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December 29, 2009

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Did something happen to Bob? May he live till 120!

Congratulations on the book. Can't wait to read it! As for Dylan's voice, it does seem that he is completely aware of what he's doing when he sings a particular song in a particular way.

As far as I know, Dovid, Dylan is fine.

Thanks for your comment, Stacey. His awareness that you point out is crucial. There is a profound intelligence behind the songs.

Great news about the impending publication of your book, Larry. Hurrah!

The George Burns quote is marvelous and marvelously apt.

Thanks so much for the good wishes, David.

"The reason so many Dylan covers fail is that the singers mouth the words but lack the ability to transmit their emotional power."
Precisely...
Try listening to Elvis sing "Tomorrow is a Long Time". Then listen to Dylan sing it.
Elvis "sings" beautifully but it's hollow and faked.
Dylan burns it deep into your very being. Why? Because he feels it. There's no faking it here.
That's how it is with all Dylan covers.

I've always felt that Dylan liberated the voice in folk/pop music, and there's no doubt he brings amazing conviction to his renditions of his songs. In fact, I love the Christmas album almost more because of the raw, atrophied voice he presents us with than anything else. But if Dylan's own songs are so dependent on his delivery, then doesn't that take something away from the power and beauty of the songs themselves? There are lots of Dylan covers that I think truly deliver the goods---one recent example: Madeleine Peyroux's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome when You Go." (I too will be looking forward to your new book.)

Thanks to John Wesley Harding and Terence Winch for their comments. Terence asks an important question: if the Dylan songs rely on the delivery, doesn't that mean that "the power and beauty of the songs" are undermined? I don't think so. A song is made up of various parts. A piece of fiction consists of plot, character, theme, setting, and language. Take away any part and the overall quality is reduced. Similarly in an orchestra if the the woodwinds are eliminated then the sound of the orchestra is not as good as it could be. I don't think Dylan's songs are poems; they aren't meant to stand alone as words. They require a delivery. The song, that is, requires the voice. Just the words alone are not the song. This, of course, is only my point of view in an on-going Dylan debate.

One amusing episode of a short-lived TV show that Sinatra had in, I think, 1959-1960, featured Elvis back from the army. Frank and Elvis did a duet -- the former singing "Love Me Tender" as you would expect FS to do it, the latter doing "Witchcraft" in the FS manner. To the viewer it becomes obvious that "Witchcraft" is far the superior song -- and that Elvis, had he wanted to, could have sung beautifully in the pre-rock, supreme baritone style. In fact, the pop singer who sounds closest to Elvis is. . .Dean Martin. There are other conclusions one might tentatively reach on the basis of this excerpt.
In your book, Larry, do you elaborate on the point about Dylan's many vocal shifts in relation to his self-invention? An important point.

Thanks, David. The Sinatra/Elvis story is revealing. In the book I cover through "Blonde on Blonde," and the shifts he undertook to invent himself then involved appearance, name, and attitude more than voice. Interestingly, the vocal shifts began after he lost his "classic" identity. I wonder if that's the case with other singers, that vocal shifts indicate a profound psychological dislocation.

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