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BOB DYLAN on his album The Songs Of Jimmie Rodgers: A Tribute



© 1997, 1999 Octopus Media Ink. All rights reserved.


By Nick Krewen


The times may still be a-changin,' but BOB DYLAN has taken measures to ensure that the work of one musical icon won't be forgotten anytime soon.

The music of JIMMIE RODGERS, the railroad brakeman from Meridian, Mississippi who is widely hailed as a pioneer in the blues and country genres, is the subject of a star-studded tribute album recently organized by Dylan.

Released August 19 in time to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Rodgers' birth on September 8, 1897 The Songs Of Jimmie Rodgers -- A Tribute offers a wealth of noteworthy participants from the pop and country fields. U2's BONO, ALISON KRAUSS & UNION STATION, VAN MORRISON, WILLIE NELSON, MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER and JOHN MELLENCAMP are just some of the artists offering their own interpretations of such "Singing Brakeman" classics as "Peach Pickin' Time In Georgia," "Mule Skinner Blues" and "Blue Yodel (T For Texas)."

"I'm just glad to be able to bring it to the public. Somebody has to do it," said Dylan, 56, in a rare phone interview from a tour stop in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Dylan, the songwriting icon who changed the face of contemporary music in the '60s with such provocative and observant folk anthems as "Blowing In The Wind," "The Times, They Are A-Changin'," and "Masters Of War," says he hopes the album will generate more awareness of Rodgers, who was also known as "The Father Of Country Music," "The Blue Yodeller," and credited as a direct influence on such country music movers and shakers as GENE AUTRY, JOHNNY CASH, LEFTY FRIZZELL, MERLE HAGGARD, ERNEST TUBB, and BOB WILLS.

"For sure he's forgotten by the younger people," said a healthy-sounding Dylan, still recuperating from the bout of histoplasmosis, the potentially fatal heart infection that struck him in May.

"But for sure there are people still around who remember. But as performers we should all know him, because by understanding our past we can measure where we're going in the future.

"I can hear him in certain performers. DAVID BALL, for instance, probably sounds closer to Jimmie than anyone today. There's a certain charm to Jimmie's music I think we kept with the spirit of this album."

Though he never played The Grand Ole Opry or the Louisiana Hayride, the ability of Rodgers to mix Southern blues with haunting hillbilly balladry has earned him eternal residencies in both The Country Music and Rock And Roll Halls Of Fame.

Even more impressive is the notion that Rodgers established his legacy within a six year corridor, beginning with the million-selling success of his very first recording of "Blue Yodel (T For Texas)" and "Away Out On The Mountain" in 1927 until he succumbed to tubercluosis on May 26, 1933 at the age of 35.

Dylan says he first became aware of Rodgers' music at an early age through another country superstar.

"When I was growing up I had a record called Hank Snow Sings Jimmie Rodgers and that's the first clue I had that Jimmie was unique," said Dylan .

"The songs were different than the norm. They had more of an individual nature and an elevated conscience, and I could tell that these songs were from a different period of time. I was drawn to their power.

"I like his songs anyway, because on the surface their lyrics seem really funny and bright, but underneath they could be alarmingly dark and dreary."

Ironically, Dylan says he's unsure if one of Rodgers' most famous monikers, "The Father Of Country Music," truly suited him.

"I don't know whether I associated Jimmie Rodgers with country music," says Dylan. "I always thought that the title he had -- "Father Of Country Music" -- was limiting. THE BATE BROTHERS, JOHNNIE AND JACK, THE CARLISLES -- I saw that as country music."

Dylan's list of candidates for the title includes a group of Depression-era names he feels would be more appropriate: FRANK HUTCHISON, the West Virginia singer and country blues guitarist popular in the mid-20s ; CHARLIE POOLE, the Alamance County-born singer, banjo player and leader of the NORTH CAROLINA RAMBLERS; and RILEY PUCKETT, a blind 1920's hillbilly singer and guitarist from Alpharetta, Georgia who was once a member of GID TANNER'S SKILLET LICKERS.

"To me the Father Of Country Music is actually Charlie Poole or Frank Hutchison -- guys who sang those kinds of songs that Jimmie Rodgers did. Those guys were going in another direction."

In assembling the The Songs Of Jimmie Rodgers: A Tribute , Dylan says he didn't want to revisit territory already covered by Merle Haggard's memorable 1969 Rodgers tribute, album Same Train, A Different Time -- Merle Haggard Sings The Great Songs Of Jimmie Rodgers.

