Classy and Classic Dylan

By the most accidental of accidents last Thursday night I happened to catch the tail end of the PBS presentation of “In Performance at the White House” devoted to “A Celebration of Music From the Civil Rights Movement” (on the eve of Abe Lincoln’s birthday). The songs were moving to be sure. And watching  President, First Lady and first children Obama in the front row (singing along) was joyous. In addition to Yolanda Adams, Joan Baez, Natalie Cole, Jennifer Hudson, John Mellencamp, Smokey Robinson, and the incredible Blind Boys of Alabama, to my surprise the penultimate performer was Bob Dylan singing a heart-wrenching, gravel-voiced rendition of “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” You can see it here (and compare to the original here). What a historic moment that was.
 
If you are as big a fan of Dylan as I am, then you’ll also be mesmerized by this duet of “Dark Eyes” with Dylan and Patti Smith. 
 
 

 

 

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

3 thoughts on “Classy and Classic Dylan

  1. Steven Heller

    Sam Pratt: Thank you for your comment and link, which I read with great interest and some remorse. Mr. Rubel’s “contrarian take” reminded me a little of the hardcore folkies when Dylan went electric. For them a hard rain fell as the times they were a changin’. Which isn’t to say I don’t sympathize with his disappointment regarding the intensity of the event. Rubel writes “The highlight of the White House concert for me came when Bernice Johnson Reagon, one of the original SNCC Freedom Singers, interrupted her performance of “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ’Round” to admonish the audience, “I know this is a show, but you have to actually sing this song. You can never tell when you might need it.”

    “What a shame,” Rubel continues, “that the president had to be told this. What a shame that the history of the civil rights movement rests so lightly, like dandruff, on the shoulders of those in power. I often wonder, despite my cynicism, how the Washington elite can be so oblivious to the struggles of the people whom they ostensibly serve. Surely, after spending their days seeking partisan advantage, they can spare some time for the people’s most pressing business? Surely, after fattening themselves at the public trough, they can show a degree of shame and some measure of respect and compassion for those less privileged than themselves? Unfortunately, the truth is that the people in power have trained themselves to ignore such feelings, even as the weight of history presses down upon them.” I too was quite moved by the call to sing aloud and wondered why there was such passivity until then. Sadly the times the did change. And the great social surge of that tense time has shifted from one side to the other.

  2. Steven Heller

    Sam Pratt: Thank you for your comment and link, which I read with great interest and some remorse. Mr. Rubel’s “contrarian take” reminded me a little of the hardcore folkies when Dylan went electric. For them a hard rain fell as the times they were a changin’. Which isn’t to say I don’t sympathize with his disappointment regarding the intensity of the event. Rubel writes “The highlight of the White House concert for me came when Bernice Johnson Reagon, one of the original SNCC Freedom Singers, interrupted her performance of “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ’Round” to admonish the audience, “I know this is a show, but you have to actually sing this song. You can never tell when you might need it.”

    “What a shame,” Rubel continues, “that the president had to be told this. What a shame that the history of the civil rights movement rests so lightly, like dandruff, on the shoulders of those in power. I often wonder, despite my cynicism, how the Washington elite can be so oblivious to the struggles of the people whom they ostensibly serve. Surely, after spending their days seeking partisan advantage, they can spare some time for the people’s most pressing business? Surely, after fattening themselves at the public trough, they can show a degree of shame and some measure of respect and compassion for those less privileged than themselves? Unfortunately, the truth is that the people in power have trained themselves to ignore such feelings, even as the weight of history presses down upon them.” I too was quite moved by the call to sing aloud and wondered why there was such passivity until then. Sadly the times the did change. And the great social surge of that tense time has shifted from one side to the other.

  3. Steven Heller

    Sam Pratt: Thank you for your comment and link, which I read with great interest and some remorse. Mr. Rubel’s “contrarian take” reminded me a little of the hardcore folkies when Dylan went electric. For them a hard rain fell as the times they were a changin’. Which isn’t to say I don’t sympathize with his disappointment regarding the intensity of the event. Rubel writes “The highlight of the White House concert for me came when Bernice Johnson Reagon, one of the original SNCC Freedom Singers, interrupted her performance of “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ’Round” to admonish the audience, “I know this is a show, but you have to actually sing this song. You can never tell when you might need it.”

    “What a shame,” Rubel continues, “that the president had to be told this. What a shame that the history of the civil rights movement rests so lightly, like dandruff, on the shoulders of those in power. I often wonder, despite my cynicism, how the Washington elite can be so oblivious to the struggles of the people whom they ostensibly serve. Surely, after spending their days seeking partisan advantage, they can spare some time for the people’s most pressing business? Surely, after fattening themselves at the public trough, they can show a degree of shame and some measure of respect and compassion for those less privileged than themselves? Unfortunately, the truth is that the people in power have trained themselves to ignore such feelings, even as the weight of history presses down upon them.” I too was quite moved by the call to sing aloud and wondered why there was such passivity until then. Sadly the times the did change. And the great social surge of that tense time has shifted from one side to the other.

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