Category: Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan's all-star album of 'lost' Hank Williams songs due Oct. 4

Bob Dylan sings Hank Williams

Hank Williams saluted by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s long-gestating project to complete a batch of songs left unfinished by Hank Williams will see the light of day Oct. 4 with the release of “The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams,” a collection of a dozen songs for which Dylan, Merle Haggard, Jack White, Lucinda Williams, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow and several other musicians created music for the country giant’s unpublished lyrics.

Dylan invited those with an affinity for Williams' music -- also including his own son, Jakob Dylan, Williams’ granddaughter, Holly,  as well as Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell, Alan Jackson, Levon Helm and Patty Loveless -- to select lyrics from a stockpile that Williams left behind in a leather briefcase when he died in 1953. Some lyrics were finished, others were just fragments or ideas Williams had jotted down. 

The album has been assembled in conjunction with the “Family Tradition” exhibition on Williams and his descendants at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, a show that opened in 2008 and will continue through Dec. 31.

Gill and Crowell collaborated on a song titled “I Hope You Shed a Million Tears,” for which Williams’ original steel guitarist, Don Helms, played on what turned out to be one of the final recording sessions before his death in 2008.

“The neat thing for me,” Gill told The Times three years ago, “was how the spirit of it felt like that era of music: Hank and the '50s. We all gathered in a circle, played together and played live with no overdubbing and no fixing. We just gathered 'round and had a pretty big time.”

Haggard sings "The Sermon on the Mount," a song for which he said, "I had to fix a few lines."

The album will be the second release on Dylan’s own label imprint, Egyptian Records.  The first was a 1997 tribute to pioneering country singer and songwriter Jimmie Rodgers with recordings of his songs by Dylan, Bono, Willie Nelson, Van Morrison, Steve Earle, Alison Krauss, Jerry Garcia and several others.


Jack White speaks on Bob Dylan's Hank Williams project

Don Helms, 1927-2008: Steel guitar player for Hank Williams

Bob Dylan turns 70: 'I'm younger than that now'

-- Randy Lewis

Photo (left) of Bob Dylan. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

Photo (right) of Hank Williams. Credit: TNN.

Bob Dylan turns 70: 'I'm younger than that now'

Bob Dylan 2009-Kevin Winter Getty Images Bob Dylan 1965 Sony Music Entertainment Inc


Somehow, a chorus of “Happy Birthday” just doesn’t cut it for Bob Dylan, the Poet Laureate of his generation, today as he hits the milestone of 70. First and foremost, Bob didn’t write it.

Not surprisingly, the momentous occasion is being observed in many quarters. Rolling Stone magazine has devoted the cover of its latest issue to him, for a story listing the 70 greatest Bob Dylan songs as selected.

Tonight at the Grammy Museum here in Los Angeles, author and historian Sean Wilentz (“Bob Dylan in America”) and journalist-author Mikal Gilmore will lead a musical and philosophical exploration of Dylan’s legacy following a screening of Murray Lerner’s documentary “The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at the Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965."

And—gulp!—AARP magazine, the publication of the American Assn. of Retired Persons, also has a Dylan cover piece in which the editors coaxed Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Judy Collins, Mavis Staples and Martin Scorsese into writing a few words in recognition of their peer/hero and/or friend.

Not to be outdone, Pop & Hiss views the occasion as a chance to offer up a salutary bonus episode of Dylan’s brilliant radio series, “Theme Time Radio Hour.” Number-conscious guy that he is, Dylan signed on with XM (now Sirius XM) satellite radio and delivered exactly 100 shows from 2006-2009, each devoted to a broad swath of songs reflecting a given theme, such as the Devil, Christmas, Cadillacs, Jail. Then it was time for he and those famous boot heels to be wanderin’. (TTRH had still been part of the Sirius XM lineup in reruns until, ironically, this month. It’s been taken off the air to make room for the Earle Bailey show.)

So with all humility, here’s a chronologically organized playlist of 70 minutes’ worth of Dylan songs spanning nearly 50 years, songs that reference various facets of age, a topic that’s surfaced repeatedly in his music over the decades: birth, death, youth, maturity, fate, heaven, hell, existentialism, spirituality, generational differences, paradise, past, present and future.

The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964, from the album "The Times They Are A-Changin’" ) (3:12)

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

My Back Pages (1964, "Another Side of Bob Dylan") (4:23)

Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

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Bob Dylan speaks out on 'so-called China controversy'

Bob dylan beijing 
Bob Dylan has taken to his website to address a swirl of commentary and analysis stemming from his performance last month in Beijing, specifically responding to accusations that he sold out for adherring to what has been described as as set list vetted and approved by the Chinese government. Others criticized the singer and songwriter for not speaking out on behalf of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Dylan dismisses the notion that he was following anyone else's order in choosing songs for the show.

