Latest News: Bob Dylan

Between The Covers: Bob Dylan Edition

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The Moondoggies –“You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” This song’s easily singable country chorus inspired many covers, from The Byrds in 1968 to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova in 2007 for the Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There. It’s fairly impossible to even find the original song on YouTube. This one by Seattle folk rockers The Moondoggies has a simple heart, plain and true. With signature Dylan harmonica, piano flourishes and harmonies high and low, it’s hard not to find yourself humming along “Whoo-ee! / Ride me high / Tomorrow’s the day / My bride’s gonna come / Oh, oh, are we gonna fly / Down in the easy chair.”

The White Stripes – “One More Cup of Coffee”

Leave it to Jack White to bring out the dark and sinister in a Bob Dylan song. In fact, the minor edges of the tune tattered with eerie lyrics seem almost custom fitted to The White Stripes’ down and dirty rock: “One more cup of coffee for the road / One more cup of coffee ‘fore I go / To the valley below.” Once again, Bob Dylan boils down a convoluted love story to a bittersweet one-liner – one that Jack White strains to his vocal edge like a weary conquistador fighting a battle of reverb guitar and ghostly organ. He really makes you believe that one more cup will be his last. And you sure hope that it’s good.

Monsters of Folk – “Girl from the North Country”

Almost as immediately as you recognize the tune, you’ll recognize the three distinctive vocals that make up the indie supergroup Monsters of Folk – M. Ward, Conor Oberst and Jim James. M Ward sings the first verse with his signature gruff warmth, followed by Conor Oberst’s earnestly shaky tone on the second and rounded out by Jim James’ delicate intensity on the last. The three divergent voices then meld together over pedal steel guitar in the grand-finale chorus, just before they lay the song to rest with gently staggering syllables.

The String Quartet Tribute to Bob Dylan Available now at VSQ's Online Store, iTunes and Amazon

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Between the Covers

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Barbara Covers Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” While this song has been pursued by more popular artists like Lissie, whose cover earned praise from Kid Cudi himself on his official website, let’s not forget the lesser known artists’ take on the alt hip hop hit. Electro pop California trio Barbara laces the electronic vibes on the original (produced by Ratatat and featuring vocals by MGMT) with folky singing and instrumentation. Between Kid Cudi’s lyrics and Iron & Wine's “The Trapeze Swinger” in the background, classically trained pianist Derek Stephens and hip-hop producer Frank Eybsen tie together their seemingly opposite influences quite well – this despite the group’s confession on their website that the cover was a product of “boredom/drinking.”

Calexico and Jim James Cover Bob Dylan’s “Going to Acapulco” The soundtrack to I'm Not There, the 2007 Bob Dylan biopic, is practically flawless – and this song is a personal favorite of mine, and of most Jim James fans out there. The My Morning Jacket singer even sounds a bit like Nashville Skyline-era Dylan (“Lay Lady Lay,” “Girl from the North Country”) on this Basement Tapes song. James’ high and lonesome vocals are beautifully backed by the full alt-country sound of Calexico, complete with majestic horn section and acoustic guitar strums.

Cake Covers Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive" This 1996 alt rock cover of a 1978 disco anthem (written by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris and performed by Gloria Gaynor) has stood the test of time, with over 4 million YouTube views and counting in 2012. Cake altered the song with the band’s signature almost-spoken vocals, trumpet outbursts and distorted guitar riffs – along with changing "I should have changed that stupid lock" to "I should have changed my f*cking lock" and "I'm not that chained up little person" to "I'm not that stupid little person…” While the addition of profanity made this cover Gloria Gaynor’s least favorite version of the original she made popular, the song’s accompanying video of frontman John McCrea writing parking tickets to happy couples while singing puts it in the running as my favorite.

