Thursday, May 31, 2018

No Excuses for Being Bored: DuSu Film Fest, Magnolia Salon and Pizza Farm Thursdays


When we first wrote about the Magnolia Salon at Oldenburg House in Carlton, we announced that their Thursday evening gatherings would run from Feb 1 to Memorial Day Weekend. The weekly discussions (with lite food fare and libations) have been so successful that they are continuing on into the summer. Thursday evenings at 6:00 p.m. Their monthly Carlton Room jazz weekends, Cookin' at the O, have been packed out, and the magnetic Bruce Henry (June 8 & 9) will no doubt keep this tradition going. Head to for the full summer schedule, which includes movie nights and a bluegrass festival Looking for a wedding venue? I give Oldenburg House an A++ on that score.

* * * *
Jon Sonofmel at last week's Dylan Fest poetry event in the Playhouse.
Word on the street is that a culturally uplifting weekly event has been taking place in Hayward, Wisconsin called Pizza Farm Thursdays. Essentially it consists of spoken word performances at the Farmstead Creamery & Cafe. The word was passed along to me by John Sonofmel, whom many of you will recall from last week's Dylan Fest in which he and Phil Fitzpatrick enacted a sketch in which the late John Bushey returns from the hereafter to pay a visit to Bob Dylan. Sonofmel, with his generous smile and down home demeanor, was also part of the Singer/Songwriter Contest Friday.

The Pizza Farm mission is outlined in this manner: "To build a space for the spoken word in performance (encouraging artists of all ages), as well as facilitate audience participation in the spoken word—both poetry and prose. We’ve been exercising creativity all winter at Farmstead with a Creativity Workshop, now it’s time to put those words into performance and celebrate the writers of the Northwoods!"

Pizza Farm Thursdays will assemble from 6-8 p.m. through the end of August beginning tonight with Frank Zufall and Jen Jenson as featured performer hosts. For more information contact John at 715-699-6023 or by email, sonofmel AT gmail DOT com. Here are your Directions to the Farmstead.

* * * *
And finally, Duluth Superior Film Festival is now in high gear. Christa Lawler of the DNT summarizes the films on tap for through the weekend in today's Trib story posted this morning at 5 a.m.

Official Film Festival Website HERE

Feel blocked in? Get out of the cellar and explore a little. 
Life is a Happening. Get into it.

Throwback Thursday: Ten Topics To Twiddle Your Thumbs Around

Throwback Thurs: October 21, 2014

A few years ago, on a  flight home from Ohio, I sat next to an astronaut who was on Gemini 2 and 10 and an Apollo Mission. Tom Stafford was the first human to circumnavigate the moon. In the course of our conversation I asked him what thoughts went through his head as he looked at the earth from the moon. He smiled, looked at me, spread his thumb and forefinger about two inches and said, "I saw that all the problems in the world could fit between my two fingers."

This morning I thought about that incident and it occurred to me how many gazillion things there are going on simultaneously on this planet of ours, in spite of how tiny this sphere appears from a distance. It's an incredibly busy hive. In the same way, no matter how you slice it if you're a writer there's always more to write about. As Dylan once sang, "I got a head full of ideas that are driving me insane." Here are ten items I've recently intended to touch on but never got to.

1, The Bowie Exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. I had his early albums, watched the arc of his early career. While in college I did a small original painting based on one of his costumes from a concert, which for years hung tucked away in the basement of my parents house. I occasionally wonder what happened to that painting.

2. Ode to Billy Joe. It's a Deep South story that is a deep mystery according to this account. I remember discussing the song in English class in high school. I thought we had it figgered out then, but maybe we was wrong.

3. Italian 16th century philosopher Giordano Bruno.

4. Visual artist Catherine Meier.

5. The exploding Steampunk Scene in Seoul, South Korea.

6. The Revere Beach Sand Sculpture Contest. I had intended to write about it in early summer so you could go be part of it... if you lived anywhere nearby. Guess we missed the deadline for entering. An East Coast version of Burning Man? Not exactly. Just a happening.

Magic Marc makes a bouquet unexpectedly appear out of thin air for Zane Bail.
7. Planning for next year's Dylan Days is underway. When Zimmy's closed in Hibbing early this year it snuffed out the Hibbing component of Dylan Days. The Duluth wing is preparing to take up the task of carrying the ball forward. Headed by Zane Bail, a small contingent of friends has been meeting in preparation for the year to come.

8. Ideas about time management while under stress, based on a lifetime of watching NFL football and the number of games won or lost because a team fails to "manage the clock" during the last two minutes of the game.