"As far as censorship goes," says Dylan's note that was posted Friday, "the Chinese government had asked for the names of the songs that I would be playing. There's no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous 3 months. If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play."

He also counters reports that he was ever barred from performing in China previously or that the shows were either pooorly attended or made up mostly of Westerners who were in the country.

"They responded enthusiastically to the songs on my last 4 or 5 records," Dylan writes. "Ask anyone who was there. They were young and my feeling was that they wouldn't have known my early songs anyway.

Dylan's lively response suggests an update may be in order on Mark Twain's famous warning about the perils of engaging in a debate with a newspaper: "Never pick a fight with a guy who buys his ink by the barrel." In this case, maybe it should be: "Never start a war of words with the poet laureate of his generation:

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Robbie Robertson on The Band's tours with Bob Dylan: The world came around



Bob Dylan and the Band Feb. 14 1974 the Forum Inglewood-Kathleen Ballard LAT 

At several points during my recent conversation with Robbie Robertson in preparation for the profile that appears in Sunday’s Arts & Books section, the former lead guitarist and chief songwriter for the Band brought up that group’s long touring career, including its storied history backing Bob Dylan during his contentious switch from acoustic folkie to plugged-in rocker in the mid-'60s.

Bob Dylan Before the Flood cover Dylan also called on the Band to accompany him when he emerged in 1974 from an eight-year touring hiatus after his near-fatal 1966 motorcycle accident, the result being the celebrated  “Before the Flood” tour, which was documented on the double live album that reached  No. 3 in Billboard.

When I mentioned how powerful that show was from my vantage point in the audience when the six-week tour concluded at the Forum in Inglewood — I always like to tell people you can see me on the album cover: I'm the one holding up a lighted match — Robertson smiled recalling the accolades that tour generated for both Dylan and the Band.

“We were doing exactly the same thing we’d done on the earlier [Dylan-goes-electric] tour,  when people were booing us,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member recalled. “They absolutely hated us….So it good to find out that we were right, and that the world had come around to what we had been doing all along.”


Robbie Robertson has a sense about 'How to Become Clairvoyant'

— Randy Lewis

Top photo: Bob Dylan and The Band on Feb. 14, 1974 at the Forum in Inglewood (l-r): Robbie Robertson, Dylan, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Levon Helm. Credit: Kathleen Ballard / Los Angeles Times.

Center: Cover photo from Bob Dylan & the Band's 1974 live album "Before the Flood."

John Lennon, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Josh Groban hits together on 'Songs for Japan' benefit album

Songs for Japan - COVER

Contemporary and classic hits from John Lennon, Justin Bieber, Bob Dylan, U2, Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, Katy Perry, Josh Groban and nearly three dozen other acts have been gathered on “Songs for Japan,” a new compilation that will generate funds for the Japanese Red Cross Society’s disaster relief efforts.

The album’s 38 tracks include Lennon’s “Imagine,”  Bieber’s “Pray,” Dylan’s “Shelter From the Storm,” U2’s “Walk On,” Gaga’s “Born This Way,” Springsteen’s “Human Touch,” Perry’s “Firework,” Groban’s “Awake,” Pink’s “Sober” and Nicki Minaj’s “Save Me.”

Other artists represented include Black Eyed Peas, Madonna, Keith Urban, Rihanna, Lady Antebellum, Eminem, Elton John and Shakira.

All artists, publishers and record companies have waived their royalties and other proceeds so that 100% of money generated from sales of “Songs for Japan” will go to the Japanese Red Cross Society. The collection is available for digital download now on iTunes and will surface as a double CD set in early April.

Meanwhile, Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, is playing two benefit shows in New York in the days ahead from which proceeds will go to relief efforts. She’ll be joined by Sonic Youth; her son, Sean Ono Lennon; Cibo Matto; and others on Sunday at the Miller Theatre in a performance that has already sold out. Then on Tuesday, she’ll have Patti Smith, Tony Shanahan, Matto and others with her at Le Poisson Rouge. Tickets are $100.

-- Randy Lewis

Billboard Hot 100 notches 1,000th No. 1 single: From Ricky Nelson to Lady Gaga

Rick Nelson 1958 Lady Gaga 2011

Lady Gaga has snagged a piece of pop music history in landing the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 this week with her new single “Born This Way.”

Even more significant than posting the highest first-week digital sales by a female artist, with 448,000 downloads of the song, according to Nielsen SoundScan, Gaga scored the 1,000th No. 1 single on the Billboard chart since its inception in 1958.

In recognition of the milestone among chart watchers, Billboard has posted a chronological listing of all 1,000 chart-topping songs.

The first? Ricky Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool,” which beat all comers on that first Hot 100 chart dated Aug. 4, 1958. With that in mind, some might consider it a shame that America’s latest teen idol, Justin Bieber, didn’t land the No. 1 slot this week to bookend the half-century-plus period that began with pop music’s original teen idol. (Life magazine is credited with coining the phrase in a feature story on Nelson’s rise to stardom.)

