Tag Archive: Bob Dylan


portrait-of-a-legend

Before I dug into this album, which I picked up on Amazon Prime for $9 (two day shipping baby!), the only Sam Cooke song I thought I knew was “A Change Is Gonna Come.”  And I was aware of that song mostly because we studied it as a civil rights era anthem in one of my music history classes in college.  And like most things, one can study it in a class, but it wasn’t until I became a music teacher that I realized the true power of the song, as it truly has become transcendental in that it has been passed down from generation to generation.  More than any other song, and I include Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” in this statement, “A Change is Gonna Come” has been embraced as an anthem for change and equality and human rights by the old and the young across the nation.  And sadly, Sam Cooke didn’t live long enough to see the impact his masterpiece had on people across the country, but that is another story for another time.

So anyway, when I listened to this album, which is essentially a greatest hits package, I discovered that i knew several of the songs on it.  Songs like “(What a) Wonderful World”, “Chain Gang”, “Another Saturday Night”, and “Good Times”, were radio staples when I was kid.  I just never knew those songs were sung by Sam Cooke.  And as a singer, I certainly enjoyed Sam’s voice on this record.  Stylistically, his tenor voice sits somewhere between the silky smoothness of Marvin Gaye and the raw emotional power of Otis Redding.  And he sings in a full voice, rarely, if ever, using falsetto, which is a plus to me.  But, as much as I enjoyed Sam’s voice, I felt his talent was wasted on most of the songs on this album.  For the most part, these songs sound like same trite 50s pop you would have heard on the juke box in a soda shop.  And listening to this album, I just kept yearning to hear Sam sing something more substantial.  Maybe I need to look up his gospel recordings, as I really do like the first song on this album, “Touch the Hem of His Garment” a lot.  At any rate, he was a great singer, even if the quality of these songs doesn’t quite live up to the level of his talent.  And his take on the Gershwin classic “Summertime” is pretty awesome.

Other lists: “A Change is Gonna Come” is #12, “You Send Me” is #115, “(What a) Wonderful World” is #383, and “Cupid” is #458 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Sam Cooke is ranked at #4 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers and at #16 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.

Ch-ch-changes: Like most of the albums through this section, it is one spot lower than its original ranking at #106.  Kid A!

My favorite track: “Summertime”

Honorable mention: “Another Saturday Night”

Quote: “Yeah, come on and let the good times roll.  We’re gonna stay here till we soothe our souls.”

The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

So I’m surprised I haven’t talked about it yet on this blog, but Bob Dylan was my first concert.  I guess I haven’t mentioned it yet because, unfortunately, I don’t really remember much about it.  See, I was only 10 years old in the summer of 1986 when Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and the Grateful Dead played a triple bill at the Akron Rubber Bowl.  It was a family affair that night, as mi madre is a huge Bob Dylan fan, mon soeur is a huge Tom Petty fan, and mon frere, well, he has his Dead Head moments.  So, being the youngest of the bunch, they packed me up in the family truckster (actually, I think it was a grey Impala) and we made the rare journey outside the Geneva city limits to see the show.  What I do remember is that Petty played first, then Dylan, then the Dead.  And at some point during the Dead’s set, Dylan came back out and played a few songs with them.  I’m pretty sure I fell asleep before the end of the show.

Thanks to the magic of the world wide interweb, I’ve been able to take a look at the set list from that night, and all I can say is damn, I wish I had been older and could remember it better.  Dylan played pretty much everything song of his I would want to hear live, including “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Masters of War” from this album.  Actually, I do remember all the Dead Heads singing along to “Rainy Day Women #12 and #35”.  I wonder if I can find a bootleg of this concert somewhere.  I’d love to hear it again.

As for this album, I picked it up at the Half Price Books on High Street near Worthington for $6.99.   It’s Dylan’s second record and the one that catapulted him in the national spotlight with “Blowin’ in the Wind”, possibly the greatest protest song every written.  The record it mostly folk and blues, but Dylan waxes poetic on “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fail” and he hits hard on “Masters of War” (Edward Louis Severson III and Michael McCready of Pearl Jam fame do a powerful cover of the latter on Bob Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration).  We also get the first example of a Bob Dylan dream song, simply titled “Bob Dylan’s Dream” (although it’s not funny like “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”), and we also get his first use of the talking blues in “Talking World War III Blues” (witty, but not quite as funny as “Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues”, an outtake that got left off the album).

Other lists: “Blowin’ in the Wind” is #14 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

My favorite track: “Masters of War”

Honorable mention: “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”

Quote: “How much do I know, to talk out of turn?  You might say that I’m young, you might say I’m unlearned.  But there’s one thing I know, though I’m younger than you: even Jesus would never forgive what you do.”