"I didn't see any point to making a record like Merle Haggard's record," said Dylan, who offers the album as the inaugural release on his own Egyptian Records imprint.

"That's probably the definitive Rodgers record. So I had to find another way just to get Jimmie's music out there properly. I just trusted everyone involved and did it in respect to Jimmie. I wanted to feature performances by people who aren't necessarily connected to him."

For his own contribution, Dylan chose a more obscure Rodgers number "My Blue Eyed Jane."

"I didn't want to pick one of the `Blue Yodels'," he explains. "I thought that would be very obvious so I struck the balance between what other people would pick. I assumed that a lot of other people wanted to explore the blues so I stayed away from that for better and more melodic content."

The album took over a year to compile, and Dylan said all artists were left to their own devices with minimal input from himself.

"Every performer chose what song they wanted to do," said Dylan.

"I could really hear the influences in the music in just about all the performers in one way or another on the record, whether it's first, second or third hand. Everybody was free to suggest their own choice and participate in this. We're trying to do one now on THE CARTER FAMILY."

Although many of Jimmie Rodgers tunes like "In The Jailhouse Now," and "Mule Skinner Blues" are considered the backbone of country music and are still popular today, Dylan says he's not sure Rodgers would find a comfortable home in modern musical times.

"I think he writes a particular kind of song, and I'm not sure if he could find one," says Dylan, who flirted with country music himself on such earlier releases as John Wesley Harding , Nashville Skyline and New Morning.

"All these terms are so over-used, especially "country music," that I don't know what it is today," states Dylan. "In my mind, it has one or two meanings.

"Country music to me doesn't have piano in it, or drums or electric guitars. It must be some other type of music. l guess there are country singers who sing pop songs who sound more pop-orientated, or kind of like watching rock 'n roll. I don't know what kind of outlet country music would be played on.

To me it sounds more pop-orientated."

Dylan says Rodgers' universal appeal found both country and blues camps claiming him as a forefather.

"Because he's so singular in his guitar chording, that already implies a contribution as a guitarist," he says. "He plays songs with the kind of sentiments that aren't cosmetic. It's a departure particularly from the other stuff which was going on during his day. He knew exactly where he was heading."

Whether it's STEVE EARLE AND THE V-ROYS' raucous rendition of "In The Jailhouse Now," IRIS DEMENT'S quaint "Hobo Bill's Last Ride" or Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Somewhere Down Below The Mason Dixon Line," Dylan says he's pleased by the efforts contributors made to The Songs Of Jimmie Rodgers -- A Tribute.

"I like everything on it," he says. "I think everybody applied themselves well. As for favorites, I think everybody had to do what they had to do in order to maintain the integrity of the music.

"I consider this album just to be a primer Jimmie Rodgers record. It's as much for performers as the record buying public. Jimmie Rodgers was dynamic for his time."

As far as his own music is concerned, Dylan fans won't have to wait much longer. Time Out Of Mind , his first album of original tunes since 1990's Under The Red Sky that reunites him with Canadian producer DANIEL LANOIS, will be in stores September 28.

Dylan's last two studio efforts, 1992's Good As I Been To You and 1993's World Gone Wrong offered traditional folk songs. Why the delay in new material?

"This is the first album I've done in a while where I've protected the songs for a long time," replied Dylan, who is scheduled to perform before POPE JOHN PAUL II Sept. 27 at the World Eucharistic Congress in Bologna.

"I really just waited until I couldn't wait any longer."




Versions of this feature appeared in The Toronto Star, The Long Island Voice, Country Weekly and various Southam newspapers




** -- All Bob Dylan albums released on Columbia unless otherwise noted


1962 001. Bob Dylan ("Baby Let Me Follow You Down", "Song To Woody")

1963 002. The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan   ("Blowin' In The Wind", "Masters Of                 War", "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall," "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright")

1963 003.  Bob Dylan In Concert   (unreleased)

1963 004. The Times They Are A-Changin'  (  "The Times They Are                 A-Changin'," "Boots Of Spanish Leather") 

1964 005. Another Side Of Bob Dylan   ("All I Really Want To Do," "Chimes Of                 Freedom," "It Ain't Me Babe")

1965 006. Bringing It All Back Home    ("Subterreanean Homesick Blues,"                "Maggie's Farm", "Mr. Tambourine Man")

