Nightly Song
Musings on Songs that Strike a Chord Tonight

Posts Tagged ‘Bob Dylan

A Memorial Day Song: John Brown

May 27, 2011

“John Brown” makes a fitting Memorial Day song, one to come after we sweep up from the parades and put away the speakers’ microphones, to remind of us of the deeply personal sacrifice made when our young go off to fight. And a song to make us think before asking one more soldier to pick up a weapon overseas.

Blowin’ in the Wind – A Live Performance by Neil Young

December 7, 2010

And then came Neil Young, fuzzy guitar and wavering voice bringing a song that had all but stagnated into a museum piece back to life, a song that did nothing but ask questions, a song that made it possible to challenge, to dare. Standing in the darkness, he made it possible to wonder why and that song provided the common text around which 20,000 people could unite and know we were not alone. As the crowd cheered, we did so in appreciation of what the artist had just done for us. We stood in a collective sign of relief and empowerment, no longer alone, but connected in an experience that only certain art can provide.

Jesus, The Missing Years – John Prine

October 15, 2010

Jesus, the Missing Years

Written and Performed by John Prine. These poets, or in this case, a singer-songwriter, can be trouble. No wonder Plato wanted to exile them from his Republic. These poets are like a force of nature tending towards disorder, challenging what we see, asking questions no one wants asked. It’s Warren Zevon declaring “I was born to rock the boat” (from “Mutineer”) and Bob Dylan declaring, “the sun’s not yellow, it’s chicken.” Along comes John Prine asking questions and poking fun at Jesus or at least the common notions of Jesus and you know that’s trouble. It’s why parents get so upset about the music their kids listen to. (As the elders issue their cries and objections – where are you now Tipper Gore? – over the supposed violence or misogyny of rap and hip-hop, listening to a good old Chicago folkie begs the question who’s more subservice, L.L. Cool J or Steve Goodman?)

President Obama on Bob Dylan at the White House: “That’s how you want Bob Dylan, right?”

September 29, 2010

Last February 22, Bob Dylan performed at the White House. He sang “The Times They Are a Changin’,” a perfect song to sing when invited to such an august performance. Turns out that President Obama had a good sense of humor (and history) about the event. Here’s what the President told Rolling Stone magazine about the occasion:

Girl from the North Country by Bob Dylan

September 21, 2010

Girl from the North Country

Written by Bob Dylan

A Dylan staple for over 45 years and covered by others “Girl from the North Country” can first seem like nothing more than a romantic remembrance of a past love, one told with great affection and telling detail. Yet this song is not as simple as it seems; it skirts the edge of sentimentality to resonate with a potent mix of desire, loss and longing not for a past love, but for meaning. It is not an easy song, refusing to wallow in the past and refusing to deny the loss of the love and a younger self. Nor does the song take the easy way out, refusing to conclude with familiar bromides or clichéd resolves. Instead, the song ends with an uneasy sense of how our present depends upon the past.

Rock and Roll by the Velvet Underground

September 16, 2010

Rock and Roll

Performed and written by the Velvet Underground.

Some songs document moments, but the best create moments. So it goes with “Rock and Roll,” the Velvet’s wall of sound coursing through us as if the band plugged not into amps, but directly to us, Moe Tucker’s drum beat becoming our pulse. The song sweeps us up and as an earlier New York author wrote, “Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth.” It’s not the idea of rock and roll; it is rock and roll.

Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash

August 11, 2010

Falling in love, a simple and powerful idea, yet those words have been so overused that they’re stripped of meaning. From the opening mariachi horns, Johnny Cash wakes us up to the meaning of falling in love, of falling into that “ring of fire.” His voice, at once tough and desperate, conveys the truth of the experience, makes us understand that “love is a burning thing.”

Falling in love is not a deliberate act, not one we can pre-plan or guide. The heart goes and we follow. It’s a helpless feeling to want someone so much. In that early love, we don’t know what will happen, we don’t k now if the other loves us back or can ever feel the way we do about them. It is less a letting go, then a falling. No rational person would make that choice, and yet we can’t help ourselves. Johnny sings in that hard voice:

Kaatskill Serenade – Bob Dylan Bootleg of a David Bromberg Song

June 19, 2010

Kaatskill Serenade
As performed by Bob Dylan, written by David Bromberg. This article is written by Sean Dolan.

