bob dylan birthday blues

“The land created me. I’m wild and lonesome. Even as I travel the cities, I’m more at home in the vacant lots.” ~ Bob Dylan

Since the man is turning 77 today, we’re gonna sing a little birthday blues by featuring some of Dylan’s “blue paintings” paired with bits of his song lyrics.

Did you know that besides being a 12-time Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter, poet, author, small-batch whiskey entrepreneur, metal works artist, and Nobel, Pulitzer, Medal of Freedom, Oscar, and Golden Globe winner, Dylan is also an accomplished painter?

We first saw his work gracing the covers of two 70’s albums (Self Portrait and Planet Waves), but he didn’t start seriously exhibiting and selling his paintings until 2007. Like many extraordinarily gifted creatives, his output benefits from the cross-fertilization of art forms.

Dylan is that rare person who can move effortlessly between music, word, ink, paint, as if he’s just futzing around with a few different instruments in the studio. Yet again and again he reflects life back to us with a truth and simplicity that defy words . . . seemingly unworried about how something looks, he’s not after artistic perfection, but something larger, a moment, a feeling. The effect is enthralling.

~ Marisha Pessl, New York Times

I love his frequent use of blues, and of course how often he depicts eateries. It’s fascinating to see the world through Dylan’s (blue) eyes 🙂 — he’s drawn to back streets, alley ways, country roads, bridges, train tracks — landscapes and urban scenes “unpolluted by the ephemera of pop culture.” There’s a noted absence of people in most of these paintings, conveying a sense of loneliness and a nostalgia for simpler times.

“Nowhere and Anywhere” (2017)

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[review + giveaway] Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs and Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

Freight train, freight train run so fast
Freight train, freight train run so fast
Please don’t tell what train I’m on
They won’t know what route I’ve gone.

So begins one of the most famous folk songs of the twentieth century. Here in America, many of us grew up hearing it on the radio or at music festivals, or maybe even in the classroom.

Though I was familiar with the popular renditions of “Freight Train” by Peter, Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, and Joan Baez, I never really knew who wrote the song, nor had I heard of African American folk musician, singer and songwriter Elizabeth Cotten before reading this fabulous new picture book.

In Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by singer-songwriter Laura Veirs and debut illustrator Tatyana Fazlalizadeh (Chronicle Books, 2018), we see how Libba ultimately accomplished “what she was born to do” despite the many ups and downs in her life.

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[review + recipe + giveaway] Stand Up and Sing!: Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice by Susanna Reich and Adam Gustavson

“Being generous of spirit is a wonderful way to live.” ~ Pete Seeger

As a music lover coming of age in the 60’s, I was aware of Pete Seeger’s music long before I knew who he was.

I’d heard the Kingston Trio’s rendition of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” Peter, Paul & Mary’s “If I Had a Hammer,” and the Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!” regularly on the radio, songs that eventually became part of my social consciousness DNA along with Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are A-Changin.”

It wasn’t until I saw Pete with Arlo Guthrie in “Alice’s Restaurant” that I became more curious about his life as a singer, songwriter, social activist, environmentalist, and collector of folk songs. I was surprised to discover he was behind so many of the songs I loved.

Who was this tall beanpole of a man, this crackerjack banjo picker who could get people all over the country singing and clapping along, stomping their feet to the beat, rousing their emotions enough to spur political action? Who was this community, log-cabin-and-sloop-building-man who steadfastly believed in the power of song through good times and bad?

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sing a song of soup, or, may peace soup be with you

Mixed media soup collage by Melissa Sweet

Since January is National Soup Month, thought we’d celebrate with a bit of art, a heartening song and a bowl of homemade soup. 🙂

Pictured above is one of my prize possessions — an original Melissa Sweet watercolor I won in a Small Graces auction back in 2010. It all started in 2009 when Newbery Honor author/illustrator Grace Lin donated 11 original paintings to benefit the Foundation for Children’s Books (now Wondermore). In 2010, twelve different illustrators donated their work, and each month a new painting was auctioned off.

Guess what was featured in January? Melissa Sweet’s SOUP painting had my name written all over it and I was thrilled when I won. This piece continues to feed my soul every single day. 🙂

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weekend feast: one bob dylan, one birthday, one meat ball (+ recipe)

“I think of myself as a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.” (Bob Dylan)

Just as he’s done for more than five decades, Bob Dylan is still releasing new albums (the latest is “Shadows in the Night,” a mellow collection of standards recorded live with his five-piece band), performing around the world with his Never Ending Tour, and receiving more honors and accolades (2015 MusiCares Person of the Year).

To promote “Shadows in the Night” he gave only one interview — to AARP Magazine, where he discussed his creative process and influences, revealing that he’s a big Shakespeare fan, and had he not become “Bob Dylan,” he would have liked to have been “a schoolteacher of Roman history or theology.”

When receiving his MusiCares award, he delivered a riveting acceptance speech crediting his sources of inspiration, thanking his various and sundry supporters, and even confronting his detractors. To those who would criticize his singing voice, he reminded them of what Sam Cooke said when told he had a beautiful voice:

Well that’s very kind of you, but voices ought not to be measured by how pretty they are. Instead they matter only if they convince you that they are telling the truth.

The voice of our generation — plain, real, everyman — endures. We need to hear and will always value the hard truths good poets tell.

Enjoy this bountiful three-course feast honoring Bob, who’ll turn 74 on Sunday, May 24. 🙂

 

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