Be sure to check out:

The String Quartet Tribute to Bob Dylan Available now at iTunes and Amazon

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Bands Read Books, Too

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Music and literature are just two different ways of telling stories. So it makes sense that many musicians have translated books into song, from Bob Dylan’s "Highway 61 Revisited," which retells Abraham’s moral dilemma over killing his son in Genesis, to Death Cab for Cutie's “Meet Me on the Equinox,” which recounts Bella’s lip-biting dilemma over dating a vampire in Twilight: New Moon. While most people have heard of the Bible before Bob Dylan, music like The Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” (based on the 1870 novella by Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch) popularizes otherwise obscure book titles. So when musicians reuse phrases like “Venus in Furs,” the line of influences is strung along and preserved in a new medium. This recycling of material shouldn’t be seen as lack of creativity but rather creative reinvention. After all, Ernest Hemmingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, which inspired Metallica’s song of the same name, was based on the 1623 John Donne poem, yet it still exists as separate, valid piece of art. And J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy that is referenced in Led Zeppelin songs like “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Ramble On” and “The Battle of Evermore” is inspired by Norse mythology, containing an ancient mystique echoed through Led Zeppelin’s mandolin and other early instrumentation. Many songs are as inspired by contemporary life as they are from past literature, as reality and fiction often mirror each other. Thom Yorke explained that Radiohead’s “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors” is based on Alice’s dread of opening unknown doors in Alice in Wonderland, reflecting his own feelings at the time. Similarly, Brandon Boyd wrote Incubus’ “Talk Show on Mute” after watching muted talk shows on a plane and wondering whether TVs watched us while we watched them: a “Big Brother Is Watching You” nightmare fitting of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, a novel about complete government control. The strange yet frighteningly familiar concepts that early 20th century science fiction writers imagined have been reasserted by modern bands in music that is similarly strange yet familiar. Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four inspired Radiohead’s “2+2=5,” Muse’s “Resistance” album and David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” record (including “Rebel Rebel”), amongst others. The theme of artificially induced happiness through the perfect pleasure drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is the topic of The Strokes’ “Soma:” “Soma is what they would take when / Hard times opened their eyes.” Bands today also cover modern books, like The Decemberists’ “Song for Myla Goldberg” about the author of 2000’s Bee Season and “Calamity Song” with accompanying video (directed by Michael Schur of Parks and Recreation, The Office and Saturday Night Live fame) influenced by David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Authors and songwriters share a talent for artistic narration, so it’s only fitting that they should borrow from each other. The Vitamin String Quartet has transposed the music of some of these literate bands a step further into complete musical emersion, narrating the lyrics through notes while keeping the sensations intact. The String Quartet Tribute to Bob Dylan.

Be sure to check out: Vitamin String Quartet Tribute to Twilight: New Moon (2009) Available at iTunes and Amazon

String Quartet Tribute to The Velvet Underground & Nico Available at iTunes and Amazon

Say Your Prayers, Little One: The String Quartet Tribute to Metallica Available at iTunes and Amazon

Baroque Tribute to Led Zeppelin Available at iTunes and Amazon

Strung Out on OK Computer: The String Quartet Tribute to Radiohead Available at iTunes and Amazon

New Skin: The String Quartet Tribute to Incubus Vol. 2 Available at iTunes and Amazon

