Bob Dylan – Our Homer
Recording Date 2010-05-05
This is a studio version of the lecture and the music for the Poetry on the Plaza presentation that I gave on March 1, 2006 at the Humanities Research Center (HRC = Harry Ransom Center, too). It had the title “Bob Dylan: Our Homer”.
I discussed and illustrated in recordings, as I repeat here with clear audio, the art of Bob Dylan as an oral poet and songster.
This covers his career from the very early 1960’s until 2006.
Dylan and his music are parts of a rich tradition going back to Homer and in the modern period reaching back to the 17th century in folk ballads.
Here I selectively play and discuss mainly live concert recordings and the recordings of singers (Martin Carthy, Charlie Patton, the Stanley Brothers, all the way to Warren Zevon) who inspired Dylan’s own songs or were singled out by Dylan himself in his concerts as special.
I hope you enjoy these masterworks and my commentary on them.
On December 1, 2010, I will give a second Poetry on the Plaza on Bob Dylan.
The topic will be “Harmonica Bob: The Ineffable Poetry of Bob Dylan.”
In it, I will discuss Dylan’s use of harmonica (an instrument that is very important in folk and blues traditions) in order to express meanings and feelings that cannot be said or to emphasize or create a tone for what has been said in sung words.
Dylan Song Poems 1963 through 2009
Recording Date 2010-05-14
Bob Dylan has been ‘accused’ of abandoning concerns about the ills and problems of society when he made the shift around 1965 from the traditional folk music scene to writing and performing his own at times deeply personal music.
There is also a controversy over whether Dylan’s lyrics can stand alone on their own as poetry.
Here I read the lyrics of selected Dylan songs from 1963 right up to the present. I provide minimal commentary aimed a contextualizing more than advancing any arguments.
These song poems include: “Ballad of Hollis Brown,” “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine,” “Señor,” “Blind Willie McTell,” “Foot of Pride,” “What Was It You Wanted,” “Love Henry,” “Not Dark Yet,” “Mississippi,” “Ain’t Talkin’,” and “Forgetful Heart.”
All of them reflect Dylan’s continuing and keen interest in the human condition, the human spirit and the human heart.
My thanks to Michael Heidenreich and the UT Austin College of Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services for producing these audio files in connection with my honors seminars on war and violence and on the history of song as social commentary.