9. I have a few notes here about Odessa. Crime fiction author Elmore Leonard had a character named Linda Moon who was a music star in L.A. who came from Odessa, Texas. I'd especially enjoyed Get Shorty and Be Cool, (I've read at least twenty or more of his books, some several times) in which Linda Moon was featured. While reading about Bob Dylan's family, I discovered their roots before coming to America included Odessa, Russia.

10. Goin' Postal 2014 Fall Art Show. Will undoubtedly share more about it after the event than before. Friday evening at Goin' Postal, 814 Tower Avenue in Superior.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Indeed!

*Photo by Ivy Vainio

Are We Turning Into A Nation of Lynch Mobs? The Roseanne Takedown

"People are crazy, times are strange" --Bob Dylan

As most people know, I 'm not much of a TV type, so I've never watched most of the shows people talk about on social media, but I do know who some of these people are. Though I've never seen a full episode of any of their shows, I know who Seinfeld is, am aware of whom Kim Kardasian is and seem to recall that Roseanne purportedly grabbed her crotch after singing the national anthem at a San Diego Padres double header, thereby creating a bit of a ruckus. (Can you believe that was nearly three decades ago?)

This week Roseanne committed an apparently unpardonable sin and had her new hit show cancelled. To learn more I did a little online exploring and found this Reason blog post to be a thoughtful response to the incident. Robby Soave, in the aptly titled Liberals Killed Roseanne. Conservatives Crushed the NFL Protests. Everybody Happy Now? writes, "It was a vile thing to say, though no one has any right to be surprised that Barr said it. The notoriously pro-Trump comedian—who is otherwise something of an ardent leftist—has a long history of offensive, nonsensical utterances."

What caught my attention in the Reason story was how this article proceeds to provide a balanced take on the matter, pointing out that conservatives can be equally squeamish about freedom of expression. (Squeamish may be too nice. Harsh may be a better word. Preceding prohibition one famously radical woman went into saloons bearing a hatchet, smashing all the bottles of demon brew she found in each establishment. Many hailed her as a hero for her smashing performances.)

As noted yesterday, I've been reading Nietzsche lately and he made the observation that people can be kept in line by the practice of shunning. It's a more polite form of lynching, though actual lynching has been an ongoing part of our American experiment.

Check this out... While working on this blog post I had Ken Burns' documentary on Prohibition playing in the background and this story was being shown: Preceding our entrance into WWI anti-German rhetoric (propaganda) resulted in sauerkraut being given a more American name, the stoning of dachshunds and, on at least one occasion, lynching a man for the "crime" of speaking German to his neighbor.

During the Cold War a relentless pursuit of Commies led to many people losing their jobs for expressing any kind of sympathy for socialism.

In Orwell's 1984 you could get in trouble for just thinking the wrong thoughts, even if you do not share them.

All this brought to mind the story My Melancholy Face by 1972 Nobel Prize winner Heinrich Böll which appeared in a book titled Continental Short Stories which I'd read in college. In this story the powers that be arrested a man for looking sad. He'd just been released from five years imprisonment for his previous crime of looking happy. (Opening sentence: "As I stood by the harbor to watch the gulls, my melancholy face attracted a policeman who walked the beat in this quarter."

Since we're on the topic of free speech, I'll cite one more incident. Last August a panel discussion titled "The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses" had been planned. After student protests, Ryerson University in Toronto pulled the plug and cancelled the event citing "safety concerns."

And so it goes.

Related Links
Roseanne's Racist Tweet Leads to Near Immediate Cancellation of Show
"My Sad Face" Illustrated

Meantime, life goes on... Are we supposed to laugh, or cry? 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I Think, Therefore I Am… Or Am I? Nietzsche Strikes Again

The past couple weeks I’ve been accompanied by Nietzsche’s Beyond Good & Evil (audiobook) while commuting here and there. Nietzsche is probably one of the most maligned philosophers in history, pigeonholed as either a kook or as the author of the provocative “God is dead” proclamation.

The reality is that the feisty German was an astute observer with quite the sense of humor at times. He loved his mustache, for example, which he gleefully wore like a mask. He also got a kick out of kicking over sacred cows. At least that’s been my take.

In one place he takes aim at Descartes, who after a lengthy attempt to determine whether he existed or not concluded, “I think, therefore, I am.” The declaration, Nietzsche explains, rests on a questionable foundation. That is, do we really think? By way of illustration he notes how thoughts frequently pop into his head out of nowhere. Where do these thoughts come from? Is that really thinking?

