Let’s listen to Bob Dylan in Iceland: 1959

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The bible for this occasional series. I bought my copy from the University of Iceland bookstore on campus.

SEPTEMBER 26th 2018 — Welcome to the first installment of “Let’s listen to Bob Dylan in Iceland”.

Prelude

Join me on this journey through all of Dylan’s recorded and officially released tracks in chronological order — the order in which they were recorded, as listed in the massive, useful reference tome BOB DYLAN: ALL THE SONGS: THE STORY BEHIND EVERY TRACK (2015) by Philippe Margotin & Jean-Michel Guesdon.

I’ll be sharing Spotify playlists of all these songs, to go with each entry. I have no particular agenda with this series other than to enjoy, educate myself, and see what thoughts occur. I also welcome comments and thoughts from my readers.

For those looking to go deeper, I recommend the book mentioned, and likewise a free PDF that can be found online, THE BOB DYLAN SONGBOOK by Eyolf Østrem. It includes background information, lyrics, tabs, and fingerpicking patterns.

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From THE BOB DYLAN SONGBOOK by Eyolf Østrem.

Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016 in recognition of the enormous contribution to culture he has made with his songwriting. I was actually in Iceland the day this was announced, visiting the Icelandic family that were my gracious hosts, and chatted about it with them, between bouts of the middle sibling of the family strumming his guitar (a musically gifted family).

But now we rewind back to 1959 and a soft start for this series, since only one song from this year is part of our syllabus:

“WHEN I GOT TROUBLES” (E major) — May 1959

Bob Dylan — born Robert Allen Zimmerman — has just turned 18 and remains undiscovered and without a recording contract.

At the home of a friend in Hibbing, he sings into his friend’s microphone and tape recorder a blues song of his own, “WHEN I GOT TROUBLES”, accompanying himself on the guitar.

The recording is of poor quality and cuts short, but for anyone interested in tracking his progress, this is of course gold. As pointed out by the authors of ALL THE SONGS:

“His voice remains in a lower register, almost confidential in style, and the guitar playing is quite poor. Yet an impression of depth emerges from his interpretation.” (p. 13)

Young mister Dylan is on the path.


Spotify playlist for this entry, “Let’s listen to Bob Dylan in Iceland: 1959”:

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