Pop & Hiss thought we’d take the opportunity to scan through the years for some of the chart’s other high- and lowlights.

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Bob Dylan may have more books on the way [Updated]

Bob Dylan 2010 AP photo 
Bob Dylan reportedly has signed a six-book deal with Simon & Schuster for two more volumes of his acclaimed “Chronicles, Vol. 1” autobiography, which was tied to his “Theme Time Radio Hour” program that ran for three years on Sirius XM radio and additional works, according to Crain’s New York Business.

A spokeswoman for Simon & Schuster, the publisher of the first installment in the projected multi-volume autobiography, said Thursday that the company had no comment on the report.

Crain’s credited the information to “several industry insiders” and said the deal was put together by Dylan's literary agent, Andrew Wylie. No monetary figure was specified in the report, nor any proposed release dates of new books from Dylan.

“Chronicles” drew praise from critics, fans and peers for its impressionistic, time-hopping structure. “Theme Time Radio Hour” tapped Dylan’s deep knowledge of an array of pop music genres as well as his droll sense of humor during 100 episodes recorded over the show’s run.

Updated Jan. 21 at 11:07 a.m.: In response to an inquiry from Pop & Hiss, a source close to Dylan says there is "nothing to announce. [There is] a grain of truth in the Internet rumors, in that a variety of book projects are always being discussed, but no deal like that has been made."

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Bob Dylan at last summer's Hop Farm Festival in England. Credit: Gareth Fuller / Associated Press

U2, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Metallica special releases coming Nov. 26 for 'Back to Black Friday'

George Harrison All Things Must PassContinuing their efforts to reward music fans who still patronize independent record stores, a coalition of small retailers will be offering exclusive releases on Nov. 26 from rock, pop, R&B and country artists including U2, Metallica, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix and many others.

The special releases are part of indie retailers' "Back to Black Friday" promotion for the day after Thanksgiving, typically the heaviest shopping day of the year.

Many are being released on vinyl, which gives rise to the "back to black" theme. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Cee-Lo, Iron & Wine and Drive-By Truckers are among the other acts participating.

"These exclusive pieces not only create nice sales, but a lasting memory and connection between the customer, the store, the employee and the artist, whose importance can't be overstated," Mike Batt, who owns Silver Platters, a Seattle indie music store, said in a statement Thursday.

The store owners also seek to increase awareness of existing retailers each spring with National Record Store Day, which also has become something of a cause celebre among pop and rock stars.

"Many of the great indies have disappeared in recent years, but Record Store Day is giving us yet another chance to show appreciation to this wonderful endangered slice of Americana," Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers said in the same statement.

Among exclusive high-profile reissues coming to the indie stores for the holiday season are a special edition of Harrison's 1970 solo triple-album "All Things Must Pass" and a Hendrix holiday EP, "Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year."

-- Randy Lewis

Jac Holzman: The day Bob Dylan switched to the electric guitar

The history of music, it seems, is replete with rocky transitions.

Jac Holzman, who founded Elektra Records 60 years ago and is now back in the swing of things as senior advisor to Warner Music Group's Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman on the company's digital strategy, has seen quite a few.

For Holzman, one of the most memorable occured in 1965 and involved Bob Dylan. The place was the Newport Folk Festival, and Dylan was headlining the event. Described by Time magazine as one of the top 10 music festival moments, the broad details are well-known.

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Bob Dylan demos, early mono albums on the way

Bob Dylan - Bootleg 9 - Cover Columbia Records is wrapping up a trove of early Bob Dylan recordings that will surface in time for the holidays, among them 47 early demo recordings by the fabled singer-songwriter that previously had never been officially released. The other major component of the two-pronged release slated for Oct. 19 is  “Bob Dylan – The Original Mono Recordings,” consisting of the monaural mixes of his first eight studio albums, from “Bob Dylan” through 1967’s “John Wesley Harding.”

Recordings known as “The Witmark Demos,” recorded from 1962-64 for Dylan’s first two music publishers, will make up Volume 9 in the ongoing “Bootleg Series” of archival releases.  They feature Dylan alone playing guitar and harmonica, and some piano, on such watershed songs as “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” as well as 15 numbers that never subsequently surfaced on his studio albums, including “Ballad for a Friend,” “Long Ago, Far Away” and “The Ballad of Emmett Till."

The mono box set, akin to “The Beatles in Mono” released last year, is being issued because those early albums were originally intended by Dylan to be released in that format, which was the dominant medium at a time when stereo recording was still young. Critic and author Greil Marcus writes the essay accompanying the box set, which also includes “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’," “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde.”

-- Randy Lewis

Album cover credit: Columbia Records

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