It made me think of Martin Luther’s response to a person whose mind is being pestered by evil thoughts. Luther said, “You can’t stop a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep it from building a nest there.”

In other words, in that scenario our thoughts (often) come flitting in from elsewhere like birds or, more annoyingly, mosquitoes.

And yet, my brain is working as I work out how to construct this series of statements to make a point of sorts. To what degree am I thinking and to what degree are associations being assembled by my subconscious or unconscious, thus bypassing real thinking? I dunno. I suppose it’s something to think about.

* * * *
10 Nietzsche Epigrams and Interludes*

Some pointed, some pithy, some that make people apoplectic--Nietzsche was famous for his epigrams and aphorisms. 

Many a peacock hides his peacock tail from all eyes--and calls that his pride.

What? A great man? I always see only the actor of his own ideal.

If we train our conscience, it kisses us while it hurts us.

In music the passions enjoy themselves.

Sensuality often hastens the growth of love so much that the roots remain weak and are easily torn up.

When we have to change our mind about a person, we hold the inconvenience he causes us very much against him.

The abdomen is the reason why man does not easily take himself for a god.

Poets treat their experiences shamelessly: they exploit them.

Even when the mouth lies, the way it looks still tells the truth.

Praise is more obtrusive than a reproach.

* * * *
Related Links
Notes from a Lecture on Nietzsche
Nietzsche's Concept of Eternal Recurrence

* Extracts from Beyond Good & Evil

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

John Lennon Slits a Vein and Unburdens His Soul In "Yer Blues"

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me? --Psalm 42:11

My reading pile this past month has included several Beatles-related books including two pertaining to John Lennon, Lennon on Lennon (Edited by Jeff Burger) and The Lost Lennon Interviews by Geoffrey and Brenda Giuliano. The two more inclusive books beside me easy chair here (by inclusive, I mean, books about all four of the Fab Four) are Geoff Emerick's Here, There and Everywhere and The Beatles Lyrics, edited by Hunter Davies.

It was this latter that triggered my desire to share a few thoughts about this particular song. Specifically it was the commentary written by the author, which begins: "This is such a despairing, depressing son you have to be sorry for John writing it, feeling forced to write it, unable to help himself writing it, telling the world he was feeling suicidal."

I've been listening to the White Album since the day it was released. No, rather, since before it was released, because the New York FM station I listened to aired a special two-not broadcast in advance of the release in which the DJs discussed each song and possible interpretations in a two-evening, four hour pre-release airing. I remember well lying on my bed in the dark, eyes closed, taking it all in.

I've said many times that one of my favorite scenes in the film Men In Black is when Tommy Lee Jones complains about a new format for listening to music and that he'll have to buy the Beatles White Album again, for the third time.

The CD version comes on two discs because it's a double album. When asked "what is your favorite Dylan album?" I reply that it's the one I am playing the most at that time. When it comes to the Beatles, the one I play the most is probably the White Album, though Sgt. Pepper and Let It Be are close seconds. And when I play the White Album, it is nearly always the disc two, beginning with "Yer Blues." It is that series of songs from Yer Blues to Helter Skelter that most moves me, with it's lovely lilting Long, Long, Long aftermath. Have I listened to this 100 times? At least. Maybe 300. Or 500. Who knows.

So, when I read the original typed up lyrics in the Hunter Davies books I was struck by a couple things. First, "my mother was of the earth, my father was of the sky" is precisely the opposite of what was released on the final recording. ("My mother was of the sky, my father was of the earth.") Second, to lament that John was suicidal and really wanted to die seems to miss the whole point of what artists/poets are doing when they slit a vein and bleed words onto a page.

* * * *
The opening passage at the top of this post comes from the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament of the Bible. In it, the writer is examining himself. I could have cited any number of passages where the psalmist is wrestling with despair, self-doubt, fear, insecurity. It is a human emotion, which has been captured in a poem or song. To do so is a form of exorcising one's personal demons. Which is why it strikes me strange that people would saying, "Oh my, John is suicidal. Oh no!" There is a difference between feeling and doing.

The heart of the blues is, to some extent, using painful expression to incise the wounded heart, like cutting open an abscess to release the poison that has built up. It is a way of treating infection, except the infection is on the inside. (It is similar to the treatment John would later submit to called Primal Therapy.)

According to one source, the song is simply a parody of the Delta blues that had become popular in Britain in the Sixties. Whether serious or jesting, the song is effective. "Blues is a tonic for whatever ails you," said B.B. King. Playing the blues is one way to be delivered from being blue.

