July 11, 2011

Dylan plagiarism scandal at Jewish summer camp

For some of us, our central focus at summer camp was the camp newspaper. So it is with particular interest that we read about a rare Bob Dylan manuscript that had come up for auction:

Little Buddy, written for his summer camp's newspaper, the Herzl Herald, in 1957 while Dylan, aged sixteen, was attending Herzl Camp in Webster, Wisconsin, is the story of a boy and his dog. Buddy, alas, comes to a tragic end. The manuscript is signed, "Bobby Zimmerman."
The manuscript has sold for $12,500. But don't think the buyer received an unpublished Bob Dylan song:
As it turns out, however, the lyrics are not Bob Dylan's. Little Buddy was a slightly revised version of a song originally written by Canadian-born country-western star, Hank Snow, and first recorded by him in 1948 for the Canadian Bluebird label. .
The Booktryst site that brings us this news (and photos of the original manuscript if you want to see young Bob's handwriting) insists that
The important thing to take from this is not that Dylan plagiarized
but, rather, that teen-aged Bob Dylan was listening to country music
and confounding expectations long before he was officially confounding
Maybe.  But as someone fascinated by Dylan's creative borrowings -- his "love and theft" as it were -- it's noteworthy to see a young Zimmerman playing fast and loose with attribution and authenticity.

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May 8, 2011

Finding Bob Dylan in the JTA archives

The news service formerly known as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency has unveiled its new Jewish news archive of all its articles from 1917 on.

So what did the official news service of the Jewish people have to say about Bob Dylan? A search turned up only a couple appearances before his late canonization by the establishment through Oscar and National Book Awards.

On July 10, 1970, JTA reported that

Abraham L. Feinberg, rabbi emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto
and known as an anti-Vietnam war activist, has produced an album of
songs under the label of Vanguard Records in New York. The album
contains 10 songs including Leonard Cohen's anti-war "Story of Isaac,"
"Simple Child" by Robbie MacNeill, "Warm Traitor's Breath" by Arthur
Gee, "I Shall Be Released" by Bob Dylan and "Bells of St. Pierre" by
Michael Stanbury. Rabbi Feinberg will turn his royalties over to the
orphans and maimed children of North and South Vietnam. Now 71, Rabbi
Feinberg is the son of a Chazan. In the early 1930's he left the
rabbinate for several years and was a popular radio singer ("Anthony
Frome") on the NBC network.
A year later, Dylan crops up in an article about a new student-run Coffee House at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where "Sipping coffee while comparing thoughts on Dylan Thomas, Anwar Sadat, Bob Dylan, or Hebrew grammar till all hours is called 'doing your own thing.'"

The most interesting report is from April 2, 1975: Brando, Dylan, Other Theater Stars Participate in Seder.
LOS ANGELES - Marlon Brando, the screen star, made an impromptu
appearance at the congregational seder of Temple Israel of Hollywood and
gave an impromptu rendition of the Kiddush, in English, to begin the
festival meal. Bob Dylan, the folk singer of the youth rebellion, began
the Grace After Meals by singing his "Blowin' In The Wind," with the
congregation joining in.

Brando and Dylan were accompanied by friends from the entertainment
world, including Helaina Kallianiotes. Sarah Dylan, wife of the folk
singer, and Kenneth Banks, a leader of the American Indian Freedom
movement. The appearance of the theater personalities was a surprise
both to Rabbi Haskell Bernat, the senior rabbi of the congregation, and
the congregants. Rabbi Bernat said the visitors joined spontaneously in
the worship and festivities. The artists made reservations anonymously,
through a friend, Brando, asked why he and his friends had come to the
Reform synagogue, said "It was the rabbi's ability to create warmth,
social activism and worship innovation which had contracted them.

Rabbi Bernat, in introducing the luminaries, said it was in the
spirit of the festival of freedom to have present "unexpected guests."
adding that Brando, Dylan and Banks "had contributed to the sense of
justice and social awareness of the American people," He said that
"Blowin' In The Wind" had become part of the freedom songs which had
found their way "into the informal liturgy of liberal congregations."

The article concludes with more details about Brando's yiddishkeit.

The fourth Dylan reference in the '70s is to a proposal to build a Jewish Hall of Fame in Jerusalem, which would salute Dylan as well as Karl Marx.