In the late winter of 1992, Bob Dylan and Neil Young (don’t you just love the image?) together attended a performance by David Bromberg, the exceptional multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and singer, later-to-be luthier and collector of vintage American violins, who had been performing roots music and Americana long before the terms were in common use, at the Bottom Line, the fabled, long-since-shuttered music club (capacity: 400) on West 4th Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Dylan was at a creative impasse at the time; though he’d experienced the various musical epiphanies regarding guitar and singing techniques so vividly described in his memoir Chronicles and was utilizing them to revitalize his stage career (the so-called Neverending Tour was already well in progress), he wasn’t writing, and though he put up a bold front about it, one imagines that this fallow period must still have been some kind of torment, especially for one who’d been able for so long to draw on such a prodigious and seemingly indefatigable gift for writing words and music. (The obvious pride he later took, when he began writing again, in the albums Time Out of Mind and Love and Theft, especially, would seem to support this conjecture.) “The world doesn’t need any more songs,” Dylan said at this period. “They’ve got enough. They’ve got way too many. As a matter of fact, if nobody wrote any songs from this day on, the world ain’t gonna suffer for it. Nobody cares. There’s enough songs for people to listen to if they want to listen to songs . . . unless someone’s gonna come along with a pure heart and have something to say. That’s a different story.”

Gimme Some Truth – John Lennon

June 14, 2010

Gimme Some Truth

Performed and written by John Lennon.

I took a long drive with my eldest son, Patrick, a few weeks ago and along the way, we found ourselves listening to this song and some other of what I call John Lennon’s primal scream music. The raw, angry sound caught Paddy off-guard cause he knew the Beatles music – even at age 20 with a preference for hip-hop, one can’t avoid the Beatles – but he did not know John Lennon’s solo work.

The song and others – “Working Class Hero,” “God,” “I Found Out” – certainly demand that you pay attention. Paddy laughed when I told him about Richard Nixon putting John Lennon on his Enemies List, serious stuff that seems beyond buffoonish now. Lennon crams so many words into his lines and spits them out with a venom that continues to strike a chord. While arising from a specific time and place, the conviction and sentiments remain strong enough that Vin Scelsa took to playing “Gimme Some Truth” on every show during the “Imperial Presidency” as he called George W.’s term. Folks like Travis, Sam Phillips and Pearl Jam have made more recent covers in their effort to respond to the kaleidoscope of world events.

In a funny way, the song shares some unlikely sentiments with so many Tea Baggers who vent their anger at today’s version of “uptight-short sighted- narrow minded hypocritics” and “neurotic-psychotic-pig headed politicians.” Of course, no self-respecting Tea Bagger would align him or herself with a long, haired freak like John Lennon calling Richard Nixon “tricky dick.”

Released on the Imagine album in 1971, the song had its origins back in 1969 while the Beatles recorded what became their Let it Be album. I first came across the song in the summer of 1973, summer between my freshman and sophomore years in high school, a time when I was ripe for change and a few musical bolts by John Lennon and Bob Dylan did the trick. Picture those reenactments of Earth’s primordial goo that lightening strikes and brings forth the first forms of life.

Best Baseball Songs

June 3, 2010

Best Baseball Songs

Usually I write on one song at a time, but here’s a baseball songs for your consideration. Each concerns a team, a player or has some relation to the game. Baseball has to figure in the song, so “Wild Thing” doesn’t make the cut no matter how attached it has become to baseball since the movie Major League.

I’ve started with my favorites, the songs I like or play or find interesting. I’m sure you’d come up with a different list. I then included a longer list of others you might find interesting. Of course, I’m sure that I’ve missed more than my fair share so add your comments and post of other songs.

I start with the lists and then provide notes for the top thirteen down below. Enjoy