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More on China

The music critic Alex Ross has posted an astute essay on the Dylan in China flap  here, which notes that  demanding an artist to perform incendiary material  is “the worst sort of armchair moralism,”  especially given what often happens after such displays.  Ross also points out that — believe it or not — there is as yet no evidence whatsoever that the Chinese authorities asked for any changes before approving Dylan’s setlists, or even proscribed any of his songs. In any event,  as Ross also observes, Dylan  sang some mighty edgy material in Beijing and Shanghai — although apparently it wasn’t “protesty” enough for some  critics. But who’s fooling whom?

There is a growing touch of the absurd about this entire controversy, worthy of one of Dylan’s  absurdist songs. It feels all the wackier when things like this surface — the front page of the Xinmin Evening News heralding, above the fold,  Dylan’s then-upcoming Shanghai concert. (Thanks to Eric Muhlheim.)

Maybe Dylan should have sung “Crazy.”


The Real Dylan in China

For The New Yorker, a reply to Maureen Dowd’s attack on Bob Dylan’s performances in China here.

SW on Bob Dylan in America, Arts Tonight, RTE Radio One (Ireland), March 14, 2011

After a break, the latest radio appearance on BDiA, this time with Vincent Woods on the Arts Tonight program, recently broadcast in Ireland on RTE Radio One, here.

Michael Bloomfield & “Like A Rolling Stone”

The stories about the great Michael Bloomfield and the making of “Like A Rolling Stone” are many and oft-repeated.  Not least interesting: the one about how Al Kooper showed up at the Columbia studio hoping to play guitar, heard Bloomfield play and knew he was overmatched — but then snuck back in to play the organ, and, with Bloomfield, helped make the recording all that it was and is.

The larger story of Michael Bloomfield, though, and where that 1965 session fit in, is in danger of fading.  All the better to have “The Michael Bloomfield Story,” a video that goes back to the beginning, tracing Bloomfield’s early connections with, among others, Charlie Musselwhite, Moses Asch, John Hammond (Senior and Junior), and Robbie Robertson, as well as Butterfield and Dylan.

Here is the second part of the video as it appears on YouTube, covering the “Rolling Stone” sessions and a great deal more. The entire film is worth watching.

The Michael Bloomfield Story

And, just for kicks, here is Al Kooper telling in part about the “Rolling Stone” session, with his impression of producer Tom Wilson.

Al Kooper on Tom Wilson and “Like A Rolling Stone”

SW on Political Violence: Charlie Rose, 1/13/11

SW appeared along with George Packer and Ross Douthat on the Charlie Rose show to discuss the recent shootings in Tucson, President Obama’s speech honoring the victims, and the rise of violent political rhetoric in recent years. See video here.

Mojo on Dylan; Phil Ochs on Film

SW: After a good long holiday break….

In the interim, Mojo magaine published an issue on Bob Dylan’s early years in New York, which, to my delight, included selections from Bob Dylan in America alongside a lengthy wonderful interview with Izzy Young and a bevy of other treats.  More information is here.

Also, a fine new documentary film on Phil Ochs, There But For Fortune, will open in cities around the country this Wednesday, January 5. For those of you in New York, the director, Kenneth Bowser, will be appearing with Michael Ochs, Phil’s brother, on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the film at the IFC Center on Sixth Avenue and Third Street; more information here.

Happy New Year!

SW Review of Terminal 5 Shows

SW’s Daily Beast review of Bob Dylan’s NYC Thanksgiving week shows at Terminal 5 appears at http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-11-27/bob-dylan-concerts-at-terminal-5/

SW discusses Bob Dylan in America at the Aspen Institute: Video

The video of SW discussing Bob Dylan in America with the poet and arts leader Dana Gioia at the Aspen Institute in Washington on 11/23 is available at http://www.aspeninstitute.org/video/dialogue-featuring-sean-wilentz-author-bob-dylan-america

L.A. Doings

SW: Since back in L.A., I’ve been able to rest up from the most intense to-ings and fro-ings connected to Bob Dylan in America and settle in a little. Weekdays generally find me working at the Huntington Library, with its wonderful accumulation of manuscripts and rare books on U.S. history. And the weekends? This past one started out in Topanga Canyon, the closest thing I’ve found out here to Woodstock, NY, for a swap meet and chili cookoff. The sign pretty much sums it all up.

That’s Topanga, kids!

Sunday brought a rare private screening of the great director Les Blank’s film, “A Poem Is a Naked Person,” on Leon Russell in the early/mid 1970s.  A wonderful movie, one of the best rock & roll films I’ve ever seen.  It would be too bad if the snags still holding it up prevented it from seeing the light of day with the general public.

Now back to the work-week, before heading back to NYC — for Thanksgiving and, among other things, Bob Dylan and his Band at Terminal 5.

ALERT, though: For friends and others in the D.C. area, I’ll be doing a reading/conversation with Dana Gioia at the Aspen Institute on Dupont Circle  on Tuesday, November 23, at noon.  Details here.

Bob Dylan in America Barnes & Noble Reading Online

For those of you who were unable to attend last September’s Bob Dylan in America reading in New York, or who missed the C-SPAN broadcast last weekend, the video is now available for viewing and downloading here.