Next up are Dylan’s country reviews. We meet, among other things Willie Nelson, Marty Robbins and Hank Williamsbut learn with Johnny Paycheck also know someone from the second row.
Willie Nelson: On The Road Again
Copyright: CBS Special Products
Secure, Bob Dylan With its selection of songs, it also honors the songwriters and most important performers of the songs. But since he has already celebrated Willie Nelson with “Pancho & Lefty”, he devotes himself entirely to the meaning of the song and so this essay becomes a hymn to touring life. Dylan, who has been touring several times a year for almost 35 years, only interrupted by the Corona break in 2020 and 2021, praises touring life: “It’s an update of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the iconic masterpiece of the Beat Generation. Traveling in this song means riding in a tour bus that has all the latest features: flat screen TV, fully stocked bar, queen bed in the back, plus bunk beds that are a world apart, kitchen appliances and leather upholstered seating areas, a shower and sometimes even a steam bath. It doesn’t get any better on the go. Actually you don’t go anywhere, you just stay on the bus, get off, play a few hours and drive on.” The great songwriter states that this song is a happy song: When you’re on the move, you’re living the life you love . Make music with your friends and earn a living doing it. It’s a happy song. There isn’t a single wording that pulls you down. You could sing it anywhere. At a state exhibition or in the Radio City Music Hall. Common ground is the theme. It’s kind of a religious hoedown.”
In fact, Dylan plays everywhere. Whether at the “State Fair” in the Midwest, in the picturesque Beacon Theater in New York or in a faceless multi-purpose hall in Neu-Ulm or Krefeld. And he also knows the negative sides of touring life: “There could be verses about broken ventilation systems on the bus, sirens outside the hotel room windows, an overly thorough search at the Texas border or the persistent, antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea that sets in after a concert in New Mexico has spread to the crew. Questionable microwave burritos, long gaps between wash days, and overly detailed reports of the driver’s divorce.”
But in the end, the desire to tour prevails: “The good thing about being on the road is that you don’t get bogged down. Not even with bad news. You give pleasure to other people and keep your sorrows to yourself.” Dylan as a mellow humorist. This post also tells a lot about Dylan.
Marty Robbins: El Paso
The riff and essay on Marty Robbins’ hit are among the most eloquent and ambitious contributions in this book. In the riff, Dylan is completely immersed in the stream of consciousness again: “Gunfire, blood and sudden death look like a typical Western ballad, but here they are anything but that. This is the Moloch, the pyramid of the Sphinx, the dark underside of the Beauty; if you pull the base away, everything collapses. The chosen cowboy, bloody mass sacrifices, Jews of the Holocaust, Christ in the Temple, Aztec blood on the altar. The song blows you away and before you can even get up, it hits you again.”
Because it’s like in a screenplay Western created. In the song’s essay, we meet “Texas-Bob,” Marty Robbins’ grandfather: “He was a celebrated Wild West poet, a boorish man who wrote about life on the prairie from his own experience and whose books were the stories of men and women told who expanded the borders of the United States. As seen on the cover of Rhymes of the Frontier, one of his books, Texas Bob was the archetypal medicine show cowboy—tall and gaunt in the saddle, his silver-gray hair worn to his shoulders under his Confederate hat, his skin was so tanned by the wind and sun that it was the same color and texture as his suede pants.”
And this grandfather used to tell his grandson wild west stories. And Marty set them to music at the first opportunity. Dylan highly praises the song: “It is so complex and yet so simply constructed – a dark story about indescribable beauty and death.”
The Osborne Brothers: Are You Mad At Your Man
Bob Dylan pays tribute to that Bluegrass respect and has chosen one of the wildest and most daring titles in the genre. The Osborne Brothers’ “Ruby, Are You Mad At Your Man” is actually based on Cousin Emmy, who first recorded it in 1946. Ten years later, the even wilder and more breakneck version of the Osborne Brothers appears: “The Osborne Brothers are a bluegrass band bursting with energy. Maybe the strongest. Roy Orbison couldn’t hold a note as long as the man singing here in a high tenor voice. The Osborne Brothers sing excellent harmonies. And with this song it’s hard. It only has one chord, but otherwise there’s a lot going on in it. There are no drums either. From this you can tell that it’s all about the rhythm. The drums would only get in the way and would slow down. Instrumented with two fiddles, fast and with high tension,” the Nobel Prize winner in literature praises the version of the bluegrass brothers from Kentucky.
