The Times They Are A Changin’

Bob Dylan playing at the recent Azkena rock festival in Barcelona,Spain in 2010
Bob Dylan playing at the recent Azkena rock festival in Barcelona,Spain in 2010

The Award

A couple of weeks ago (October 13th, 2016), the Nobel Prize Committee in Sweden awarded Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature. This particular award has raised some eyebrows, since even though Dylan has penned one autobiographical book, Chronicles (2004), and one book of poetry (1966), called Tarantula, he is not really considered a literary writer. There is even a sequel to Chronicles in the works, but no one, not even Mr. Dylan knows when the manuscript will actually be released to the general public.

Here, is what Mr. Dylan will receive at the awards ceremony. (if he shows up)
Here, is what Mr. Dylan will receive at the awards ceremony. (if he shows up)

Bob Dylan, the Songwriter

What Bob Dylan did do, was to create a body of music and lyrics that has rocked the music industry since the early 60s. Undoubtedly, it is this accomplishment that has earned him the prestigious award and the large sum of money ($900,000) that comes with the little piece of gold. Starting out as a protest folk singer, the Minnesota native has continued to produce new and intriguing music right up to the present day. Some of his lyrical masterpieces that may have helped him earn the award, could include such timeless hits, as Maggies Farm, Desolation Row, Positively 4th Street, Like a Rolling Stone and My Back Pages. Of course any list like this, is highly subjective, as is the award itself.

P.S. His last two releases, Shadows In the Night (2015) and Fallen Angels (2016) consist almost entirely of Frank Sinatra covers.

A Proverbial Can of Words

My first reaction to the announcement that Dylan had been nominated for the award, was one of surprise, for this seemed to be a major change in direction for the Nobel Committee. True, it has been over a hundred years since the first awards were passed out by the Swedish and Norwegian (Peace Prize only) delegates, but still this choice has the airs of travelling down a new road that will forever change the nature of the highly-regarded, Literature Prize.

The new direction seems unfair and perhaps disrespectful to all the writers across the planet who work daily in creating words that communicate to readers instead of those who prefer to get their words of inspiration from the international music industry. All in all, this is not a good development that may lead to problems in the not-so-distant future. Perhaps, creating a special award for songwriters would be a better alternative.

Rigid Guidelines

Over the past two weeks since the award was announced, I have undergone a gradual transformation in my thinking. For one, I have always admired Bob Dylan for creating an oustanding musical and lyrical body of work. There is absolutely, nothing superficial about what the man is done.

What is important in considering the importance of this choice, is the way the Nobel awards are set up. Created in 1900 by the Swedish scientist and inventor, Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Foundation only gives out medals in the endeavors of literature, chemistry, physics, peace and medicine, which is sometimes referred to as physiology. Nothing less, nothing more. And since all this is willed by the late Mr. Nobel, there is no way to change the categories, except by expanding the intellectual ground that each award covers.

So this is why I am more excepting of the commitee’s choice and I do look forward to see who in the near future will receive the literature award.

Public Announcement

Yesterday, October 28, 2016, Bob Dylan finally responded to the Nobel Committee, which for the last two weeks, had been trying to contact the reclusive American songwriter. In a statement sent to the Nobel Committee, he said he would accept the prize and also attend the awards ceremony in December, if he could. This closes a two-week period, when no one knew whether or not Mr. Dylan would accept the award or attend the award ceremony.

This modest house in Hibbing, MN is where Bob spent his younger days
This modest house in Hibbing, MN is where Bob spent his younger days

Numbers

Numbers are everywhere, photo by author
Numbers are everywhere, photo by author, Albuquerque, NM

Numbers

Nearly everyone knows that western math is based on nine digits and a zero, but if you refer to this system as Arabic numerals most  people will experience a disconnect. Here is an example from the Dan Brown bestseller, “The Lost Symbol”

 

a passage from “The Lost Symbol”  by Dan Brown

“The first is a Roman numeral,” Anderson said.

