Dec 8, 2012

Bob Dylan - The Times They Are A-Changin' (Live 2010 at The White House)

This was performed in front of Barack Obama during a celebration of the civil rights movement at The White House.

When I first saw this clip I was drunk as a son-of-a-bitch but felt sober and clear-minded about one verse into it. I've heard the 1964 version as many times as a lullaby and couldn't even imagine what it would sound like in 2010. I didn't even want to watch it.

Clearly it's more weary and creased now, sadder (but in no ways bitter, which is an important distinction). It's still raw and strange, almost as alien to middle-class people as it was when it first came out. Nothing has changed and everything has changed.

Dylan's savaged voice turns this into some kind of movie, like Once Upon A Time In America... where you hear him simultaneously in 1964 and 2010 and feel that distance, and everything that means along the way.

This is what Obama had to say about it:

"Here’s what I love about Dylan: He was exactly as you’d expect he would be. He wouldn’t come to the rehearsal; usually, all these guys are practicing before the set in the evening. He didn’t want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn’t show up to that. He came in and played “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” A beautiful rendition. The guy is so steeped in this stuff that he can just come up with some new arrangement, and the song sounds completely different. Finishes the song, steps off the stage… comes up, shakes my hand, sort of tips his head, gives me just a little grin, and then leaves… That was our only interaction with him. And I thought: That’s how you want Bob Dylan, right? You don’t want him to be all cheesin’ and grinnin’ with you. You want him to be a little skeptical about the whole enterprise."

1 comment:

  1. Jeremy,

    Joe here. My God, this is about the best Dylan thing I've seen in the last twenty years. I could write a thousand words about it.

    Imagine what it must be like to have sung for the MLK March on Washington and then, almost fifty years later, sing for a black president.

    His voice is ravaged but he's actually trying to sing. It shows so much respect for the moment. It sounds like it hurts and yet it's drenched with wisdom and sincerity.

    And the band is great. And Obama's quote is very insightful to me. He gets it. He gets Dylan. And that Dylan is too shy or elusive to be anything but enigmatic with a President to whom he's already shown a great deal of respect, is absolutely perfect.

    Great post.



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