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Highway 61 Revisited

Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan’s Road from Minnesota to the World

Colleen J. Sheehy
Thomas Swiss
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 302
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  • Book Info
    Highway 61 Revisited
    Book Description:

    From his roots in Hibbing, to his rise as a cultural icon in New York, to his prominence on the worldwide stage, Colleen J. Sheehy and Thomas Swiss bring together the most eminent Dylan scholars at work today—as well as people from such far-reaching fields as labor history, African American studies, and Japanese studies—to assess Dylan’s career, influences, and his global impact on music and culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6818-2
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxiv)
    Colleen J. Sheehy, John Barner and Thomas Swiss

    In Todd Haynes’s filmI’m Not There(2007), two of the characters who play oblique versions of Bob Dylan—Billy the Kid (Richard Gere) and a young (black) Woody Guthrie (Marcus Carl Franklin)—converge in the small frontier town of Riddle, Missouri. While the action at first seems to take place in the nineteenth century, viewers slowly recognize that time is conflated with more modern times: Riddle’s future is threatened by the imminent prospect of a six-lane highway coming straight through town, and its residents are evacuating. Some scenes of Riddle are reminiscent of those depicting the amiable, democratic citizens...


    • 1. Hibbing High School and “the Mystery of Democracy”
      (pp. 3-14)
      Greil Marcus

      “As I walked out—”

      Those are the first words of “Ain’t Talkin’,” the last song on Bob Dylan’sModern Times, released in the fall of 2006. It’s a great opening line for anything: a song, a tall tale, a fable, a novel, a soliloquy. The world opens at the feet of that line. How one gets there—to the point where those words can take on their true authority, raise suspense like a curtain, and make anyone want to know what happens next—is what I want to look for.

      For me, this road opened in the spring of...

    • 2. Jewish Homes on the Range, 1890–1960
      (pp. 15-24)
      Marilyn J. Chiat

      Robert Allen Zimmerman was born at St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota, on May 24, 1941, to Beatrice and Abraham Zimmerman, children of Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jewish immigrants who had fled persecution in eastern Europe. Their families were among the nearly two and half million Jews who arrived in the United States between 1881 and 1924, when immigration closed. The vast majority of Jewish immigrants who arrived between 1881 and 1911 settled in ghettoes that were developing in cities along the eastern seaboard; only a relative few ventured farther west, including thirteen thousand who were living in Minnesota in 1910, primarily...

    • 3. Not from Nowhere: Identity and Aspiration in Bob Dylan’s Hometown
      (pp. 25-38)
      Susan Clayton

      In his Bob Dylan biographyNo Direction Home, Robert Shelton ponders the similarities between the storefronts of downtown Hibbing, Minnesota, and Sinclair Lewis’s fictional Gopher Prairie.¹ As a native of Hibbing myself, I have always thought that if Carol Kennicott had stepped off the train there in the early twentieth century, she would have found plenty of willing participants in her cosmopolitan undertakings. As documented in the archives of the Hibbing Historical Society and the Minnesota Historical Society, the stories of the first settlers of Hibbing tell the tale of a town’s good fortune. Despite the distance from a larger...

    • 4. “A Lamp Is Burning in All Our Dark”: Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash
      (pp. 39-43)
      Court Carney

      In the spring of 1969, in the midst of the loud, psychedelic rejection of tradition and convention, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash joined forces at the establishmentarian epicenter of country music: Ryman Auditorium. The two singers stepped onto the stage with the seemingly obvious agenda of rehearsing a few songs for Cash’s new television program. The mainstream country appeal of the show forced Dylan (and his fans) to confront the embedded tradition of the entire endeavor. Neither country nor folk, the music produced by Dylan in the late 1960s exploded arbitrary labels and connected instead to the totality of American...

    • 5. Allowed to Be Free: Bob Dylan and the Civil Rights Movement
      (pp. 44-60)
      Charles Hughes

      On October 16, 1992, three weeks before election day, Stevie Wonder took the stage at the Bob Dylan Thirtieth Anniversary Celebration to revisit the song that in 1966 gave him a number one rhythm-and-blues hit. His fingers striking stately gospel chords, Wonder introduced “Blowin’ in the Wind” with personal, historical testimony: “The significance of this song to me,” Wonder testified, “is that this is a song that will last unfortunately for a long, long time. And when I say unfortunately, I’m talking about the fact that it will always be relevant to something that is going on in this world...


    • 6. Lives of Allegory: Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol
      (pp. 63-77)
      Thomas Crow

      Bob Dylan’s British tour in May 1965 had given him his first real taste of pop-star adulation, both in terms of ecstatically adoring crowds and record sales that thrust his older albums simultaneously into the UK top twenty—a phenomenon that reverberated back to America but without the same degree of chart success.¹ He certainly took notice of the spectacular inroads into the American mass market by the top British bands, making one abortive attempt during his London stay to record with an all-star group of blues rockers (which included Eric Clapton).² But he groped for new musical ideas of...