1965 007. Highway 61 Revisited   ("Like A Rolling Stone," "Highway 61                 Revisited")

1966 008. Blonde On Blonde   ( "Rainy Day Women Nos. 12 and 35", "I Want                 You," "Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues                 Again," "Just Like A Woman")

1967 009. Greatest Hits     

1967 010. John Wesley Harding   ("All Along The Watchtower", "I'll Be Your                 Baby Tonight")

1969 011. Nashville Skyline  ("Girl From The North Country," "Lay Lady Lay")

1970 012. Self-Portrait   ("Mighty Quinn," "She Belongs To Me")

1970 013. New Morning  ("If Not For You," "If Dogs Run Free," )

1971 014. Bob Dylan'sGreatest Hits Volume 2    ("It's All Over Now Baby                 Blue")

1973 015. Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid    ("Knockin' On Heaven's Door")

1973 016. Planet Waves --   Asylum -- ("On A Night Like This," "Forever                 Young")

1973 017. Dylan

1974 018. Before The Flood   (with The Band) -- Asylum -- ("Most Likely You'll                 Go Your Way")

1975 019. Blood On The Tracks    ("Tangled Up In Blue", "Shelter From The                 Storm")

1975 020. The Basement Tapes  (with The Band) -- ("You Ain't Goin' Nowhere")

1976 021. Desire   ("Hurricane")

1976 022. Hard Rain

1978 023. Songs From Renaldo & Clara ( Promo EP)

1978 024. At Budokan

1978 025. Street Legal   ("Baby, Please Stop Crying")

1979 026. Slow Train Coming   ( "Gotta Serve Somebody")

1980 027. Saved

1981 028. Shot Of Love

1983 029. Infidels   ("Jokerman," "Sweetheart Like You," "I and I")

1984 030. Real Live

1985 031. Empire Burlesque   ("Tight Connection To My Heart," "When The                Night Comes Falling From The Sky," "Emotioanlly Yours")

1985 032. Biograph    ("I'll Keep It With Mine, " "Percy's Song")

1986 033. Knock Out Loaded  ("And They Killed Him", "Brownsville Girl")

1988 034. Down In The Groove  ("Silvio")

1988 035. The Traveling Wilburys Volume One (with George Harrison, Jeff                Lynne, Roy  Orbison and Tom Petty , as Lucky Wilbury )--                Wilbury/Warner -- ("Handle With Care," "Dirty World," "Last Night",                "Congratulations", "Tweeter and the Monkey Man")

1989 036. Dylan & The Dead  (with The Grateful Dead)

1989 037. Oh Mercy    ("Everything Is Broken," "Ring Them Bells," "What                 Good Am I?","Political World," "Most Of The Time")

1990 038. Under The Red Sky   ("Unbelievable")

1990 039. The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3   ( with George Harrison, Jeff Lynne,                 Tom Petty) -- Wilbury/Warner

1991 040. The Bootleg Series -- Volumes 1 - 3 (Rare and Unplugged)    ("Series                 Of Dreams,""Blind Willie McTell")

1992 041. Good As I Been To You

1993 042. World Gone Wrong

1993 043. The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration ( w John Mellencamp, Kris                 Kristofferson, Stevie Wonder, Lou Reed, Eddie Vedder,                 Mike  McCready, Tracy Chapman, June Carter Cash, Johnny Cash,                Willie Nelson, Johnny Winter, Ron Wood, Richie Havens, The Clancy                 Brothers, Robbie O' Connell, Tommy Makem, Mary                Chapin  Carpenter, Rosanne Cash, Shawn Colvin, Neil Young,                Chrissie Hynde, Eric Clapton, The O'Jays, The Band, George                Harrison, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and Roger McGuinn.)

1994 044.  Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol.3

1995 045. Highway 61 Interactive (CD-ROM,)

1995 046.  MTV Unplugged

1997 047. The Best Of Bob Dylan --  Sony Music Direct

1997 048. Time Out Of Mind  ("Make You Feel My Love")

1998 049. The Bootleg Series -- Vol. 4 -- Bob Dylan Live 1966 -- The "Royal                Albert Hall" Concert  (with The Hawks)

1999 050. Million Miles  (Live Promo Only EP)



1966 -- Festival (directed by Murray Lerner, Newport Folk Festival             performances)

1966 -- Eat The Document (directe by Bob Dylan and Howard Alk)

1967 -- Don't Look Back (directed by D.A. Pennebaker)