String Quartet Tribute to Muse Available at iTunes and Amazon

String Quartet Tribute to David Bowie Available at iTunes and Amazon

String Quartet Tribute to The Strokes Available at iTunes and Amazon

Vitamin String Quartet Performs The Decemberists Available at iTunes and Amazon

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Dylan by the Decade

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Bob Dylan turned 70 yesterday. As this timeline shows, the man has been pretty busy over the last seven decades. 1941-1951: Robert Allen Zimmerman is born at St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota on May 24, 1941. He is raised there until age six when his father Abram is stricken with polio and the family moves to his mother Beatrice’s hometown of Hibbing, in the northwest region of Minnesota. Young Robert spends much of his time listening to blues and rock programs on the radio. 1951-1961: While in high school, Robert forms several bands, including the short lived Shadow Blasters and then the Golden Chords. In his 1959 school yearbook, Robert lists his ambition to “follow Little Richard.” He enrolls in the University of Minnesota in the fall of ’59 and becomes active in the local folk music circuit where he introduces himself as “Bob Dylan.” 1961-1971: Soon after his enrollment, Dylan drops out of college. He moves to New York in early 1961 and gains recognition on the folk music circuit. He is signed to Colombia Records in October of ’61, and his first album Bob Dylan is released in 1962. In the winter of that year, he travels to the UK where he performs “Blowin’ In the Wind” for the first time. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is released in 1963 and gains Dylan wide recognition and new fans, including The Beatles. Dylan, along with his collaborator and lover Joan Baez, becomes involved with the civil rights movements, and his next album The Times They Are a-Changin’ reflects issues of social unrest. The live album Another Side of Bob Dylan is also released in ’64. Dylan’s transition from folk to electric rock unfolds during this period, and Dylan becomes increasingly eccentric and confrontational with journalists. 1965’s Bringing It All Back Home cements Dylan’s stylistic leap from folk to rock, and he is booed by the crowd at the year’s Newport Folk Festival. In July of ’65, Dylan releases “Like a Rolling Stone” an instant classic that has been called the greatest song ever recorded. The song opens the album Highway ’61 Revisited. On November 22, 1965, Dylan marries model Sara Lownds. The couple has a child, Jesse, in 1966. An extensive world tour finishes with Dylan feeling mounting pressures from his label and management. He crashes his motorcycle in July of 1966 and uses the accident as an opportunity to retreat from the public eye, seizing touring for the next eight years. Dylan records John Wesley Harding in Nashville in the fall of 1966 and makes his first public appearance in almost two years at 1968 memorial service for his idol Woody Guthrie. Dylan’s 1969 recording Nashville Skyline includes a duet with Johnny Cash. Dylan’s son Jakob, (who will later form The Wallflowers), is born in December of this year. 1971-1981: Dylan’s output becomes unpredictable during this period, with mixed reviews for his 1970 release Self Portrait. In 1973, he signs to a new label, Asylum Records. The Band is his backing group for the album Planet Waves, and the group also performs with him on the subsequent tour. After poor record sales, Dylan returns to Columbia Records and records 1974’s Blood on the Tracks, an account of his troubled marriage. Desire is released in 1975, amidst Dylan’s extensive Rolling Thunder Revue tour. Lownds and Dylan divorce in 1977, and he plays 114 shows for a total of two million people during his 1978 world tour. Dylan becomes a born again Christian in the late ‘70s and records two albums of gospel music during this period. 1981-1991: Dylan releases a series of albums that are all criticized for both song quality and careless production. He collaborates on a track with Kurtis Blow in 1986 and begins extensively touring with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers throughout ’86 and ’87. He is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, with Bruce Springsteen giving the introductory speech. Dylan collaborates with Petty, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and George Harrison in the group The Traveling Wilbury’s. The super-group is Dylan’s greatest commercial success in a decade. 1991-2001: Dylan releases three underwhelming albums in the early 1990s and receives a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from presenter Jack Nicholson in 1991. After falling ill with a life threatening heart infection in 1997, Dylan releases the critically acclaimed Time Out of Mind, which wins the Grammy for Album of the Year. 2011-2011: Dylan wins an Academy Award for the song “Things Have Changed” (from the film Wonder Boys), releases two albums and the first part of his memoirs, Chronicles: Volume One. He appears in a Victoria’s Secret commercial in 2004 and begins hosting his satellite radio program in 2006. He plays China for the first time in April 2011. Be sure to check our tributes to Dylan: The String Quartet Tribute to Bob Dylan Available now at iTunes and Amazon

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Bob Dylan to (Finally) Play in China

