Columbia realized by 1964 that Bob Dylan was a star. Although his first album, the eponymousBob Dylan, had barely sold in it's first year (2,500 copies), Dylan's song writing skills and reputation among fellow folk artists grew quickly.Another Side of Bob Dylan was his fourth album and each one had been a step further in his development. That first album was not really "his" album, he having written only two of the thirteen songs.This album was all his.
All I Really Want to Do
Black Crow Blues
Spanish Harlem Incident
Chimes of Freedom
I Shall Be Free No. 10
My Back Pages
I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
Ballad in Plain D
It Ain’t Me Babe
Dylan was changing his tone. He said of this album that "there aren't any finger-pointing songs." His style was more poetic than previous works. He served as pop music's turn signal. What a musician writes can be much more personal.
It will be at the 1965 Newport Folk that Dylan will take his public step away from folk-protest and go electric. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band will accompany him as well as the Newport boos.He "...ain't gonna' work on Maggie's Farm no more." And I thought the song was about some guy tired of farm work.
Think of 1965. By December the Beatles will have released Rubber Soul and when the Beatles changed, bands and record companies followed. The bands perhaps as much as in self-expression as their search for success; the record companies in search of a better bottom line.
When Dylan sang "To Ramona" at Newport in 1965 he introduced the song, he said, "This is called 'To Ramona.' Ramona. It's just a name."Today we realize its much more than "just a name." Dylan's relationship with New York City girlfriend and political muse Suzy Rotolo (see Freewheelin' Bob Dylan) had ended with a 1963 abortion. His ongoing relationship with Joan Baez, who had brought him to the attention of the Newport crowd in 1963, was fading was fading and she was much more than "just a name."
All Music said the album was, "...one of his very best records, a lovely intimate affair."
Everything passesEverything changesJust do what you think you should doAnd someday, maybeWho knows, babyI'll come and be cryin' to you.
The American summer of 1963 was typical in many ways. For some, that was fine. Schools closed. Summer vacation. Ice cream. Iced tea. Pools. Beaches. Tanning. Bikinis. Bulging muscles.For others, typical was not fine. The status quo meant field work. Starvation. Mistreatment. Jim Crow terrorism. The denial of an education and the right to vote.The struggle for civil rights continued and folk singer Bob Dylan often wrote songs about the downtrodden. His Times They Are a'Changin' album had a plethora of such songs: "The Times They Are a'Changin'," "Balled of Hollis Brown," "With God on Our Side," and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll."
ONLY A PAWN IN THEIR GAME
It would be difficult to pick the most powerful one among them, but it was in July 1963 that Dylan first sang "Only a Pawn in Their Game." Writing about the June 12, 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers might be an obvious contemporary theme, but pointing out that the assassin was doing the work of the White Establishment, that the White Establishment also kept poor whites poor, and that the White Establishment used the poor whites to do its dirty work? Such a realization is why the song remains so powerful. To write any more about Dylan's lyrics is superfluous. His own lyrics simply say more than any essay:
Only a Pawn in Their Game
A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers’ blood A finger fired the trigger to his name A handle hid out in the dark A hand set the spark Two eyes took the aim Behind a man’s brain But he can’t be blamed He’s only a pawn in their game
A South politician preaches to the poor white man “You got more than the blacks, don’t complain. You’re better than them, you been born with white skin,” they explain. And the Negro’s name Is used it is plain For the politician’s gain As he rises to fame And the poor white remains On the caboose of the train But it ain’t him to blame He’s only a pawn in their game
The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid And the marshals and cops get the same But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool He’s taught in his school From the start by the rule That the laws are with him To protect his white skin To keep up his hate So he never thinks straight ’Bout the shape that he’s in But it ain’t him to blame He’s only a pawn in their game
From the poverty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks And the hoofbeats pound in his brain And he’s taught how to walk in a pack Shoot in the back With his fist in a clinch To hang and to lynch To hide ’neath the hood To kill with no pain Like a dog on a chain He ain’t got no name But it ain’t him to blame He’s only a pawn in their game.
Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught They lowered him down as a king But when the shadowy sun sets on the one That fired the gun He’ll see by his grave On the stone that remains Carved next to his name His epitaph plain: Only a pawn in their game
From “Bringing It All Back Home” which is not the recording of 9 June 1964
I first became familiar with Bob Dylan's "Mr Tambourine Man" when the Byrds sang it in 1965. Nothing wrong with that or their classic recording of it.Dylan wrote the song early in 1964. Like most of life, even for the famous, there were no amanuensis following Dylan's every move and recording for posterity what happened, why, and when. Some say he finished writing "Mr Tambourine Man" at their house; others say "No, it was mine."
Horseshoes and hand grenades
And who was this Mr Tambourine Man? However trivial, it is of interest because Bruce Langhorne was much more than a tambourine player. His All music credit list reads like a Who's Who of Greenwich Village's Golden Age of Music: The Clancy Brothers, Dylan, Richard and Mimi Farina, Odetta, Joan Baez, Buffy St Marie, Richie Havens, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Hugh Masekela, Tom Rush, Tommy Flanders, Eric Andersen, John Sebastian, David Ackles, Mike Bloomfield, Gordon Lightfoot, and a "few" others!I first heard the name Bruce Langhorne in 1969 while listening to my college radio station. The song was Tom Rush's "Urge for Going" and the DJ pointed out the rapid triplets of notes heard throughout the song. He said the guy who did that was Bruce Langhorne. Click the link below to hear those distinctive triplets.
Bruce Langhorne Mr Tambourine Man
Despite Bruce Langhorne's prodigious talent and lengthy credentials, he never became a household name. Perhaps with the recent revelations regarding the Wrecking Crew and Muscle Shoals' Swampers, someone will highlight those players like Langhorne who provided so much of the music we love.His website reveals three recommendations that any CV would die to have: "If you had Bruce playing with you, that's all you would need to do just about anything." Bob Dylan ["Chronicles"]"If he were to walk in right now and you didn't see Bruce, you would feel his presence. He just emanates love and kindness, in addition to being a virtuoso on like 50 string instruments." Peter Fonda "Just occasionally you come across these geniuses. Bruce Langhorne was one; he responds instinctually to the visual image. Bruce has done some of the most beautiful scoring I have ever been involved with, or ever known." Jonathan Demme
Brother Bru-Bru Hot sauce
And all this string virtuosity for someone who, "When Bruce Langhorne was a 12-year old violin prodigy living in Harlem in the fifties, he accidentally blew several of his fingers off with a cherry bomb that he held onto for too long. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, Bruce looked up at his distraught mom and said, 'At least I don’t have to play violin anymore.' "For health reasons, Bruce had to figure out a way to curtail his love for hot sauce or figure out a way of finding a low-sodium hot sauce. He did the latter by creating Brother Bru-Bru Hot Sauce. I've tried it. It's pretty good! This is a "dot-info" site and I don't sell anything nor do I receive anything to support it, so my mentioning Bruce's product is simply that. I've tried it. I like it. Having said that, I like Bruce's triplets even more!
One of Langhorne's most important projects was doing the soundtrack for Peter Fonda's movie, The Hired Hand. Though The Brooklyn Rail recently described the movie as "...an often frustratingly abstract film." It also said that Langhorne's soundtrack was a masterpiece and "a moment of clarity."In 2012, Dylan Golden Aycock’s Scissor Tail Records re-issued the soundtrack and now has gathered several musicians to interpret the soundtrack's songs.
The reason for Aycock's tribute was not just to bring Langhorne's name to the pedestal it belongs on, but to raise money to assist Langhorne with medical bills related to his failing health.
Unfortunately, Langhorne died on April 14, 2017 at his home in Venice, Calif. He was 78. The New York Times noted his death in a well-deserved article.
With the continued loss of those musicians who were the foundation of Boomer "underground" music, it is a sad reality that we have again lost a hero, but their amazing music will always be with us.