1973 -- Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

1978 -- Renaldo & Clara (directed by Bob Dylan)

1978 -- The Last Waltz (directed by Martin Scorsese)

1990 -- Hearts Of Fire (directed by Richard Marquand)



1976 -- Belleview Biltmore Hotel (never aired) -- NBC -TV

1976 -- Hard Rain (NBC-TV)



1964 -- Newport Folk Festival

1969 -- Isle Of Wight Festival (w/ The Band)

1972 -- Broadside Reunion

1972-- Woody Guthrie Memorial Concert    (w/ The Band)

1972 --The Concert For Bangla Desh

1976 -- The Band, The Last Waltz

1986 -- Soundtrack, Band Of The Hand  (w/ Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers)

1987 -- Soundtrack, Hearts Of Fire

1988--  Various Artists, Folkways -- A Vision Shared

1989 -- Soundtrack, Flashback

1990 -- Various Artists, Nobody's Child  (w/ The Wilburys)

1992 -- Various Artists, Unforgettable    (w/ The Wilburys) (Warner             promo only)

1994 -- Various Artists, Forrest Gump

1994 -- Various Artists, Natural Born Killers

1994 -- Various Artists, Woodstock '94

1995 -- Various Artists, Til The Night Is Gone -- A Tribute To Doc Pomus

1996 -- Various Artists, Concert For The Rock 'N Roll Hall Of Fame

1996 -- Various Artists, Jerry Maguire

1997 -- Various Artists, The Big Lebowski

1997 -- Various Artists, The Songs Of Jimmie Rodgers: A Tribute -- Egyptian             (Dylan's label)

1998 -- Various Artists, Touched By An Angel -- The Album -- Columbia

1999 -- Various Artists, The Sopranos

2000 -- Various Artists, The Hurricane



1962 -- Harry Belafonte, Midnight Special

1962 -- Carolyn Hester, Carolyn Hester

1963 -- with Happy Traum as Blind Boy Grunt, Broadside Ballads

1964 -- Victoria Spivey, Big Joe Williams, Lonnie Johnson , Volume 1

1964 -- Dick Farina & Eric Von Schmidt, Dick Farina & Eric Von Schmidt

1964--  Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Ramblin' Jack Elliot

1964 -- The Blues Project, The Blues Project

1972 -- Victoria Spivey, Big Joe Williams, Lonnie Johnson, Volume 2

1972 -- Doug Sahm and Band, Doug Sahm and Band

1972 -- Roger McGuinn, Roger McGuinn

1973 -- Steve Goodman, Somebody's Else's Troubles

1973 -- Booker T & Priscilla, Chronicles

1973 -- Barry Goldberg, Barry Goldberg

1975 -- David Blue, Comin' Back For More

1976 -- Bette Midler, Songs For The New Depression

1976 -- Eric Clapton, No Reason To Cry

1977 -- Leonard Cohen, Death Of A Ladie's Man

1980 -- Keith Green, So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt

1982 -- Allen Ginsberg, John Hammond, First Blues

1985 -- USA For Africa, We Are The World

1985 -- Sly & Robbie, Language Barrier

1985 -- Artists Against Apartheid, Sun City

1986 -- Kurtis Blow, Kingdom Blow

1987 -- Warren Zevon, Sentimental Hygiene

1988 -- U2, Rattle & Hum




1972 -- Grammy, Album Of The Year, Concert For Bangla Desh

1979 -- Grammy, Best Rock Performance, Male, "Gotta Serve Somebody"

1988 -- Induction, Rock 'N Roll Hall Of Fame

1989 -- Grammy, Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal,

           Traveling Wilburys Volume One

1991 -- Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

1994 -- Grammy Hall Of Fame Recording -- "Blowin' In The Wind"

1994 -- Grammy, Best Traditional Folk Recording -- World Gone Wrong

1997 -- Kennedy Center Honors

1998 -- Grammy, Album Of The Year -- Time Out Of Mind

1998 -- Grammy, Best Rock Performance, Male, "Cold Irons Bound"

1998 -- Grammy, Best Contemporary Folk Album -- Time Out Of Mind

2000 -- Polar Music Prize, Sweden


*** -- Sources: Jeff Friedman Discography from Dylan: A Biography  by Bob Spitz, Norton Press, and private collection. Awards from The GRAMMY Winners Book, The National Academy Of Recording Arts And Sciences.




© 1997, 1999 Nick Krewen, Octopus Media Ink. All rights reserved.







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