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The rolling stone will finally hit the far east, as Bob Dylan has been approved to play his first ever concert in China. The country’s Ministry of Culture has granted Dylan permission to play in Beijing this year, sometime between March 30 and April 12. Dylan also applied to play in Shanghai, although that application has not yet been approved. The rock legend will stick to a strict set list approved by Chinese officials. No word yet on what songs will make the cut. In honor of this 69 year old icon still breaking rock and roll borders, we give you the top five things you should know about Bob Dylan’s travels around the world. 1. In 1978, Dylan embarked on a year-long world tour, performing 114 shows in Japan, the Far East, Europe and the United States. Two million people saw Dylan play during this tour, which grossed more than $20 million. Dylan told the Los Angeles Times that he used the grosses to cover some debts, saying "I had a couple of bad years. I put a lot of money into the movie, built a big house ... and it costs a lot to get divorced in California." 2. Bob Dylan at Budokan was recorded in Tokyo during two shows on February 28 and March 1, 1978. The album featured alternative renditions of hits including “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Like a Rolling Stone.” The album was widely slammed by critics, who likened it to “Vegas lounge music.” 3. In 1997, Dylan was hospitalized with a life-threatening heart infection, pericarditis, brought on by histoplasmosis, a fungal disease that primarily affects the lungs. His scheduled European tour was cancelled, but Dylan made a speedy recovery and left the hospital saying, "I really thought I'd be seeing Elvis soon." 4. In the fall of 1997, Dylan performed before Pope John Paul II at the World Eucharistic Conference in Bologna, Italy. The Pope returned the favor by giving an audience of 200,000 a homily based on Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind." 5. The National Gallery of Denmark is exhibiting 40 of Dylan’s large-scale acrylic paintings from September 2010 until April 2011. The collection is entitled “The Brazil Series.” Be sure to check out: The String Quartet Tribute to Bob Dylan Available at iTunes and Amazon

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Bob Dylan Refused By China

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Add one more to the list of reasons why I feel bad for people living in China. Don’t get me wrong; this is not me saying that China sucks or that the people suck. Mostly just their government sucks (cut to this article being banned on Chinese computers.) The latest reason: Folk icon Bob Dylan has been forced to cancel his upcoming visit to the country on account of his reputation. That’s right, he was given the red light because he has a tendency to cause a stir. After wrapping up a 14-day tour in Japan and a stop in Seoul, South Korea, Dylan’s plans were to perform shows in Shanghai and Beijing, which were set to be the musician’s first in the country. And he’s Bob Dylan. He’s been everywhere. I bet China was screamin’ hot excited to get a piece of that action. Well, it’s not happening now, thanks to the Minister of Culture’s fear that Dylan’s past change-mongering ways would rear their revolutionary head if he played in the country. The thought is that China, whose government is notoriously discerning when it comes to the outside influence it allows their populace to be exposed to, is even more cautious than it used to be when it comes to allowing in performers who have a history of political statements and revolutionary incitements since 2008. That year, Björk started chanting “Tibet! Tibet!” during her song “Declare Independence” while playing a show in Shanghai. Naturally, that didn’t go over too well. According the Chinese concert promoter (and the guy who booked Dylan’s now cancelled shows), “What Björk did definitely made life very difficult for other performers. They are very wary of what will be said by performers on stage now.” The ruling has resulted in a blow to other nearby populations; with China out of the picture, Mr. Dylan decided it wasn’t worth going ahead with his planned shows in Taiwan or Hong Kong either. Way to go ruining everyone’s fun, Minister of Culture.

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Pump Up The Volume: Ten Songs For Anyone’s Playlist

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Not only can music bring people from different backgrounds together, but those from different generations as well…the best way to come together may be over music.

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Rediscovering Dylan

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Growing up with a father that has good taste, I was exposed to many incredible musical samplings throughout my childhood. From Sam Cooke to Cat Stevens, I can thank my dad for whetting my musical pallet. Until recently, one of these childhood memories had been almost forgotten. Last week digging deep into my musical collection for some much needed inspiration, I played "Like a Rolling Stone," in an attempt to fuel some creative writing juices...and that was just the beginning. This classic tune could not help but follow by the Jester's entire collection of folksy, bluesy, jazzy, rock and roll. Until that moment, I had forgotten how much I love Bob Dylan.

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