Sunday, May 4, 2014

Bob Dylan at the Lincoln Memorial: Chimes of Freedom as Contemporary Anthem

"Well here's another clue for you all..." `John Lennon

The North Country Dylan Celebration kicks off on Friday May 16 and runs through Saturday May 24. On Sunday evening at 9:00 p.m. Carmody's Pub will be hosting the annual Dylan Days Trivia Contest. Test your wits against the pros and win fabulous prizes!

I thought I would use this occasion to pass along some useful information that might help you correctly answer one of the questions in that evening's game. Yes, I was able to catch a peek at the questions this year, which disqualifies me from winning unfortunately.

In fact, two evenings ago I watched a Perry Mason re-run in which one of the students cheats on an important exam, with dire consequences. Followers of the show, or Earl Stanley Gardner's books upon which they are based, know there is always a murder and always an attractive woman somehow in the formula. You won't have to worry 'bout killin' with regard to the trivia contest. It's an utterly safe and fun competition. And yes, every question has to do with Dylan-related trivia.

So the clue for you here is with regard to the question, "Which website is NOT a Dylan-related website?"

I routinely use Bobdylan.com as a resource regarding albums, song lyrics (not always reliable but usually), song data (as in how many times a song has been performed live), as well as news and information about his music as well as his art shows. ExpectingRain.com is a useful mashup of all the Dylan stories compiled from various sources including blogs, YouTube videos and the Wall Street Journal.

BobLinks.com is a third resource for all things Dylan. Bob Links is a tremendously useful tool for following the Never Ending Tour as site manager Bill Pagel has been cataloging set lists and reviews from every concert on record. If you scroll down the page you'll find a calendar of scheduled upcoming appearances for Dylan and his band. If you scroll below the calendar you will see set lists and reviews of every concert this past year, and all the way at the bottom you will see links to every concert by city, by date, and maybe some day by mood.

I mention all this because I acquired this photo of Dylan which was taken on January 17, 1993. I was interested in learning more about where he was and what songs he played that day. As it turns out, Bob Links had the answer. That particular day Dylan made a surprise appearance at the Bill Clinton Inauguration Concert at Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the same place where he thirty years earlier sang Only A Pawn In Their Game during the Washington Rights March. The song he chose to perform was "Chimes Of Freedom backed by a big band led by Quincy Jones and watched by the presidential family, whose members seem to find the performance great (Bill), hilarious (Hilary) and unbelievable (Chelsea).

Later the same night Dylan turns up at the "Absolutely Unofficial Blue Jeans Bash For Arkansas" held at the National Building Museum in Washington where he performed "To Be Alone With You" backed by Steven Stills and The Band.

Chimes of Freedom was released on his album Another Side of Bob Dylan. As I reflect on its lyrics I hear it as an anthem for the Sixties, a contemporary Star Spangled Banner. In fact, some of the language itself conveys the flashing drama of the 25-hour shelling of Fort McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key to write what has since become our National Anthem. The noise and chaos must have been deafening and terrifying, but in the dawn's early light he could see that the banner still waved, inspiring renewed hope.

Dylan echoes this moment of revelation in the fifth stanza as "the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting." Instead of the visuals of a flag or banner, the repeated refrains cite the "chimes of freedom flashing," a sensation both visual and aural, and a basis for hope -- for all -- in the midst of turbulent times.

Chimes of Freedom

Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

In the city’s melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden while the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin’ rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an’ forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin’ constantly at stake
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An’ the unpawned painter behind beyond his rightful time
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an’ blind, tolling for the mute
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an’ cheated by pursuit
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Even though a cloud’s white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An’ the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An’ for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992 by Special Rider Music

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EdNote: This blog entry and others like it have the aim of raising awareness for the upcoming Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan concert which will kick off the 2014 North Country Dylan Celebration in Duluth and Hibbing. Sacred Heart Music Center, May 17, 2014. For tickets to this great event visit dulutharmory.org/events.

If you wish to help, visit the Salute Facebook page and share with your friends by clicking the Invite button. 

A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan is a presentation of the Armory Arts and Music Center and Magic Marc Productions.

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