Saturday, January 15, 2005

"Songs, Not Sermons"


The young singer from Hibbing, MN

During his uncomfortable 60 Minutes interview a few weeks back, Bob Dylan addressed those who attempted to hijack his art for their own political gain - or to deify the artist - by saying that he wrote "songs, not sermons," thereby validating this piece. He's now back in the news again.

A tape of one of his earliest performances from his coffee house days in Minneapolis, prior to his migration to New York, has surfaced. And the owner has held on to it since 1960 and refused to cash in on his bounty - he's donating it to the Minnesota Historical Society:

(Associated Press) Cleve Pettersen said he made the reel-to-reel tape at a Minneapolis apartment in 1960 after getting to know Dylan at coffeehouses in the Dinkytown neighborhood of Minneapolis near the University of Minnesota.
Dylan, briefly a student at the university, didn't make any formal recordings until two years later. On the tape, he sings traditional folk songs by Woody Guthrie, Jimmie Rodgers and others.
Pettersen, a teenager when he invited Dylan to the apartment to record the songs, has been the sole owner of the tape ever since.

To those of us who are fans, the surfacing of this tape is as historically significant as finding Tutankhamen's tomb, or of validating the identity of the Bard from Avon. But of course that has already been accomplished.