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September 06, 2008


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Your citing "Blues in the Night" as a potential influence on "Memphis Blues Again" is ingenious. Dylan notes in "Chronicles" that Arlen himself was influenced by "rural blues and folk music." Dylan once described himself as a "Woody Guthrie jukebox." What's closer to the truth is that he was an American jukebox. He spent his adolescence absorbing the entire popular music heritage of America, poets (especially the Beats, Surrealists, Symbolists,and Romantics) and much else. Like Guthrie, he presented himself--falsely--as a wild, natural talent. In fact, he took bits and pieces from all over the place and "borrowed" them for his music and lyrics.

"Blues in the Night," in particular, has other Mercer lines that sound drawn from the folk heritage and might be the source for other Dylan songs as well.

The cautionary note here is that Arlen and Mercer as well as Dylan are drawing upon the same blues musical tradition and could have gotten musical and lyrical material from earlier sources.

Thanks for the post. It is a reminder that pondering Dylan opens up the vast store of musical history.


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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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This Way Out

by T.P.Winch

Ringfinger was nervous
Pinky terrified
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.



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