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August 26, 2009

Last Thoughts on Bobbie Zimmerman on the occasion of his forthcoming Christmas album

Where do you go with these words that have been herded
Where do you go with these rumors been twittered
The Bob Dylan has gone
and recorded an album
of songs singing of Christmas
and gone and delivered the album to Sony
with royalties all pledged
to high-minded charities
with full tax deductions
to help the hungry to feed the suffering
at home in America and across the Atlantic
an album of Christmas
of songs most religious
from he whose origins
once hidden and furtive
were revealed and proclaimed
in Time Magazine
when youngish invention
had claimed he was orphaned
so shocking it was
to read Dylan was Zimmerman
and then went to Israel
and asked of kibbutz life
who then went and found Jesus
with evangelical fervor
then quietly was rumored
to be with a long island yeshiva
and went on to sing for
a telethon of Chabad
and went on to blurb Manis Friedman
and take a frum son-in-law for his daughter
to attend most regularly
yom kippur services
and now Bob Dylan
has recorded a Christmas album
as if to declare
my love is of the music
and for the land
and I've seen the yeshiva where my grandchildren go to school
and I just can't buy that crap.
Merry Christmas, Jewboys.

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January 28, 2009

The Jewish Bob Dylan (June 15, 1972 radio show)

From The Internet Archive: Bernard Timberg analyzes the songs of Bob Dylan looking for Jewish themes and imagery. He identifies messianic longings in Quinn the Eskimo, references to Jewish burial practices in Masters of War, and finds significance in the fact that the initials of John Wesley Harding can be interpreted as the name of the Jewish God, YHWH. Issues such as social justice and a sense of out-sideness imbue the songs of Dylan as they do the history of the Jewish people. Timberg also interviews a number of people who knew Dylan when he was still Bob Zimmerman in an effort to investigate the Jewish roots of his music, including a woman that was at his Bar Mitzvah and a counselor at a Jewish summer camp Dylan attended as a child. Also explored are a number of myths about Dylan that touch upon his Jewish identity.
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February 28, 2007

Dylan hears a Who!

Excellent web site (albeit no explicit Jewish content): Dylan Hears a Who!

Something is happening but you don't know what it is, do you, Dr. Seuss?

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July 4, 2006

Gevalt, Mama! Could this really be the beginning?

Digital Spy reports that Early Bob Dylan poems up for sale:
Early poems by Bob Dylan are up for auction in New York next month.

The writings date back to around 1960, when Robert Zimmerman first used the pseudonym 'Bob Dylan'.

A spokesman for auction house Christies said: "While some of the poems are rooted in his daily university life and reference his Jewish heritage with Yiddish phrases, the wit and irony pervasive in his later songwriting are already evident."

The poems are expected to raise $70,000, according to BBC News.

Yiddish phrases? In early Dylan poetry? Gevalt! Who knew? Certainly not those of us who read his Chronicles memoir. While we wait for excerpts from this Dylan juvenalia to leak out, submissions of imagined early Dylan poetry with Yiddish lines are invited.
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March 18, 2006

Dam al Ha-Elim = Blood on the Tracks?

Philip Smith writes:

While attending Jewish Day School in South Africa, I can remember reading a Hebrew poem in class with the lyrics "Dam Al HaEylim" which I think translates to "blood on the tracks". It was apparently a fairly well-known poem by a well-known author (Sh'Y Agnon?), in a book of classic Hebrew/Israeli literature - an anthology which had a tree on the front cover.
Does this ring any bells?

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February 7, 2006

Bob Dylan: First the Good News

First the good news: The Poughkeepsie Journal reports that

Music icon Bob Dylan spent four days at the Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie last week, privately rehearsing and writing music for an album he is set to record this week in Manhattan.
Now the bad news: Dylan's last album was released September 11, 2001. Even worse: That wasn't the first time that Dylan's creativity coincided with Middle Eastern events. I've got the scoop right here.

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December 29, 2005

Are you ready for Dylan humous?

Belief it or not; from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
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November 27, 2005

Motorpsycho Camper: A Herzl counselor remembers Zimmerman

From the latest print issue of Moment, a letter to the editor:

I read with interest the article about Bob Dylan AKA Robert Zimmerman ("The unauthorized Spiiritual biography," August 2005) especially the part about his experiences at Herzl camp. In the summer of 1957, I was a camp counselor at Herzl. On the first day, we welcomed the campers who arrived almost exclusively by bus or car. An unusual event was the arrival of several campers on two motorcycles from Hibbing, Minnesota. One of the motorcycle campers was Robert Zimmerman, guitar slung over his shoulder, and as I recollect, the other was Louis Kemp, who wrote a recent article in Moment about his celebrity Seder with Marlon Brando. Already known as a rebel, rumor had it that Robert Zimmerman had received his motorcycle as a parental gift for agreeing to attend Herzl camp!