    • 7. Like the Night: Reception and Reaction Dylan UK 1966
      (pp. 78-83)
      C. P. Lee

      In 1956 film director John Huston wanted the sea shanties for his epic movieMoby Dickto be as authentic as possible. To create that authenticity, he selected a former whaling man, singer, and political activist called A. L. “Bert” Lloyd to be his adviser. He was so taken with Lloyd’s efforts that he gave him a role in the film, and he can be seen leading the crew of thePequodin a rousing version of “Blood Red Roses” as they haul on the bowline and the ship sails out of Nantucket harbor in quest of Captain Ahab’s great...

    • 8. Oh, the Streets of Rome: Dylan in Italy
      (pp. 84-105)
      Alessandro Carrera

      My purpose in this essay is to illustrate the impact Dylan had on Italy and the impact Italy had on Dylan. I begin with an assessment of Dylan’s trip(s) to Rome at the start of 1963. In January, while he was in Rome, he performed at the Folkstudio Club and traveled to Perugia in search of his girlfriend Suze Rotolo. He also discovered William Burroughs’s experimental prose in European underground magazines. Yet, as is suggested by a recently surfaced postcard dated February 1963, Dylan may have returned to Rome one month later. Since the Folkstudio Club was managed in 1963...

    • 9. Bob Dylan’s Reception in Japan in the 1960s and 1970s
      (pp. 106-121)
      Mikiko Tachi

      Since the mid-1960s, Bob Dylan has enjoyed a strong presence in Japan, and today he has followers among people of different ages. Many musicians and artists credit Dylan for inspiration. On October 9, 2006, for example, Japanese rock musician Koji Wakui organized a concert and talk show in tribute to Dylan to celebrate the release ofModern Times. Artists and critics gathered to discuss Dylan’s influence on them: they performed Dylan’s pieces as well as their own compositions as the audience packed a live music club in Daikanyama, Tokyo. Given Dylan’s popularity and the high regard for his work among...

    • 10. Borderless Troubadour: Bob Dylan’s Influence on International Protest during the Cold War
      (pp. 122-130)
      Heather Stur

      Alone onstage, the singer strummed his guitar and sang a song about a woman’s reaction to war: “I have two hands free / I have two lips free / All the men have died / And I forget the human language.”¹ In the audience, composed primarily of college students, several young women wept. The singer’s music expressed the sorrows of war and told stories of mothers grieving for their lost children, brothers killing brothers, and the absurdity of combat. The songs were his attempt to make sense of the war that devastated his country.

      The year was 1967, and the...


    • 11. Bob Dylan’s Lives of the Poets: Theme Time Radio Hour as Buried Autobiography
      (pp. 133-139)
      Mick Cochrane

      In 1777, Samuel Johnson was approached by a committee of booksellers to write biographical prefaces to the works of forty-seven poets whose writing they hoped to present to readers in a new popular edition.¹ At the time, by the acknowledgment of his contemporaries, Johnson, in his sixties, possessed an unmatched command of English literature. The author of theDictionary of the English Languageand editor of Shakespeare, according to Adam Smith, Johnson “knew more books than any man alive.” His erudition was monumental, legendary, and memorably mythologized by his biographer James Boswell, who tells how young Sam Johnson, as a...

    • 12. Bob Dylan’s Memory Palace
      (pp. 140-153)
      Robert Polito

      You could call them “covers,” these invocations of poems and novels that Dylan slips into his songs on recent recordings, and the collections are effortlessly retitled:Bob Dylan Sings the Exile Poems of Publius Ovividius Naso, Henry Timrod Revisited, Ovid on Ovid, Live from the Black Sea, andFrom Twain to Fitzgerald: Nobody Sings Studies in Classic American Literature Better Than Dylan.

      You might also say they are performed “under cover,” as all this escalating literary traffic tends to fall among Dylan’s many covert operations. Poems and novels infiltrate his songs mostly through the camouflage of more flagrant smuggling. In...

    • 13. Among Schoolchildren: Dylan’s Forty Years in the Classroom
      (pp. 154-166)
      Kevin J. H. Dettmar

      “Dylanology,” the cynics call it, and if there is any doubt that the serious study of Bob Dylan’s work and legacy continues at an astonishing pace, the publication of this volume more or less simultaneously withThe Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan, which I am editing, should put all doubts to rest. TheCompanionwill be the first in Cambridge’s venerable and long-running series devoted to a living popular culture figure. And the commissioning editor’s logic is airtight: across the popular arts, Dylan is the figure most thoroughly entrenched in the undergraduate curriculum, and Cambridge University Press expects a “big...


