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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Congratulations Bob Dylan

On winning the Noble Peace Prize

[photo L to R - Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Bob Johnston]

First heard Bob Dylan's songs in the fall of 1963 in Danny's room at Austin College in Sherman Texas where I spent a brief yet influential time. It was Dylan's 2nd album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. The first song I heard was Talkin John Birch Blues.  I was barely familiar with all the songs on that album and Dylan's first, Bob Dylan, when he came out with another album, The Times They are a-Changin.' By the time I walked out of that institution, I could crudely play Blowin' in the Wind, the Times They are a-Changin,' Masters of War, and With God on Our Side. Danny could play them all just like Dylan did.

I played those songs and others in Mississippi in the summer of '64. Was in an SDS house in Chicago when the next album came out - Another Side of Bob Dylan. The line "An' for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail" haunted me. Also turned on to Joan Baez albums and went to a concert of hers in Dallas before going to Mexico where I spent over a year avoiding the draft at the University of the Americas and bathing in the wonders of pot and peyote. My buds down there didn't play acoustic music so I forgot about Dylan and got into the Stones et al.

Returning to America went to a concert of Dylan's in Austin. The first set was acoustic and he played a number of songs I knew. I was blown away by the second set which was with an electric band. Later I was in Fort Worth and heard a rock song on the radio and said to a friend it sounded like Bob Dylan. It was and the song was Memphis Blues Again. I couldn't believe he'd made it to the airwaves. I had a love affair with Dylan's rock n roll starting lightly with Bringin' it All Back Home and exploding with Highway 61 Revisited and Blond on Blond. I could play a bunch of those songs as well.

By that time I was in San Francisco where there was so much cool music coming out that Dylan was joined by a host of others in my mind. Before long I was living at Tassajara where the bells and wooden han and mokugyo were the musical instruments I was surrounded by. The last I'd heard of Dylan was from Alan Ginsberg who had asked Dylan to help the SF Zen Center out with the purchase of Tassajara. Dylan told him he'd buy the whole place if he could build a home there.

Now and then I'd hear a new Dylan album. He was always changing, always moving on. I liked that. But I didn't follow any music that was coming out. In my circles, the Heart Sutra was always at the top of the charts. Ran into Ginsberg in North Beach. He said he'd just spent a day with Dylan in Greenwich Village, said he was into Shakespeare. I didn't mind his Christian albums - he just kept moving on. I was though more into jazz, Stevie Wonder, and writing my own music.

Through Chris Rand got to know and work with fellow Fort Worthian ("Is it rollin Bob?") Bob Johnston who'd produced my favorite (and Dylan's favorite) Dylan albums, especially Highway 61 Revisited and Blond on Blond. Bob would say "the saint Bob Dylan" as well as "the saint Bob Marley" with heavy emphasis in his pronounced Texas accent on the word saint. He was mainly into new stuff but he'd talk some about the old days. He said he didn't do anything, that Dylan did it all, that all he did was get Dylan and his band together in a studio with an engineer and let them go at it.

Johnston ranted about the music business, said it was run by lawyers and accountants who didn't have ears. Said that the execs at Columbia were concerned about the length and content of the new album, Blond on Blond. Johnston hadn't allowed any of them in the studio. When it was done he took the master tapes, hid them, and "told those assholes they wouldn't hear that album until the public does."

So now Dylan has won the Noble Prize. I'd heard mention of that possibility and suppose he's been nominated a bunch of times but it finally really happened. Must send dharma bro Robert Lytle a celebratory note. What did you do Robert - a thesis on Dylan's music in college? Will find out and amend it to here.

Also in the news, two trillion more galaxies than they thought. It's a good day.