Robert, joined occasionally by a few other campers, spent most of his time singing and plyaing his guitar and not participating in most organized camp activies. According to my recollection it was especially hard to get him to participate in athletics. Despite being a teenager and camp rebel, he was an intelligent and friendly kid who was well-like dby his fellow campers and counselors. He remained friendly with my brother David, who also attended camp that summer, and occasionally through the years, stopped in at his bookstore, The Hungry Mind, on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota. My enduring memory of Bob Dylan from that summer is of a young man sitting on the roof of one of the cabins, strumming on a guitar and singing loudly with his characteristic high-pitched nasal twang.

Joel Unowsky, Gaithersburg, MD

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October 16, 2005

The Ballad of Zimmy the Yid, 5766 edition

Bob Dylan made it shul again this Yom Kippur, In the town known as Oyster Bay, Long Island.... well, actually, in the town of Woodbury, Long Island, in the Chabad of Oyster Bay.

My non-rabbinical source for this cites as eyewitnesses his father's friend, and his accountant. What's not to believe?

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October 7, 2005

Maggie's Farm, Portnoy's Complaint

I attended a retrospective on the early work of Philip Roth at the Museum of Jewish Heritage last week, and couldn't help but notice that he and another iconoclastic Jewish boy were being given the canonical treatment in the same week.

I don’t imagine residents of Dylan’s native Hibbing, Minn., pack lectures about the singer to revel in — and cavil about — the “Hibbingness” of his work. But at Wednesday’s panel discussion, it seemed as if half the audience had crossed the Holland Tunnel to attend. When [biographer Ross] Miller referred to Roth as a “provincial boy” and Newark as a “provincial town,” you could hear the grumbles and hisses.

Read the whole thing.

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June 15, 2005

Bob Dylan tangles with a Catholic mother, 1962

It's Only Rock 'N Roll is selling a 1962 letter from Dylan's girlfriend Susan Rotolo to her mother, in which the 18-year-old complains about her mother's attitude:
"you often put Bob down in his presence...by telling him that his parents never taught him manners...then you turned to Mrs. Evans and remarked 'This is the jerk Bob Zimmerman Dylan, the one Suze likes'...when i called you from Rome last week that Bob (once again) hinted to me about marriage...all you raved about was that there were plenty of good catholic boys....
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April 1, 2005

Tangled up in Midrash: Bob Dylan, Rabbi Glaser and Genesis 33:4

Ralph the Sacred River combines Dylanology and Torah study:

I've been reading A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of "Blood on the Tracks" by Andy Gill and Kevin Odegard. This book tells you everything you could ever want to know about the making of that classic record, all the way down to the brand name of the mike used on the kick drum in the Minnesota sessions (Shure M57).

What truly intrigued me, however, was the appearance on page 102 of the puncta extraordinaria of Genesis 33:4....

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March 28, 2005

Zim Golly Golly: The Megillah according to Dylan

By Rabbi Don Cashman, P'nai Sholom, Albany, NY. Download the PDF

Grogger sounds ring out in the Purim night
Enter the rabbi through the synagogue door
He wears a costume, and a crazy hat
Carrying a bottle, and something more

Here is the story of the Esther Scroll
A fun holiday, a joy to behold
Especially when you do it here
Where the same old Megillah you won’t rehear
we take fun seriousleee

(ooo –ahh 2X – watch for fiddle solo)

All the Jewish rabbis wearing tallitot
Are free to drink tequila and sit and gloat
While Christian clergy prepare to promote
Their solemn holiday, I don’t mean Sukkot

Here is the story of the Esther scroll
A crazy holiday with no self-control
Especially at B’nai Sholom
Where the same old megilah takes new life
in the cold Albany night

That, of course, is only the beginning....

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February 17, 2005

Breadcrumb sins? Bob Dylan's Passover schedule revealed

Bob Dylan's spring concert schedule has been updated through April.

22 April Fri Mashantucket, Connecticut Foxwoods Resort Casino
24 April Sun Atlantic City, New Jersey
25-30 April Mon-Sat New York, New York Beacon Theatre

Nothing scheduled for the first seder night; maybe he's interested in visting us in Teaneck before his Atlantic City concert the next night?