(the original typed up lyrics John began with)

Yes, I'm lonely wanna die
Yes, I'm lonely wanna die
If I ain't dead already
Ooh, girl you know the reason why.

In the morning wanna die
In the evening wanna die
If I ain't dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why.

My mother was of the earth
My father was of the sky
But I am of the universe
And that's the reason why
Wanna die,
Wanna die
If I'm dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why.

The eagle picks my eyes
The worm he eats my bone
I feel so suicidal
Just like Dylan's Mr. Jones
Wanna die, Wanna die
If I ain't dead already
You know the reason why

Black cloud cross my mind
Blue mist round my soul
Feel so suicidal
Even hate my Rock and Roll
Wanna die, Wanna die
Yeah, want to die
If I ain't dead already
You know the reason why.
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

According to Geoff Emerick's account, The Beatles produced The White Album after a two month hiatus in India. Previous to their getaway, the spirit of the team was upbeat and energizing. When they came back, Emerick writes, they were "completely different people... They had once been witty and full of humor; no they were solemn and prickly... They had once been lighthearted and fun to be around. Now they were angry."

Or as Dylan would put it, "everything changes." And yes, things had changed.

Emerick ultimately disliked this album because of the change in mood, in attitude and the splintering of the team. Since I had no knowledge of the backstory, I drank from this well and found the White Album thoroughly satisfying, including its most bizarre track, Revolution #9. As far as I was concerned at the time, they were The Beatles and they could do no wrong.

Original typed lyrics, with John's edits in black.

Related Links
Beatles Trivia
White Album Trivia 

Monday, May 28, 2018

Marking Yesterday's 55th Anniversary of the Release of Bob Dylan's Freewheelin' with Suze Rotolo's Letter to Her Mother

"Whatever gets you through the night, it's alright, alright." 
--John Lennon

I read the news today, oh boy. Yesterday was the 55th anniversary of Bob Dylan's second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, just three days after his 22nd birthday. Reading this made me want to share the Suze Rotolo letter to her mother which Bill Pagel currently has on display at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in Duluth through the end of August.

As nearly every Dylanophile knows, Suze Rotolo was the girl who appeared on the cover of this first album of mostly original songs, many of which appear later on the Witmark Demos, Bootleg Series #9. (In a memorable scene in the movie Vanilla Sky David Aames [Tom Cruise] has transfigured this album cover into an eternal memory with Sofia [Penelope Cruz] as his Suze Rotolo while the tune Fourth Time Around plays.)

SINCE Suze is today's centerpiece, I commend to you Phil Fitzpatrick's moving tribute to this early Bob Muse.


July 10, 1962
Mary Rotolo
One Sheridan Square
New York, N.Y  19

Mother, I have lost all faith in being honest to you because you never give Bob a chance. Why can't the two of you even attempt to get along? The constant criticism you have of him only sets the stage for further arguments and disention (sic).  I've talked about this situation with Carla and she agrees that you often put Bob down in his presence while you entertain your friends. Mom - this is not ammusing (sic). Carla told me about the incident that took place last week when you took exception to Bob calling you Mary. You went on a tirade by telling him his parents never taught him manners and that he was never to address her as  anything but "Mrs. Rotolo". Then you turned to Mrs. Evans and remarked, "This is the jerk Bob Zimmerman Dylan, the one Suze likes." I can't believe you acted tis (sic) way. I told you on the telephone when I called you from Rome last week that Bob (once again) hinted at marriage. You told me that I should give this a lot of thought butthat you would be behind any decision I made. Mom, this is not exactly what I call being supportive. All he was trying to do was be friendly. Carla also told me that after Bob left you revealed to Mrs. Evans of the possibility that the two of us might get married. Instead of talking about your daughters (sic) happiness all you raved about was that there were plenty of good catholic boys and that I have no sence (sic). Please consider my feelings for a change. I've always been a good daughter and never gave you any problems. I know that if Dad was still alive he would have at least given Bob a chance. Mom, can you honestly say that you have given him an opportunity to prove himself? I think not. I have been a little homesick lately and go to sleep crying because I miss you and Bob so much. Just give him a chance and I'm sure you'll see the very qualities that made me fall in love with him. Also, please don't get mad at Carla for her telling me what goes on at home.

(signed) Susan

In the P.S. she adds that she is sending a couple drawings 

* * * *

When you look at the playlist from Freewheelin', Dylan's second album, it's breathtaking. The lame sales on Dylan's first album, which only sold 5,000 copies in its first year, resulted in his being tagged Hammond's Folly. This second album certified that John Hammond really did recognize something golden when he signed this kid from heartland -- your land, our land -- or whatever land he was from.

