Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 20,1968: Bob Returns

When Bob Dylan played at the Tribute to Woody Guthrie on January 20, 1968, he had been off the stage for almost two years. As it has been well documented, after the Tour 66 and his infamous motorcycle accident(?), Bob retired to Woodstock to be with his family and recuperate from the stress of his fame and the world tour.

 When not playing family man, he played and recorded music with the future members of The Band at a house called "Big Pink" near Woodstock. These songs later became known as the Basement Tapes. He also ventured once to Nashville to record John Wesley Harding which was released a month before the show.

When he took the stage on that cold January afternoon at Carnegie Hall in New York City, it was the first look at another new Bob. This one was the Country Bob variety with a wispy beard, short hair and a plain suit. Gone was Electric Bob with the houndstooth suit, big hair and shades. Little did we know how many new Bobs were to come.

Bob and The Band were on their game that day. The set list included three Guthrie classics: I Ain't Got No Home, Dear Mrs Roosevelt, and Grand Coulee Dam. Each song was played to perfection. If Bob or The Band was nervous, it didn't show.

 Although the audience didn't know it at the time, the sound that day reflected what had been going on in the basement of Big Pink. When the Basement Tapes leaked out, The Band released Music From Big Pink later that year and Bob released Nashville Skyline the next year, music fans everywhere got a taste of what had been happening in Woodstock over those past 18 months. This new sound was very influential to the course of modern music for the years to come.

I have been reading Outlaw Blues by Jonathan Taplin over the last few days which reminded me of this anniversary. As a long time book collector, I have been resisting the iBook concept. In fact, I had never read one. Outlaw Blues is only available in this form, so I had no choice. I have to report, it wasn't that bad. Taplin was there for many of the most interesting musical events of that era, so the book makes great reading.

It is hard to believe that it has been 44 years since that show. Bob is still on the road and I am still listening to his music. I am glad we are both still here.


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