“I’m not sure. It looks like eighty-five in Arabic numbers.” (Said Professor Robert Langdon)

“Arabic?” Anderson asked. “They looked like normal numbers.”

“Our normal numbers are Arabic,” replied Langdon.

Numbers

Earth

Roadsides and Mountains, taken near Taos, NM by author
Roadsides and Mountains, taken near Taos, NM by author

“What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down”   by The Doors from When the Music’s Over

Earth

Earth is the third planet from the sun and in reality it is the only place in our solar system that we can easily call home. Presently, this planet supports a human population of just about 7 billion people….That’s a lot of people……..Still, it remains to be seen if our quality of life can be sustained with this many people on board.

earth at night
earth at night

Earth

Prince

Prince on the Mountaintop, artwork and photo by artist
Prince on the Mountaintop, artwork by author

Prince

Prince Rogers Nelson died last week and it wasn’t til his death that I realized that Prince was his real name, not a stage name. Though he looked many years younger, Prince Nelson was actually 57 years years old, approximately the same age as my youngest brother, who happens to be a big Prince fan. It’s always sad to see someone younger pass away, especially someone who probably had a lot of creative music left inside him. Nonetheless, his musical output was prodigious and plentiful and as a result there will be lots of Prince recordings and videos to enjoy for years to come.

About The Drawing

Done primarily with art markers, this quick sketch depicts PNR standing on a mountaintop holding a traveler’s umbrella to shelter himself from the “purple rain”. It is meant as a tribute to a talented artist, who was able to ascertain a certain amount of greatness which his fortuitous skill and talent. Not many are able to do this, thus Prince is pictured alone.

One Love

One Love

Love between the bricks, is my simple expression for this simple and very basic concept, photo by author
Love between the bricks, is my simple expression for this simple and very basic concept of “One Love”.

Though “One Love” was first recorded just over 50 years ago in Jamaica by the Wailers (including Bob Marley), this song is just as pertinent today as it was when it was first released. In fact, some might say that in today’s over-populated world, this song cries out even more than it did when it was first written. Take the time and listen closely to the lyrics, for the spiritual and religious sentiments expressed here are overwhelming.

 
One Love

What Creative Writers Can Learn from Pink Floyd

Pink_Floyd_-_Division_Bell
This cover for Division Bell was created by Storm Thorgrson. The two heads were intended to symbolize the absence of Waters and Barrett from the band.

A Catchy Title Is Everything

This band began in 1963 as a small group of London architecture students practicing in their school basement, so they could could play at private parties. Eventually the name Pink Floyd was created as a last minute, spur-of-the-moment decision because their chosen band title, The Tea Set, was already being used by another London band. Do you thing this group of musicians would have gone very far with a name like the Tea Set?

Image of Floyd Council, from wikipedia
Image of Floyd Council, from wikipedia

The Title Deriviation Process Is Not All That Important

Syd Barrett, a London art student, and childhood friend of original member, Roger Waters, chose the title based on the first name of two Piedmont blues musians from the US. Though Pink Anderson and Floyd Council never had much name recogniton playing their own music, their names are forever immortalized with the creation with one of world’s most successful and well-known psychedelic, progressive rock bands.

Practice and Perserverence Overrule Talent and Creativity

For both the writer and the musician, practice is most important. Nothing can replace the long hours of  perfecting the scales, riffs and break of contemporary music. Writers go through a similar mental process, as they learn how to master grammar, punctuation and vocabulary to provide a fresh voice to readers. The main difference here is that writers tend to work alone, while most musicians eventually learn to play in accompanyment with other musicians.

Multi-genre Artistic Creations Tend To Reach a Wider Audience

In the early years (the late 60s), Pink Floyd was primarily known as a psychedelic rock band. At the time, psychedelic music was the “in thing” and this British quintet fit the bill very well. As times changed and the band entered a new decade, their music evolved and was often placed under the progressive label. After the release of Dark Side of the Moon was released, a new label was added, “space rock. This occurred despite the fact that the title derives from the dark side of the human mind.