After a whirlwind week here (Duluth Dylan Fest 2018 is now past tense) I was out in my garage organizing my art studio while listening to Freewheelin' and all its associations. Hard to believe those songs have been with us for more than half a century. Some have even defined our generation.

Make it a meaningful day. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Harvard Classics Prof Pulls Back the Curtain to Reveal New Insights on Dylan's Art

Prof Richard F. Thomas
Yesterday afternoon, May 26, more than 100 people crammed into Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum to hear Dr. Richard F. Thomas deliver a lecture on Bob Dylan and the Classics. Whether you were a lifetime fan or a relatively new follower of Dylan's art, the Harvard professor's hour-long talk offered much to chew on. In return he likewise relished the opportunity to make this pilgrimage to the Northland to see points of interest in Hibbing and Duluth as well as experience the power of these places that were formative in making Dylan the poet he grew to become.

Phil Fitzpatrick, a local writer/teacher and Harvard grad, introduced Dr. Thomas after briefly reading a tribute to John Bushey, founder/host of KUMD's Highway 61 Revisited and for whom the John Bushey Memorial Lecture Series has been named. Phil welcomed everyone on behalf of Duluth Dylan Fest, Karpeles and the City of Duluth. He then noted that Dr. Thomas received his Bachelors and Masters in Auckland, New Zealand, his Ph.D. in classics at the University of Michigan. He's published more than 100 article and reviews and ten books, including this most recent Why Bob Dylan Matters. And incidentally, in addition to teaching classic literature he also teaches a class on Bob Dylan.

This was not his first visit to Minnesota. He gave a lecture in the Twin Cities in 2006.

* * * *
Dr. Thomas began by noting that Dylan may not be here in 50 years but “I believe his art will be. I hope that in 200 years people will be studying Dylan like they do Virgil."

In the initial portion of the lecture he laid out some of Dylan's early influences. The Hematite, Hibbing High's Yearbook (which archivist Bill Pagel has on display in his "Einstein Disguised As Robin Hood" exhibit), shows that Dylan was not only a fan of Little Richard, but was also a member of the Latin Club and the Social Studies Club, indicators that his later interests had early roots.

His uncle owned the movie house in Hibbing and the young Bob Zimmerman no doubt saw films like The Robe and Demetrius & the Gladiators which were released in the early 1950s. Due to this being the McCarthy era, Hollywood produced quite a few films in which the Roman Empire became a metaphor for unjust power, the contemporary reality of the American '50s.*

Dr. Thomas showed ways in which this early influence re-emerges later. First example: Chronicles, Volume 1. After noting that chapters 2 & 4 are mostly made up, he underscored the beautiful writing of chapters 1, 3 and 5 and showed that "the idea of Rome mattered to him."

Some examples from Dylan's songs were then identified, including the obscure “Goin’ Back to Rome” that he played once at Gerde’s Folk City.

In August 1962 he sang Long Ago, Far Away
"Gladiators killed themselves
It was during the Roman times,
People cheered with bloodshot grins
As eyes and minds went blind"

During the Rolling Thunder Revue Dylan opened his shows with "When I Paint My Masterpiece," which includes this reference:
“Oh the streets of Rome are filled with rubble
Ancient footprints are everywhere”

Other examples were cited, and then we began the deeper dive into Dylan's use of intertextuality, a major theme in Why Bob Dylan Matters.

Love & Theft, released Sept 11, 2001 is "an album of songs addressing antiquity" in which Dylan begins to draw from Virgil.

He then cited T S Eliot:: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”

* * * *

Signing a book for local musician Tom O'Keefe.
We were then treated to a deeper analysis of "Lonesome Day Blues" in which Dylan literally replicates passages from Confessions of a Yakuza, Huckleberry Finn and Virgil's Aeneid.

With this pattern of looking back to the classics set in motion, Dylan began drawing from Ovid for the album Modern Times.

Dr. Thomas' enthusiasm for his topic was palpable. (You never knew the classics could be this exciting, did you?) “This recent stuff is just miraculous,” he said regarding Dylan’s albums from Time Out of Mind to Tempest.

He then began identifying as many as 30 Dylan lines that are directly parallel to or identical with lines from Ovid’s exile poems.

"Getting a linear meaning out of a Dylan song is never easy or sometimes even possible," he said, and yet the manner in which Dylan reconstructs this passages is nothing short of amazing. "Dylan is unlike any other," he said. "Especially in performance.

In 2010 Dylan began drawing from yet another classic source, passages from Homer. He "began a process of becoming Odysseus, the Trickster."

