Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Bob Dylan: dignity

When Bob Dylan's conversational and freewheeling memoir Chronicles Volume 1 was first published in the USA late last year, buyers who bought, I forget where, were also offered a free cd. (Thanks, Lincoln!) The free cd stock ran out. It's probably best to look on ebay now.
That freebie has six Dylan tracks: two from New Morning, two from Oh Mercy, and two previously unreleased tracks: a 1962 live performance by Dylan at The Gaslight in NYC of an old folk classic The Cuckoo; and a 1991(?) demo of the piano-playing Dylan singing Dignity.
Dylan, who has the final say-so on what goes out must like the song. The demo version appears on the UK edition of The Essential Bob Dylan. Which is, by the way, a much better buy than the measly American version. While the Yanks get palmed off with 30, the Brits get 36 tracks.
Now comes a new 2-cd, issued to coincide with the publication of Les Chroniques -- the just-published French version of Chronicles. Available only in France, or from your online French retailer, the cd set comprises songs by Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Woody Guthrie, Tex Ritter, Link Wray, Roy Orbison, Bobby Vee, Neil Sedaka, Irma Thomas, Nina Simone, Billy Holiday -- to name but a few. What we have here is an audio snapshot, the artists/songs Dylan says helped shape and influence him in his formative years as a professional performer and songwriter.
And that's only the first disc. Side two is in a similar vein, but moves on to some of the friends he mentions in his book: Tom Paxton, Richie Havens, Karen Dalton, et cetera. This all leads up to Dylan compositions made famous by others, including The Byrds, Cher, Johnny Winter, The Neville Brothers. And scattered throughout the last disc is himself, the Bobster, with six of his own songs. Last track? You guessed it: Dignity. The 1991 demo. He must really like the song. I know I do.
Chilly wind sharp as a razor blade
House on fire, debts unpaid
Gonna stand at the window, gonna ask the maid
Have you seen dignity?

Drinkin' man listens to the voice he hears
In a crowded room full of covered up mirrors
Lookin' into the lost forgotten years
For dignity
There's a lot more where that came from. Short sample audiostream and complete lyrics of Dignity .
Move on, move on. The 2-cd Bob Dylan Chroniques Volume 1 is a great collection, yet it has a mighty absence: jazz. To include any of that, however, would have required yet another disc. [update: OK, there's one track on the second disc : Dylan doing his jazzy If Dogs Run Free from the album New Morning; but other than that there's zilch by anyone else].
But, as we know from reading Chronicles, the Bobster listened to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. He watched jazz players including Miles Davis and Cecil Taylor. And one day the young performer and songwriter came across Thelonious Monk sitting at a piano. Monk asked Dylan what kind of music he played. Dylan answered: folk music. Monk growled back: we all play folk music.
Dylan is currently enjoying a renaissance. Monk has passed on. Fortunately, his music continues. If you don't know Monk, give him a try. Monk is good music. Suggested and recommended: Monk's Dream, Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane, or Monk playing solo on Standards.
Here's to looking for D-I-G-N-I-T-Y.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

yeah, i'm a big fan of that song. sounds just great too.

mingo dylan said...

I WISH I OWNED THAT COLLECTORS DOUBLE ALBUM. I DON T. BUT I DO KNOW "DIGNITY" VERY WELL. AND I CAN SAY, NOT LONG AGO WHILE LISTENING TO THE MTV UNPLUGGED VERSION, I REALIZED HOW GREAT IT IS. SIMPLY OUTSHINES THE STUDIO VERSION INCLUDED IN "THE ESSENTIAL BOB DYLAN".
PS. I ASK THE COPS WHEREVER I GO HAVE THEY SEEN DIGNITY?
MINGO DYLAN