Meanwhile, here's the aforementioned Ned Rorem, America's self-identified greatest living art song composer who nobody gives a flying fuck about, having a jealous hissy fit in the New York Times.
JULY 4, 2004
To the Editor:
As one who has always found Dylan the singer charmless and rasping, Dylan the poet sophomoric and obvious, and Dylan the composer banal and unmemorable, I did not have my feeling changed by Jonathan Lethem's review of Christopher Ricks's book ''Dylan's Visions of Sin'' (June 13). Lethem's complicity with the author in equating Bob Dylan with Blake and Picasso, no less, must embarrass even Dylan.
Yet assuming he is right (though what is ''right'' in such matters?), Lethem has not one word to say about the music; when he says ''music'' it's as a synonym for ''lyrics.'' Since ancient times songs sink or swim on the quality of the music to which the poems are set; but Lethem has no opinion, much less an analysis, of how the tune and harmony and instrumentation relate to the text.
As for the giggly postscript by Lucinda Williams (''Love That Mystic Hammering''), she does refer to Dylan's ''sweet beautiful melodies,''as well as to his influential ''sweet-ass attitude,'' but such notions are meaningless in responsible criticism.
Yeah, well, Ned old horse, here's a song Bob threw away. And to paraphrase what Charlie Pierce said at Esquire yesterday, if this isn't great writing then I'm Marie of Rumania.
Well, I heard the hoot owl singing
As they were taking down the tents
The stars above the barren trees
Were his only audience
Them charcoal gypsy maidens
Can strut their feathers well
But nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell
See them big plantations burning
Hear the cracking of the whips
Smell that sweet magnolia blooming
(And) see the ghosts of slavery ships
I can hear them tribes a-moaning
(I can) hear the undertaker's bell
(Yeah), nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell
And here's the master with another -- more light-hearted -- song he threw away on a Traveling Wilburys album. On top of everything else, this guy is -- as Jack Nicholson famously said about him at some awards show a while back -- a riot.
And speaking of Bob the stand-up comedian, here's my favorite thing he ever said.
"Once introducing himself to Bob Dylan at an L.A. party, [Peter] Grant offered a warm handshake. 'I’m Peter Grant, manager of Led Zeppelin,' he said. Dylan replied, 'I don’t come to you with my problems, do I?'
Oh, and BTW -- the Hamilton guy gets it.
Have a great weekend, everybody.