And yes, afterwards we had more birthday cake.
While here this week he had the opportunity to be inside the Armory where Dylan saw Buddy Holly. As many of us know, Dylan began his Nobel Speech with this story from that encounter at the Armory. Dr. Thomas then cited a line from another Dylan speech, from 2015: “Character always mattered to me.”

The Odyssey has themes that appear vividly in Dylan's last album of original music, Tempest. What Dylan is doing is "bringing life to history." After detailing the story of Odysseus killing the Cyclops, he underscored the greatness of Bob Dylan. Dylan's themes are all there in the Classics, and it makes sense that a Classics professor would be among the first to comprehend the genius behind Bob Dylan's borrowings.

Much more can be said, but for now the best advice I can give is: Read the Book.

* * * *
Photos courtesy Michael Anderson

Related Link
Interview with Richard F. Thomas earlier this spring.

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

*Some Bible scholars have suggested that the Book of Revelations, which circulated during the first century, was written using assorted symbols that could only be interpreted by "People of the Book" for the same reason. Only those who understood the symbols would "get it."

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Singer Songwriter Contest Attracts Impossibly Good Talent--Again

"Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it." ~Stevie Wonder

From the balcony, John Sonofmel performing.
The English language is lacking superlatives to describe last night's singer/songwriter contest at Sacred Heart. Not that we don't have good words, it's just that they have all been so overused that they've been diluted and sapped of their true power.

Having said that, I will simply note that both the venue and the caliber of talent that was on display last night was simply wonderful, exceptional, full of poignant moments worthy of being enshrined. Thank you to each and every writer/artist performer who came from whatever distance to be with us, to share their pearls. I'm sure you could tell by the audience reactions that every single person who took the stage was extraordinarily appreciated.

The event began with a welcome that included special thanks to Sacred Heart for hosting the event. Having performed here at a few previous Armory concerts, I know that the staff here is unmatched for their dedication to getting every mic and speaker perfectly attuned to capture and reproduce the acoustics and voices, and being a former church designed to impress, impressing it does very well.

The way this competition works is like this. Each performer has to sing two songs. The first is one of their own composition, the second a selection from the Dylan archive. The performers are judged on their own songs. And there were just so many incredibly good songs.

Pat Eliason, who has been involved with this event since its inception in Hibbing two decades past, introduced Gene LaFond & Amy Grillo to open with a song. The North Shore duo chose an endearing Dylan tune to honor the memory of John Bushey who could not be with us,  “I Remember You.”

M.C. Pat Eliason then introduced the panel of judges, comprised of Gene LaFond, Maija Jensen (KUMD producer who shares a birthday with Bob Dylan), Jamie Ness of the Boomchucks and former winner),  Karen Sunderman (host of the Playlist and Making It Up North), and Christa Lawler (Duluth News Tribune journalist who covers the Arts & Entertainment beat.)

The judges. (photo credit: Michael Anderson)
Toughest assignment ever... so much talent.

1. The performers came from a range of locations. Our first was from Peoria, Illinois, also a painter and poet, Daniel Botkin, who sang a fabulous song Destined For Stardom accompanied by two young people. The Dylan selection was actually a medley of five songs he cobbled together with segues beginning with My Back Pages.

2. John Sonofmel from Hayward Wisc. followed, saying, “Wayward, not Hayward” as he took the stage. John has a rich baritone voice which served him well at Wednesday's poetry event. John sang We’re All Refugees. One line that jumped out for me was, “It’s hard not to wonder what could go wrong in every single moment…” His Dylan selection was "Things Have Changed" and as soon as he finished it was apparent these first two performers had set the bar high.

3. Eric & Rachel Cyr were third with another beautiful song titled Calloused. This line captures the message of the song: “I hope that your hands will get calloused but your heart never will…” Their Dylan selection was an incredibly moving rendition of "Boots of Spanish Leather." Heartbreaking and no doubt moistening eyes across the room.

Azure and Aaron
4. Lauren Burton sang next, her original song titled Everything I Need. “I have everything I need now that I’ve got you.” This was followed by a beautifully rendered version of "Emotionally Yours." Thank you for that, Lauren. Great song. You moved us.

5. Azure Daniels and Aaron Tink followed with song titled Landscapes, a reflection on life and the choices we make that bring us to where we are. Here's a line that spoke to me from this beautiful song: “But we’ll keep on rowing like the rivers keep flowing and maybe we, too, will find our way.” Azure pulled out a washboard to deliver a bluegrass funk to "Maggie’s Farm," a Newman family favorite.

