Comrades From The North
So begins another Spring and with it another issue of The Bridge. By the time you read this Dylan will be well into his new touring year with whatever surprises that brings. If last year is anything to go by, and it may well not be, then we can expect rigid set structures but wonderful performances. Before those concerts, it is likely that many fans would have been less than keen at the thought of sitting through the same set lists every night. Too much like 1979 revisited, perhaps. And yet, like the 1979 shows, these were full of passion with subtly different readings of the songs at many shows. And these shows allowed Dylan to showcase the most modern of his works as he rolled out six or seven numbers from Tempest. Here was a performer demonstrating that he continues to write, record and deliver vibrant and valid work. We hope that you are able to catch at least one of the shows this year.
On a much sadder note, Pete Seeger passed away on 27th January at the ripe old age of 94. He was a man and musician of great integrity who stood up for the confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones and worse and took a stand against the withering, fascist bullies of the Un-American Activities committee. He supported the labour movement, the civil rights movement, the peace movement and many others. His were gentle, but nonetheless effective songs of protest and that banjo sound and dulcet voice together formed a distinctive trademark. As important as his music and personal and professional activities were to those he supported (and those whom he opposed), it was left struggling for breath in the wake of Bob Dylan’s relentless progress through the sixties, as was the case with almost everyone else. Once Dylan had harnessed the ghost of electricity and was writing songs of personal and surreal journeys above and beyond protest, many found it hard to co-exist within the brightest light of the brightest shooting star. Dylan, of course, never abandoned the songs of old America and would return to them periodically thereafter. The life and work of Pete Seeger and others are part of that canon and Dylan may not have made some of the moves he made without those songs. To everything there is a season – Pete Seeger sowed many seeds and reaped the respect of everyone. The time to pass away came as it always must. May he rest in peace. Pete Seeger was a stalwart of Newport Folk Festival, of course and that is where our cover photograph was taken. It was shot by Fred Plaut at the 1964 festival, and appears here through the courtesy of the Yale University Music Library in New Haven, Connecticut, where the Fred Plaut archive is kept. Mr. Plaut was a Columbia Records engineer and amateur photographer who took pictures of many of the recording artists with whom he worked both within and outside of the studio. Although Mr. Plaut did not work with Dylan in the studio, he took several photographs of him at the 1964 festival, both on and off the stage. The photograph was passed on to The Bridge by David Cox, who was digging through the archive at the suggestion of Ian Woodward.
We hope that you have a pleasant and peaceful Spring (or Autumn depending on your hemisphere) and that you find this edition stimulating and thought-provoking. Meanwhile we are musing on the knotty question of whether there will ever be a "new Bob Dylan". In the 1970s this was the label put on every vagabond who stood up with a guitar, a harmonica and a handful of self-penned ditties. It never happened – no-one sings Dylan like Dylan. Beware imitators – they steal you blind. Stick with the original and the best.
May you climb on every rung ..........
Mike & John
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