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Comrades From The North

This time around it is a rather subdued welcome to the first issue of a new decade. The current global impact of the Covid-19 virus has become far too serious to ignore or side-step. Wherever you are in the world we do hope that you are able to stay safe. There are lockdowns everywhere, few regular flights and self-isolation all on a scale unknown in modern peacetime. But it all has a purpose and such measures are needed to slow down the pandemic and to protect the most vulnerable in society and we support those aims fully. This goes beyond who wins a football competition or a horse race, supercedes any theatrical or musical performance and renders irrelevant a foreign holiday here or there - whatever the costs may be. And so Dylan’s tour of Japan has been postponed in the fight against the coronavirus. A pity but inevitable. The main issue here is that lives will probably be saved by such actions. So please do what is necessary and we send our sincere and heartfelt best wishes to all of our subscribers in the hope that all will emerge safe and well from this shattering period. Because of all of that it seems somewhat disrespectful to move on to more mundane matters but light relief should be welcome. Recently, in the act of putting together a digital archive of Dylan-related press clippings we have had the opportunity to re-read many of the old music papers from which they originate. It is fair to say that a result of this exercise has been to emphasize the quality - or should we say lack of quality in much of what passes for rock journalism. Some of it is, of course, of the highest order - well researched, thorough and properly critical. Much more, however, is not. One of the most notable tropes is the misuse of the word genius.Not far behind that is the assertion that such a musician or such an album changed the course of music forever. Superlatives are fine when correctly applied but hyperbole is not. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines genius as

"very great and rare natural ability or skill, especially in a particular area such as science or art"

So someone has to exhibit very rare credentials to meet that definition and, in doing so, they almost certainly would have changed the face of music. In the popular musical idiom we contend that there would be few who could truly claim such an accolade. Charlie Parker, Miles Davis,, Elvis, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan. And a strong case could be made for John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin and Joni Mitchell. Certainly the first six changed the way in which music was made thereafter. An effect which spawned a new generation of music-making and musicians, one which re-shaped musical thinking. Many others had an impact producing musical ripples, sometimes aural byways but these six created a seismic shift in the musical landscape - one that was unignorable and indelible. No doubt you will have your own opinions and your own names for the frames but the case has to be made for any such interloper. Go ahead and let us know - maybe there will be a parallel universe of players.

On another score we recommend Bridge contributor Anders Lindh’s new work Bob Dylan In Performance A Filmography 2, the second volume of his trilogy. Available through The Bridge website.

Going back to where we started, it looks like it will be a while before Dylan treads the boards again - early June if things have settled down by then. However long it takes we hope that you get to see him on stage if he is in your neighbourhood.

If you are self-isolating or not, we trust that you enjoy this issue. More importantly, we hope that you and your loved ones remain fit and well.

May you climb on every rung ..........

Mike & John

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