6. Walter Lyle of Bear Creek called himself "another old Dylan fan.” With guitar and harmonica he shared a lighter song, “I’m chasing you around the house… Round and round we go… Where we stop nobody knows.” His Dylan selection, "Every Grain of Sand," left me wondering how Dylan could produce so many great songs.

7. Joe Schlafer introduced his song by stating that Dylan wrote topical songs when he started. Here are a couple excerpts: “Listen to the bell sounding the alarm..." and "Fire from the sky took us by surprise, shook us up and knocked us down, didn’t leave us wise.” His Dylan selection was the theme from Billy the Kid  called "Billy" Another great one.

8. The duo Mama’s Stolen Horses  -- Abby and Kris Robin accompanied by Jacob Mahon sang River Carry Me. Jacob Mahon was last year's winner.
"There’s water on the left and water on the right
From the looks of it there’s no end in sight…
Oh river won’t you carry me… put my mind at ease.”
The Dylan selection: "Buckets of Rain"

9. Dave Dvorak of Minneapolis sang Dylan’s Gone Electric followed by "Mr Tambourine Man." Ditto to all superlatives above.

Josie Langhorst. (Photo credit: Michael Anderson)
10. And then Josie Langhorst came to the stage. I spoke with her briefly beforehand and learned that she's 12 years old which brought many thoughts to mind, including being introduced to Dylan via Ed Hilliker, a friend on the school bus in seventh grade who said, "You should listen to this" as he handed me The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.

Josie sang A Different Side to Life, a song with some pretty profound lyrics for a youth her age.
“Everyone has those days
when they can’t see through the haze
Confusion overruns your mind
but once it clears you see a different side.” Her rendition of "Mr Tambourine Man" led me to scribble these notes to myself: "Absolutely mindblowing. Dylan's incredibly profound song so powerfully transported to an even higher orb. Audience absolutely riveted."

11. Jerry Esnough followed with Where the Skyline Meets the Road, a traveling song.
“We take our chances out on the highway beyond the comfort zone,
We meet somewhere on the edge where the skyline meets the road.”
Jerry introduced his Dylan selection with “I always wanted to do this song in front of a Dylan-loving audience.” And then he floored us with "It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)." I overheard someone say, “He totally gets it.” Awesome

Photo credit: Michael Anderson
12. Eli Hawthorne grew up 45 minutes North of here. He shared a song about the neighbors out here in the middle of nowhere titled Man Down.
"Maybe we’re all broken and scattered to the wind
and maybe it’s some part of us that will never love again.”
Eli's Dylan selection: "Don’t Think Twice."

13. Peter Klug from Mankato showed that he's a skilled performer and his song was titled I Love This Band about playing shows for money.
“I know what I want and I’m never feeling fed.”
“I love where I’m coming from and I love my band”
He did some very nice riffing, and followed with knockout rendition of "Tangled Up In Blue." Solid.

14. This was Rachel Nunemacher's first singer/songwriter contest. She began by acknowledging all the talent that preceded her. She, too, showed that she had something to offer and like the rest appeared totally comfortable. What a great venue for your first event like this. Her original song was titled Ladder in the Rain.
“I’m holding on to something deeper than faith…
Piece by piece… I can sing to your heartbeat…
I’m hanging on the edge, they say we’re too young...”
“So just forget the rest.”

15. Ryan Lane from Duluth just returned from three years in Madagascar with the Peace Corps. The trigger for this song he wrote in Madagascar came from a moment in a rice field waist deep in mud, a song titled Love Songs to a Ghost.
“No one ever lived by being too cautious”
“Buried heart deep in the mud and losing good sleep over nothing but you.”
“We burned those dreams in the moment…”
He followed by singing the song that made him start listening to what Bob Dylan had to say, “Farewell Angelina.” Thank you, Ryan.

16. Steve Davis, with his faithful Martin guitar, sang My Time, a song for everyone about their dreams. “My time will come…” He closed the competition with "All Along the Watchtower."

* * * *
The points were tallied up and after a few moments interlude Pat Eliason read the final results. There

3rd Place
Eli Hawthorne

2nd Place
Ryan Lane

1st Place
Mama's Stolen Horses

Mama's Stolen Horses courtesy Michael Anderson
* * * *
Thank you to every one of you who worked so hard to make this such a stellar event.

Today at one o'clock Richard F. Thomas, Harvard Classic professor and author of Why Bob Dylan Matters, will be giving a lecture at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum as part of the John Bushey Memorial Lecture Series. Then at 8:00 tonight Cowboy Angel Blue will be performing at Carmody's.

