Sunday, April 29, 2018

Spotlight on Writer and Expecting Rain Contributor Laura Leivick

Ms. Leivick on her way to a Dylan concert.
When I was a kid growing up in the Cleveland suburb of Maple Heights, my best friends were the kids on my block. Proximity brings people together. So it is that we become friends with classmates at school who likewise are "neighbors" in the sense that our lives intersect at a space in time.

With the advent of the Internet all kinds of horizons opened up for meeting people. Forums on every topic under the sun emerged, and even before the World Wide Web there seemed no end to the possibilities available through America Online and other portals.

The other day I found an "address book" of email addresses for people in the screen print industry back in the early 90's. In my drawer is a file of conversations with a disparate batch of early Usenet users that included a former member of the psychedelic rock band Strawberry Alarm Clock. But if you're a Dylan fan in the 21st century, sooner or later you will eventually discover these two ever-flowing springs: and The former is our hotline to Dylan's schedule and a history of his playlists, with concert reviews, news and more. The latter is something of a mashup of Dylan-related stories, news and other tangentially related themes.

If you follow the latter, you can't help but have noticed that one of the ongoing contributors there in recent years is Laura Leivick. This past week I learned she has been a professional writer among other things. And it is apparent she is a serious Dylan fan.

How long have you contributing to Expecting Rain?

Laura Leivick: I began around 2015, when my friend Lloyd Fonvielle died and his blog pretty much died with him. Like you, he was interested in almost everything of interest. He had posted at least one terrific account of a Dylan concert that ran on Expecting Rain, so I automatically visited.

Somehow, I ended up contributing nearly every day. It makes me happy. I also think it's become kind of a superstitious practice.

EN: You’re obviously a Dylan fan. When did you first take an interest in Dylan’s music?

LL: When his first album came out I was ready--and just succumbed. I was a precocious kid and already knew a million genuine folk songs--and lots of blues, because of Paul Oliver, Sam Charters (books and anthology albums) and the Library of Congress field recordings. I used to go to the LOC some afternoons (when I wasn't at ballet school) and sit trying to transcribe the lyrics of songs like Bukka White's "Parchman Farm."

EN: Do you have a handful of favorite albums you keep returning to?

LL: Just Love and Theft. Usually I get hooked on the last one I loved and play it for months and can't listen to anything else.

EN: How many times have you seen Dylan perform?

LL: No idea. A lot but not enough, never enough. He's always different--he moves so far so fast he don't cast a shadow. (I said that.) Many of his concerts find you changed and change you more.

EN: Do you have a “most memorable” concert experience?

LL: I was especially knocked for a loop by some Radio City shows he did with G.E. Smith (who can be an egregious showboat but at those concerts wasn't). They did "Gates of Eden" and I thought, "I am in the same room as Bob Dylan," and the world fell away.

The most exhilarating show I saw was at Jones Beach in 2000. Here's a link to Lloyd's review "Dylan in the Rain."

EN: I believe there are Dylan celebrations in a lot of places on his birthday each year. Have you ever been to one in New York? Do you think you’ll ever make a Dylan pilgrimage to Duluth and Hibbing?

LL: No to all of the above. (Though I did celebrate some of his birthdays here with Lloyd.) But a public event? I'm not that kind of girl. Concerts, recordings? Yes. Fan activities? No.

EN: Can you briefly share a little about your writing career? How did you come to take an interest in writing?

LL: I was a dead serious ballet student, but I failed at it. On the other hand I have always been an obsessive reader, and a writer/literary critic at heart. At 13 I got hooked by the Literary Horizons column at the Saturday Review of Books. I started publishing in my teens -- first subjects: rock, blues, ballets. Then I went to U.C. Berkeley and got serious about literature--wound up valedictorian of my class and so on. But I tell myself I was more a devotee than a nerd.

I spent the next six or seven years working for San Francisco Ballet, and writing a lot for Bay Area publications.

In New York I worked as a copy editor and did some writing that led to features in the New York Times Magazine and the paper's Arts & Leisure section. I also reviewed top-of-the-line literary fiction for the Wall Street Journal. I also reviewed two Dylan bios for a special music issue of Paper magazine.

I was lucky to freelance copy-edit at the Times and all over town. The best gig I had was at Rolling Stone in the Wenner era. That place had the best and most knowledgeable staff. (It also had a great house band and great parties.) Every day at work you heard a wild range of music coming out of the offices. And I got my first taste of Dylan cred, though it was strictly in-house.

I'm proud to say I made it my business to thank Jann for preserving the history of a great American art form. We were in an elevator.

EN: What did you think of Dylan's Chelsea Hotel door that sold this past week? Have you been in the Chelsea Hotel when it was a nest place for stars?

LL: I was fine with the door sale, who cares? Yep, I stayed at the Chelsea, around 1970. I was so clueless I associated the place most closely with Dylan Thomas, though I heard rumors. "Nest Place"?  More like a rat's nest! The place was famous for being cheap, like Paris in the 20's, and no doubt that's how it drew its on-the-verge clientele. Anyway, the Chelsea was roach-infested and at night there was always bedlam behind the thin doors and walls. My memory is of a demimondaine flophouse with all this art in the lobby. For some reason, it all appealed to me and I never wanted to leave. I wish I never had.

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Related and Indirectly Related Links
Dylan's latest venture: Heaven's Gate Whiskey

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it.


RA said...

Astute, thoughtful, fascinating interview with a deep and articulate human. Grazie.

Anonymous said...

My involvement with ER escalated in 2017, when Scott Miller, a published authority on Dylan who had been a stalwart ER contributor since 2006, announced that, for health reasons, he'd be taking a break from the site. In his letter to ER webmaster Karl Erik Andersen, he said that I was doing a good job and suggested KEA forward his commendation to me. I felt the torch had been passed. Boy, everybody I've encountered in Bobworld is so gracious.

Laura Leivick