The Upper West Side certainly offers lots of access to hametz-free takeout, if he's so inclined.

Speaking of the Upper West Side, Peter Himmelman spoke there on behalf of Edah a while back, and to head off the inevitable questions about his father-in-law, he said something like this:

Seders with my wife's family are always special. In the middle, my father-in-law will grab a guitar that's lying around, jump up on the table, and start singing:

Lay, Lady Lay.

Lay across my big flat bread.

Ba bum bum.

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February 15, 2005

Dylan on the distance-difference difference

I've been very slowly reading Dylan's Chronicles memoir. Slowly because it's so delicious. I've read a good number of the biographies, but this is an encounter with the interesting Dylan, the one who famously had an open Bible on a shtender in his Woodstock house and, according to Chronicles, spent days at the New York Public Library reading old newspapers from the Civil War.

Here's a worthwhile review from PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly by a senior editor for the Religion News Service:

CHRONICLES is also instructive for critics and theologians like Ricks and Gilmour, whose interpretations of Dylan's work, while often fascinating, informative, and suggestive, are sometimes overdetermined. Dylan writes, for example, of trying to "fix" the last line of "Ring Them Bells" -- "breaking down the distance between right and wrong." Ricks stresses Dylan's use of the word "distance" rather than "difference" between right and wrong. "This makes all the difference in the world and in the other world," he writes.

But Dylan writes that "while the line fit, it didn't verify what I felt. Right or wrong, like it fits in the Wanda Jackson song, or right from wrong, like the Billy Tate song, that makes sense, but not right and wrong. The concept didn't exist in my subconscious mind. I'd always been confused about that kind of stuff, didn't see any moral ideal played out there. The concept of being morally right or morally wrong seems to be wired to the wrong frequency."

Reading CHRONICLES is a little bit like listening to a Dylan album. There are always stunning moments, puzzling moments, and some clinkers. The book is studded with wonderful lines that defy easy explication. Of Roy Orbison he writes: "He sang like a professional criminal." You know it's a compliment, but what exactly does it mean?

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January 21, 2005

Holzel and the Jokerman

Today I belatedly watched the 60 Minutes interview with Dylan. It was as pathetic as could be imagine. Why not ask Bob what books and music he's reading and listening to these days? Or maybe a simple followup question on his remarks about Zionism and Buddhism? While we're stuck with the 60 Minutes interviewers we have, David Holzel provides us with the Dylan interview we'd like to have. Enjoy.
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December 22, 2004

"Little interests me if Dylan is or not one born again christian as I am"

Voz do Deserto comments (in Portugues) on Dylan's religion. Babelfish translation follows.

In who Bob Dylan will believe? They leave to dispute me next to the Warlike Nuno the religion of the Bob Dylan (since I did not arrive the agreement with the JMF concerning its intention of vote). The singer certainly did not come back to record albums "evanglicos" as the Slow Train Coming but he did not abandon all of the reportrio of this phase (to see here, for example). More. The information that the Nuno also offers on the artist frequentando a New York synagogue is pointed as a funeral of a familiar one, as it, Jewish of blood. Little interests me if Dylan is or not one born again christian as I am. But if more valley is for gaining the bicycle that is prepared to pedalar.
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September 26, 2004

Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Bob Dylan showed up for Yom Kippur services yesterday morning at Adath Israel in St Paul, MN, an Orthodox congregation with a strong Chabad tilt.

He received the third aliyah, says a source, and returned in the evening for the concluding Neilah service.

Whether he joined in the traditional Chabad singing of "Napoleon's March", and whether he was dressed in rags for the melody, has not yet been ascertained.

It certainly promises to be a year of blessing for Bob fans, no matter which side of the religious question they come down. Bob's autobiographical Chronicles comes out next month, and there is talk of a new album. More immediately, there's some serious Bob as the cover story of this week's Newsweek.

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September 23, 2004

Bob Dylan's brother's mother--in-law buried

Via Expecting Rain comes this obituary from The Daily Tribune of Hibbing, Minnesota

Myrtle M. Jurenes, 92, HIBBING -- Funeral services for Myrtle M. Jurenes, 92, Hibbing, will be held at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 23, 2004 in the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Hibbing. The Rev. Clem Gustin O.S.C. will celebrate The Mass of Christian Burial.