    • 14. Women Do Dylan: The Aesthetics and Politics of Dylan Covers
      (pp. 169-185)
      Daphne Brooks and Gayle Wald

      Any music wonk will tell you that Bob Dylan persists as a revered if surprisingly confounding racial trickster in popular music culture. His recordings must surely beckon thoughtful rereadings that take into account the politics of cultural appropriation and racial masquerade. Dylan would himself seem to be continuously beckoning this kind of scrutiny. Consider, for instance, his decision to call his 2001 album “Love and Theft,” what amounts to a not-so-oblique nod to Eric Lott’s definitive study of blackface minstrelsy.¹ Dylan’s self-conscious “love and theft” provocatively mirror the focus of Lott’s book and find him churning out stark and stirring...

    • 15. Crow Jane Approximately: Bob Dylan’s Black Masque
      (pp. 186-196)
      Aldon Lynn Nielsen

      “He speaks in your voice, American.”¹ These are the opening words to Don DeLillo’s novelUnderworld. In sorting through these slippery pronouns, we soon learn that the “he” who speaks in our voice is a black adolescent. This might have been surprising to many in the Hibbing, Minnesota, of Dylan’s youth, the time of the novel’s opening, perhaps as surprising as the thought that young Robert Zimmerman would one day stand on the stage of New York’s Gas Light Café singing “No More Auction Block for Me,” or that rechristened as Bob Dylan, he would write words that would become...

    • 16. Not Dark Yet: How Bob Dylan Got His Groove Back
      (pp. 197-212)
      David Yaffe

      June 7, 2004, was not just another gig for Bob Dylan. Sandwiching a show between one-nighters in Atlantic City and Delaware, Dylan went uptown to play the Apollo Theater, the legendary venue where Ella Fitzgerald passed the audition for the Chick Webb orchestra, and where, on a 1962 live album, James Brown made a gig in Harlem a chart-topping soundtrack for the world. In black America,Showtimeat the Apollo could make or break a career. It is the room where African-American discourse is taken to the people, and the response is either up or down. If you’re a comedian...

    • 17. “Nettie Moore”: Minstrelsy and the Cultural Economy of Race in Bob Dylan’s Late Albums
      (pp. 213-224)
      Robert Reginio

      A particularly fascinating “controversy” surrounding Bob Dylan’s 2006 albumModern Timeswas the discovery that Dylan has been since at least 2001’s “Love and Theft” a concerted borrower from the poetry of Henry Timrod, the “Poet Laureate of the Confederacy.”¹ In his 2003 filmMasked and Anonymous, whose setting is a future America gripped by civil war, Dylan references a much more popular piece of Confederate culture by performing “Dixie” with his band. Ultimately, that Dylan is making reference—obscure or otherwise—to the American Civil War should not be surprising at this point. One of the more striking self-portraits...

    • 18. “Somewhere down in the United States”: The Art of Bob Dylan’s Ventriloquism
      (pp. 225-236)
      Michael Cherlin and Sumanth Gopinath

      That Bob Dylan has many voices will be an idea familiar to all readers who have followed his musical career. The wise country singer of the early recordings, the sneering hipster of the first electric phase, the weirdly rounded country voice after the “motorcycle accident,” the gruff, dejected old man of recent years—these voices are inseparable from the many style shifts in Dylan’s singing persona over the years. Yet there is another aspect of Dylan’s many voices—the moment-to-moment changes in timbre, inflection, and accent that comprise the basis of his singing style. While one aspect of this essay...

    • 19. Dylan/Disabled: Tolling for the Deaf and Blind
      (pp. 237-248)
      Alex Lubet

      This contemplation of the work of Bob Dylan from the perspective of disability studies is not primarily a consideration of lyrics, though Dylan often references disability, freakery, and “old, weird” social outcasts.¹ It is not primarily biographical and certainly does not brand Dylan disabled, something rarely done in disability studies, which regards disability status as a form of minority status or otherness. Still, Dylan has had noteworthy encounters with disability, particularly in his formative early years.

      InChronicles, Volume 1, Dylan writes of his father Abe’s polio, a condition that kept him out of military service during World War II,...

    • 20. Bob Dylan and the Beats: Magpie Poetics, an Investigation and Memoir
      (pp. 249-260)
      Anne Waldman

      I invoke “magpie poetics” in this investigative memoir as a way of understanding Bob Dylan’s extraordinary creativity. He took what he needed from multiple places and sources—literary, musical, cultural—which included influences from and references to the Beat literary generation writers, particularly the works of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Dylan and Ginsberg were friends, and Dylan had an influence on Ginsberg’s own songwriting and performing forays. He specifically told Allen to write and compose blues. Whatever Dylan gleaned from his association with the Beats—the sound and phrasing and movement of his language—his own work developed out...

  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 261-262)
  9. Contributors
    (pp. 263-266)
  10. Index
    (pp. 267-278)