His ingenious description of bluegrass then reads like this: “Bluegrass is the flip side of heavy metal. Both musical forms are deeply rooted in tradition, and both have not changed much, either visually or acoustically, in decades. People still all dress either like Bill Monroe or Ronnie James Dio. Both feature a traditional instrumental line-up and stubbornly cling to traditional forms. Bluegrass is the more emotionally direct music, and while it may not be immediately obvious to the casual listener, it’s more daring.”
The song isn’t as easy as it makes out. On the surface there is a devoted husband who is always afraid of making his wife unhappy. So it’s also a song about traditional men’s fear of failure. And the sense of entitlement of some married women. When Dylan writes firmly. The song digs deep into the establishment of the old guard, with shovel and shovel, laughing and grinning widely, the whole time. The song doesn’t rely on one thing to make ends meet, it relies on trillions at once, and it doubles it all over,” then it’s clear that he’s referring to the man’s world of southern country and bluegrass music. Because the author Cousin Emmy was one of the first women who were self-confident in the country genre. So she fought quite a few fights and opened the door for many other female country acts after her.
But here, too, one comes to talk about Dylan himself when Dylan says that the Osborne Brothers have repeatedly subjected the song to changes live over the years. “It was still the same song, but the little suspensions and the elasticity kept it alive, shaking the dust off its boots. Of course some complained, but they would have been better off staying at home.” Which long-time Dylan concert-goer doesn’t know that? And Dylan wouldn’t be Dylan if he didn’t name Ruby with the nightclub owner Jack Ruby associate, of the Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald shot dead in front of the police.
Johnny Paycheck: Old Violin
Dylan first gave a whimsical and detailed account of the nature of name changes before he met Donald Eugene Lytle, who later went by the name of Donny Young and then Johnny Paycheck as a country musician. Paycheck’s whole life has been shaped by violence, border crossing, alcohol and drugs. He was a great songwriter, including writing hits for Tammy Wynette and had penned “Take This Job and Shove It” by David Allan Coe Success. But he kept having dramatic falls and got in trouble with the law and ended up in prison. There he wrote “Old Violin” about a fiddle that no one plays anymore. When he got out of jail, he recorded the song and it became his most successful single hit.
“’Old Violin’ is different. The metaphor for obsolescence, for the final fight, is so vivid yet so simple, the words are so inseparable from Johnny’s performance that knowing the story doesn’t tarnish the song. The pathos is felt by everyone.
Hank Williams: Your Cheatin‘ Heart
“There really is no one who even comes close to matching Hank Williams. If you think of the classics he’s recorded, and there aren’t that many, he’s made them all his own songs. You can imagine him singing all the pop hits of the time like ‘How Much Is That Doggie in the Window’, ‘Que Sera, Sera’ – even ‘Stardust’ and ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street’. Had he recorded those songs, he would have given Sinatra some serious competition.”
Dylan’s praise of it Hillbilly-Shakespeare is a tribute to one of the greatest singers America has ever produced. And Dylan is right. If Hank hadn’t been possessed by his demons, dying prematurely from alcohol and drug addiction, and recording crossover songs, the backwoods hero might have become a Coast to Coast idol.
Otherwise, the master sings the song of simplicity in this essay. “You need musicians who are on the same wavelength with each other, and you use very simple notes of a chord played with just the right, unchanging intensity. Such phrases are worth more than all the technically demanding licks in the world.” Everything is way too overloaded for him these days. “We get everything stuffed down our throats with a spoon. The songs are about one thing, one thing, there are no gradations, no nuances, no mysteries. Maybe that’s why people use their dreams no longer with Music link. Dreams die in such a vacuum.” Again, he may well be right. Music no longer plays the central role for people today, as it did until the end of the last millennium. It has been replaced by computer games, online shopping, series consumption on Netflix & Co, mountain biking and stand-up paddle boarding. This pastime withers dreams and separates people, while music unites.
Bob Dylan – The Philosophy of the Modern Song: The 2022 Book
title: The Philosophy of Modern Song
authors: Bob Dylan
release date: 18. November 2022
Verlag: C.H. Beck
pages: 352 pages