Posted by yudel at 2:31 PM

September 20, 2004


RightWingBob.com - The Ultimate Ultra Right Wing Bob Dylan Fan Site redeem his wrongheaded take on the news with a germane Dylan lyrics. In his own words:
I do not attempt to maintain that Bob Dylan shares my views on anything. One of the many reasons I admire Bob Dylan is that he has resisted the temptations and entreaties that have surely swamped him through the years, to throw his weight into a partisan political context.

At a gig in Tempe AZ in 1979, he has been quoted as saying from the stage: "I don't think I've ever said anything that's been a lie. Never told you to vote for nobody. Never told you to follow nobody."

Correct (if not grammatical), and considerable credit is due to him for that fact.

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August 29, 2004

Realtors for Dylan

dylan_ticket.jpg Grow-A-Brain, the "Original Real Estate Blog" of "The Great Team" realtors in Anaheim Hills, California, has now started finding Dylan links. Not necessarily new, but since they include the pictured ticket stub, they make the YudelLine cut.
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August 18, 2004

You Take Jesus, I'll Take Bob (and Bono)

The Washington Times, writing on Pop psalmists, includes this wonderful quote by Scott M. Marshall, author of "Restless Pilgrim":

Obviously, Dylan's words aren't part of the canon, but Dylan is a Jewish poet and that puts him in the same family as those who penned the actual biblical Psalms.
Posted by yudel at 2:38 PM

June 10, 2004

Dylan lyrics in Hebrew

The rhymes they are a'changin': Yoram Aharon of Hod-HaSharon has prepared an excellent page of Hebrew translations for Dylan lyrices.

And yes, they're suitable for singing to the original melody. Yasher koach, Yoram!

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June 6, 2004

Dylan says: "I believe in you!"

It's a new tour for Bob Dylan, and a chance for we Dylanologists to look at the new season's set list to ascertain roadmaps to his soul.

So, with two concerts under his belt (Friday and Saturday night) here's the report: First, no Christian spirituals as the opening number (unlike some other recent tours); in fact, no covers at all.

Secondly, his 13th song -- the penultimate pre-encore number -- has been one of his nondemoninational religious classics: I Believe in You on Friday night, and Every Grain of Sand on Saturday.

As always, Bob Links is the place to go follow the bard.

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June 2, 2004

Spreading the word

The Indianapolis Star's Media and the message column discovers my Bob Dylan web site:
This Web site typifies the way the Internet brings us encyclopedic information on the narrowest of topics.
Thanks for the truly encyclopedic daily Expecting Rain Dylan news site for the heads-up.
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May 16, 2004

America reviews Tangled Up in the Bible

America, The Catholic Weekly Magazine, reviews the new book on Dylan & the Bible; the Jesuit novice who reviews it concludes thusly:
At the core of Dylan's music is a solitary individual in search of truth, love and fulfillment, and he endears himself to the listener in a precisely religious way. More than a protest singer or a bluesman or a minstrel or a preacher or a prophet, Dylan has always been a pilgrim, disaffected and disillusioned but still seeking. It is a stance and a journey that brings many other pilgrims on many other quests to connect with him emotionally, from presidential candidates to Jesuit novices. Dylan may be a Jew, he may be a Christian, he may be agnostic, he may be an atheist, but his musical career has always signaled a constant search for the transcendent, what his scriptural sources call God.

Amen, brother!

Posted by yudel at 8:21 PM

May 3, 2004

Naming Dylan's Rabbi

The Washington Post, apropos of Dylan's recent Victoria's Secret ad, interviews A. Mark Neuman, 41, who serves as Victoria's Secret's trade counselor in Washington and lets us Jewish Dylan fans in on a major secret:
"Turns out Neuman has another odd Dylan connection: "My dad tutored Bob Dylan for his bar mitzvah." Rabbi Isaac Neuman, a Holocaust survivor, helped 12-year-old Bobby Zimmerman (Dylan's real name) study Hebrew back in Duluth, Minn., in the mid-1950s. Bobby's mother drove him from their home in Hibbing for the lessons, Mark Neuman explains.

Another of Rabbi Neuman's students, this time in Cincinnati, also became famous: Jerry Rubin, the late Yippie-leader-turned-marketer. "The rabbi recalls that he kicked him out of class on the first day," says Neuman. Who knew!

No surprise that this contradicts Dylan's own, far more romantic story of a wandering rabbi who got of the bus in Hibbing in time to tutor the Zimmerman boy....

Posted by yudel at 11:47 AM