 

pink floyd in concert
Pink Floyd performing in the US, July 1973, photo from wikipedia

Don’t Expect Immediate Success

In 1973 Pink Floyd put out Dark Side of the Moon, which quickly became a bestseller. This groundbreaking release would remain on the charts for 741 weeks, sell 40 million copies and thus become of the most popular rock albums ever. However, it should be noted that this phenomenal success followed seven albums of moderate acclaim and success.

Creative Genius Does Not Equal Mental Stability

Syd Barrett, who is generally recognized as the main creative force behind the original sound of Pink Floyd, left the band in late sixties due to mental health issues.  Excessive use of LSD may have been responsible for his mental condition.

Did You Like This Post?

Then you might like to check out a similar blog by Jeff Goins…….which inspired me to come with my own set of conclusions revolving around how innovative rock musicians can influence artists working in different venues.

Far side of the moon, photographed by Apollo 16
Far side of the moon, photographed by Apollo 16

Knee-deep In Garbage, Firing Rockets at the Moon ( remembering Pete Seeger)

A Trip to the Moon  Image Credit: Georges Méliès, Wikipedia
A Trip to the Moon
Image Credit: Georges Méliès, Wikipedia

“There is hope for the world,” Pete Seeger

The Irascible Troubadour

Pete Seeger first heard the banjo, while traveling through the southern Appalachians with his mother and his stepfather. As it turned out, Pete’s love for the strange sound made by the five-stringed instrument would become a lifetime obsession that would carry him around the world. After working with the prominent folklorist, Alan Lomax, Pete went on to perform with the Weavers. However, Pete’s left-leaning political persuasions caught up with him during the McCarthy era, when he was blacklisted and even imprisoned for a while. The irascible troubadour emerged from the harsh experience to become one of America’s most well-known folksingers and protest performers. After becoming a stalwart of the sixties civil rights and anti-war musical scene, Pete moved on to meet the demands of a worldwide audience.

Pete Seeger at age 88, from Wikipedia, photo by Anthony Pepitone
Pete Seeger at age 88, from Wikipedia, photo by Anthony Pepitone

A Legend Passes On

I saw the headline on the internet the other day. Pete Seeger had died in his sleep at age 94. My first reaction was quite simple……. One can be a rabble rouser and professional shit-stirrer and still live to a ripe old age. And then there is the corollary theory that it is also possible to make a decent living by singing protest songs. Joan Baez did it, Bob Dylan did it, Phil Ochs did it, but nobody did it quite like Pete Seeger….or for as long.

Flash Music

Nowadays we have flash fiction, but Mr. Seeger, the wandering folksinger, was doing the abbreviated musical version, long before the internet made brevity the status quo. Nothing sticks in my mind better than a one line song he sang on one of the late night talk shows (probably Johnny Carson). I think the song went  like this; “Here we are knee-deep in garbage, firing rockets at the moon”. That was it….one line and the song was over and flash music was invented. And Pete had made his point, as only the roving minstrel could do.

Important Update

Nowadays, our rockets at the moon have gotten much more sophisticated. If you don’t believe me, just check out the impressive images sent back to earth by the Hubblecraft, the Cassini spacecraft and the Mars Rover. However, we are still knee-deep in garbage. And the problem seems to be growing.

Pete Seeger’s Favorite Quote

“It is very dangerous to allow the wrong kind of music in the republic”,  Plato.

My Favorite Pete Seeger Quote

“Don’t let your schoolin’ get in the way of your education,” Pete Seeger.

The Red Rectangle Nebula from Hubble  Image Credit: ESA, Hubble, NASA; Reprocessing: Steven Marx, Hubble Legacy Archive
The Red Rectangle Nebula from Hubble
Image Credit: ESA, Hubble, NASA; Reprocessing: Steven Marx, Hubble Legacy Archive