish him.

The painting/plagiarism scandals are a distraction. Interesting in their own right - what is Bob *thinking*?! - but a drop in the ocean compared to the colossal cultural and historical figure we are assessing here. Inside the museums, infinity goes up on trial.......

3:16 pm  
Blogger Pope Leo said...

I first saw Dylan in Dublin in 1966. I saw him at the Isle of Wight in 1969 and Earls Court in 1978 and have seen him many times since, including the magnificent Portsmouth concert in 2000 and the less magnificent Round House performance in 2009. So I guess I've kept on keeping on...

Am I finally disillusioned? No. I have frequently been disappointed by Dylan, but never entirely lost faith in him. I have never really understood the sniping at Chronicles – it is still a wonderfully creative book, with its borrowings being wrought into a fluent and unified narrative which has a remarkable consistency of tone. Nor have Dylan’s Victoria’s Secrets and Starbucks outings ever bothered me. He plies his trade in the market place, and to demand that he remain pure of capitalist enterprises is just silly: why try to embalm him in his brief leftist phase of the sixties?

I have almost always been a little disappointed by a first hearing of his albums, but almost always grown to love them, and I certainly enjoy regular re-listening – even to Knocked Out and Loaded (though that one is not that regular)! The only album I find it hard to go back to is the execrable Christmas in the Heart.

I think the whole business with the Asia paintings is disappointing, but more than that just plain puzzling. Anonymous wonders what is going on in Dylan’s head and Jack wonders why he is still touring with his wrecked voice. I personally think that the continued touring is the nub of the matter. One detects in his later albums, especially Time Out of Mind, an increasing dissociation with the world. This might, of course, just be a trope, but it wouldn’t surprise me if being Bob Dylan doesn’t get harder and harder as he gets older. If his muse has deserted him and he feels empty within, it is hardly surprising that he wants to pass his time with the familiar routine of touring. And who knows? Perhaps the semi-creative activity of painting other people’s photographs offers a kind of escape from self. But then I guess he’s been on the run from himself ever since he hot-footed it out of Gallup, New Mexico all those years ago….

I think Anonymous has raised some really interesting questions, but I prefer John Carvill’s qualified affirmation of Dylan’s worth. Dylan has always been full of surprises, and who knows what lies around the corner?

7:46 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

he is following a long tradition

1:18 pm  
Anonymous Kieran said...

I have to say, I'm getting tired of this Flickr guy turning up everywhere, sermonising. Okinawa Sue, or whoever he is. He didn't actually TAKE the photos, so he's not being plagiarised. He put them on a public forum and another guy painted them.

And made Okinawah Jane famous.

Bob has his faults and I think his stealing the images was crazy, but these guys!

8:15 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"According to an executive at Magnum, those photographs were licensed for use by Dylan, though he would not say when or for how much, making it unclear whether they were cleared for use from the start, or after accusations of plagiarism began to surface."
So it's six from Soba, three from Magnum. The Magnum ones were apparently licensed. Does Soba own the copywright to the ones in his collection? Does anyone recall seeing the Flickr stream before the controversy? Perhaps Soba licensed the pictures to Dylan on the quiet, and now Soba is saying that Dylan stole them from him, secure in the knowledge that Dylan will not comment? I can't see Dylan browsing the web, but I can see him buying the license to some old pictures through his office. Actually, this is probably all a bit silly and paranoid, but something is starting to irritate me about that Soba guy.

2:38 am  
Blogger Pope Leo said...

There's an interesting contribution to the Asia Series debate by Scott Warmuth:

10:52 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It won't be long now... can't wait for him to stand centre stage,punch the air and sing

"You've been with the professors
And they've all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have
Discussed lepers and crooks
You've been through all of
F.Scott Fitzgerald's books
Your very well read
It's well known"

1:03 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Four things. Let's not turn on the poor Flickr guy. ("...turning up everywhere, sermonising", and "something is starting to irritate me about that...guy.") It's not his fault that his observations have been quoted widely and often; I think he only said it once - and his tone seems quite affable.

Second, Jack's question and White House comment were interesting. (Not least because I thought you always thought Bob was great live, Jack, even nowadays!)

Third, I readily admire the way that our Papal friend's defences of Bob are always eloquent, and this is true even when he's defending the indefensible.

Lastly, I've been asked to say more about my own "position". Well, I think I've been saying it for a long time now, but anyway... When an Anonymous writes this:

"Looking back at the words of the man who Cameron Crowe interviewed for Biograph, I find a soul of considerable courage and integrity. I don’t always agree with everything he said, but he seems to me to be a man with shining values. The fact that he seemed to be struggling with writer’s block was forgivable. I could say the same thing about the man who turned electric, or retreated into domestic bliss, or even the man who found Jesus. You may not have agreed with his evangelism, but you have to admit that he was a man of values then, even if you think they were the wrong ones. Even his comments at Live Aid – I can relate to that Dylan. But something seemed to change about the time of the nineties. The licensing of his music to adverts, the Victoria’s Secret commercial, the licensing of the Gaslight Tapes to Starbucks, the constant borrowings used to bolster weak material. I can’t imagine the younger Dylan doing this stuff, as Kieran says, but I can’t imagine the mid period Dylan doing this stuff either..."

I recognise this as roughly my own assessment and my own feeling - including the feeling of deep disappointment. I spent a chapter at the end of Song & Dance Man III on the Up Wing and the Down Wing, and tracked there a series of ways in which I felt Dylan was "pissing away his stature as an artist". Of course since I wrote that the mainstream media has woken up belatedly to his historic artistic strengths, and he has produced "Chronicles" and "Love and Theft" and more besides - and of course I never denied there was an Up Wing - so his contemporary public stature has never been stronger; but I don't think I was wrong in describing a downward curve in real terms in his art. And in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia there is an entry titled 'co-option of real music by advertising, the', which tackles the painful topic of Dylan's latterday slippage of integrity (to coin a phrase). It cites the Biograph interview and ends with this:

"Dylan himself talks in the Biograph interview about how ‘Sometimes you feel you’re walking around in that movie Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and you wonder if it’s got you yet, if you’re still one of the few or are you “them” now.’ Well, yes."

4:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the Anonymous who wanted to hear your opinion on the decline in Dylan's integrity. Thanks, Michael, for such a considered and insightful post. I agree with just about everything. I particularly enjoyed the chapter at the end of Song and Dance Man III, and also the entry you mentioned in the Encyclopedia (such a delight to read, that book - the entry on Bono is an absolute classic). I think it was probably from you that I first learned about the Coopers and Lybrand (sp?) ad and Dylan's shift towards using his music in this way, but there have been an awful lot of similar slips of integrity since Song and Dance Man was published (and indeed, since the Encyclopedia), and it seems the concern you voiced back then has sadly proved to be well founded. Thanks for taking the time to write this, and very much looking forward to your next work.

10:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, I do agree with your criticisms of Dylan's work. On occasion, I have reacted to the spiky nature of some of your comments, but your attitude is probably more congruent with the spirit of his work than mine.
To clarify my view:-I have seen great,mediocre and terrible performances by Bob Dylan.

I will be seeing him in Nottingham tommorow night, hoping that the depth of engagement & presence he can still give to his work(like at The White House) will be evident in at least a few of the songs. That would be ok for me because the deep personal/emotional resonance his good work triggers in me, helps me tolerate the rest; but for my partner I fear it could be torture!! Jack

9:54 pm  

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