Sunday 11:00 a.m. is a Farewell Brunch at the Zeitgeist Cafe. Join if you can... to say goodbye till next time.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Duluth Dylan Fest Birthday Celebration: A May 24 Photo Gallery

Greg Tiburzi
The celebration began at the house, 519 No. 3rd Avenue East, where Abe and Beatty Zimmerman once rented the upper story of a duplex on Duluth's Central Hillside. This is where their firstborn son Robert lived for the first six years of his life and younger brother David the first year of his. Greg Tiburzi played Dylan tunes as the circle of friends expanded and circled the front of the house. Zane Bale of the Dylan Fest committee welcomed everyone and introduced her husband Don Dass who was one of a trio of advocates who successfully gained the city's support to name a road from the Depot to the Armory, where Bob Zimmerman saw Buddy Holly. Don shared a few words and invited Mayor Emily Larson to share a few words. Those words came from the heart and warmed everyone as she welcomed all who were visiting from around the world.

Mayor Larson points to the great lake below.

After singing Happy Birthday to Bob we cut the cake.

Early in the evening... "All aboard!"
Later we boarded the Blood on the Tracks Express and celebrated an evening of music and good times with friends old and new. Some kind of delay held us from an immediate return from Two Harbors, which only resulted in everyone hearing more music and a deepening of friendships. Here are photos from yesterday. We wish you were here.

Tom O'Keefe and Friends

Music here, music there, listen to music everywhere.

 * * * *
The Two Harbors train depot welcomed us and the Rolling Blunder Revue entertained.
* * * *
Tonight we gather at the Sacred Heart on (Positively) Fourth Street at Second Avenue West for the annual singer/songwriter contest. Saturday morning there will be an informal Tour of Bob Dylan's Duluth featuring a number of points of interest. Meet at 9:30 a.m. at the Armory Annex parking lot on London Road across the street from Valentini's.
Then join us for our second John Bushey Memorial Lecture with Richard F. Thomas, author of Why Dylan Matters from 1–2 p.m. at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum.

Saturday night we'll reconvene at Carmody's Pub on Superior Street 
with Cowboy Angel Blue.

Finally, the Farewell Brunch will be at Zeitgeist Cafe at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Thank you to everyone who shared events with us this week.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Inspired By Scorsese's Biopic on Dylan, Skye's Art Inspires Others in Duluth

Photo courtesy Michael Anderson
This week, a Door County artist has decorated the Great Hall in the Depot with a project that birthed in her heart and evolved into a passion. Yesterday afternoon her display "Shakespeare's in the Alley," a collection of 45 song panels hand-stenciled with lyrics from the songs of Bob Dylan, was the focus of attention on the fifth day of Duluth Dylan Fest. Around 5:30 those present gathered to hear Skye give a talk about this dramatic presentation.

Skye, a stone sculpture up till this point in her career, said that Martin Scorsese's documentary No Direction Home proved to be the seed that grew into this powerful display. Initially she did research on Dylan, checking out books from the library, and the more she learned the more she recognized in him "an amazing example of just don't stop." During a morning walk she had a vision so to speak of panels unrolling. She felt that to follow through would be a tribute to him as an artist. She would try to make it happen. The first summer, 2011, she did 15 panels. In 2012 she decided to do more.

The creation has been a very personal journey. In 2016 she knew that to publicly share it she would have to ask permission. She did not ask permission sooner because she felt it necessary to execute that which was inside of her. It proved to be a huge relief when Jeff Rosen, Bob Dylan's business manager, replied and said yes.

Skye noted that this was the first time the installation has been displayed outside of Wisconsin and only the third time in all. Because of the special occasion she added the 45th panel, "Girl from the North Country," which is also the title of the play that opened last year in London with 1930's Duluth as its "place."

Skye shared the process by which the panels were created and the materials used: pencil, rulers, tape, fabric markers. The title comes from a line in Dylan's "Stuck Inisde of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again."

There's a Japanese term that means "living national treasure" and she said it applied to Dylan who is himself "a preserver of culutural treasures and creator of them."

"How lucky you are," she said to the Duluthians gathered for her talk. "He was born here." She then read a passage from 11 Outlined Epitaphs which he wrote when he was 22.

The images here are from The Great Hall.

* * * *

Related Links
Interview with the Artist Skye
No Direction Home by Martin Scorsese

REMINDER: There will be a birthday cake and music at Bob Dylan's birth home at 3:00 p.m. in front of the yellow duplex at 519 Third Avenue East. Happy Birthday, Bob.

Meantime art goes on all around you. Engage it.

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