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Dylan's Grammy Museum

On a seemingly literate rock music website in the U.K., there's a poll question that asks with a straight face, "Is Bob Dylan a God?" Sweetening the bait was that five lucky poll respondents would win the ultimate prize: a free LP copy of the newest - and apparently bestest - Dylan release, Modern Times. I'm guessing the U.K. vote in favor of elevating our once-and-future favorite Minnesota son to godhood is running about 999,999-to-1, with the lone holdout claiming mere godhood isn't good enough for Bob: "Nope. He's, like, God's god, man."

Dylan made a new record and so it is written he must win the first Grammy for a best "Americana" album because all the worshipping is seriously getting out of control. In evidence I offer that the track "Someday Baby" was nominated for best rock song and best rock vocal as well, for God's sake! Apparently, Modern Times is not only the best Americana out there, it's also the best rock 'n' roll . . . I guess I hadn't realized that. Beck, you watch yer ass!

dylan_face.jpgOK, OK, I kid Dylan a little. That's because I love a little. "Someday Baby," in fact, is a pretty good song. It's a bluesy little mid-tempo rock 'n' roll item, sounds a lot like Muddy Waters actually, and it features a very nice violin solo by Donnie Herron. The lyrics, closely following blues form, as usual are great - they evoke images and tell emotional tales in a matter-of-fact way:

I don't care what you do, I don't care what you say
I don't care where you go or how long you stay
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

I'm so hard pressed, my mind tied up in knots
I keep recycling the same old thoughts
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

So many good things in life that I overlooked
I don't know what to do now, you got me so hooked
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

Well, I don't want to brag, but I'm gonna wring your neck
When all else fails I'll make it a matter of self respect
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

I tried to be friendly, I tried to be kind
I'm gonna drive you from your home, just like I was driven from mine
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

Living this way ain't a natural thing to do
Why was I born to love you?
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

But, y'know, poet that Dylan is, it's just that "Someday Baby" - while it's definitely fun to see Dylan continue his late-life tendency to get ever more rootsy - just isn't technically or musically on a par with the best the music industry has to offer. It. Just. Ain't! I realize that Dylan is Dylan and will always have tremendous meaning to music. I personally love his early electric era. But the problem with the Grammys (and the Oscars) is that the awards are so five-to-10-years behind the curve that watching them is like traveling through a black hole back to a time when they had just invented this thing called The Internet. Few are those who get the recognition of a Grammy when they really need it. That's the frustrating nature of entertainment awards.

dylan_guitar.jpgI think the most appropriate place to appreciate Dylan right now is not so much on the current CD rack, but rather live in smallish venues like minor league ballparks. Or even - rabid fans probably won't agree - in a museum. His big Grammy win came for me just a week or so after going to the preview party for a major Dylan-themed art exhibit at his alma mater, the University of Minnesota. The show, called "Bob Dylan's American Journey: 1956-1966," was previously shown at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland and the Experience Music Project in Seattle - so its debut at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis wasn't a first. Much like at the other stops, it contained the same handheld camera that D.A. Pennebaker used to film Don't Look Back; the same 1949 Martin Guitar that served as one of Dylan's very first instruments; the same handwritten lyrics jotted down in haste. In all, it has some 150 artifacts from the early (and best) part of a long career.

But the Weisman also added quite a few of its own new items this time around - of course, all Minnesota-centric. Some were from Hibbing, including a monument to his family's history of theater-owning: the marquee from the Lybba Theater, which was owned by Dylan's great-grandfather and named after his great-grandmother. (Dylan's brother David Zimmerman was the longtime owner of the Orpheum Theater in downtown Minneapolis). Some of the new artifacts are from the student-dominated Minneapolis neighborhood near the University known as Dinkytown. That coffee shop-filled mini-bohemia was the scene of Dylan's first known public performances, and the Weisman has dug up a tape recording from 1960 of him performing in a friend's Dinkytown apartment. Perhaps the earliest recording yet found of the god-man.

The experience of listening to Dylan's crucial early songs off of a list on an art museum sound console seemed surprisingly appropriate to me - much like communing with God is something that just seems right in a church. The kind of Dylan tunes that it took to dominate an industry really haven't been forthcoming for quite awhile, which in no way denies his nascent divinty, but also which means that when he beats out Guy Clark for best Americana album, well, it kind of rankles me a bit. But then again, the other nominees for Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album included Rosanne Cash, Jackson Browne (?!) and the duo of Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris. None of them - except Emmylou - have much connection to the kind of Americana I listen to . . . I mean Jackson Browne? Mark Knopfler? I'm finding out that "Americana" really means "old rockers' home."

Hmmm. It does kind of feel like a museum in here.

-

See also:

* Bob Dylan's Record Geek Radio Hour.
* Bob Dylan Plays Ball. Contact Don Jacobson at don@beachwoodreporter.com.



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Posted on February 12, 2007


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