Dylan released and unreleased: the tribute concerts

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

Aaron: Dylan has performed at several tribute concerts over the years. Let’s take a look at three which might have passed you by!

First, the Martin Luther King tribute concert, Washington DC 1986. Here he performs a completely rewritten version of “I Shall be Released”, followed by “Blowing in the wind” with Stevie Wonder and Peter Paul and Mary.

Here are the new lyrics for I shall be released – I believe this was the only performance of this set of lyrics:

They say every man needs protection
They say that every man must fall
I swear I see my own reflection
Somewhere so high above this wall

I see my light come shinin'
I don't need no doctor or no priest
Any day now
I shall be released

It don't take much to be a criminal
One wrong move and they'll turn you into one
At first decay is just subliminal
To protect yourself and your forever on the run

I see my light come shinin'
I don't need no doctor or no priest
Any day now, 
I shall be released

He will find you where your stayin'
Even in the arms of somebody else's wife
Your laughin' now, you should be prayin'
To be in the midnight hour of your life 

I see my light come shinin'
I don't need no doctor or no priest
Any day now, 
I shall be released

Tony: Now there is a first.  Whoever else would rhyme “criminal” with “subliminal”?   I am not too sure of what to make of the new lyrics, but I do love the musical change with “Any day now” being delayed.

“Blowing in the Wind” was performed by the trio at the Civil Rights march at which Martin Luther King Junior delivered his “I have a dream” speech.   And if that was all they had done that would have been enough for immortality but of course, there was a lot more; the inevitable highs and lows of members of a successful band both in terms of recordings and personal life.

But what fascinates me most is “I don’t need no doctor nor no priest”.  Dylan’s 18 months or so of writing only songs with a religious theme was 1979/80, so he had had plenty of time to move on, and the suggestion that he will find “release” without the intercession of the church is a fundamentally anti-Christian church view.  As I understand it, the Christian churches preach that the formal church is the only way to heaven.  Salvation through one’s own efforts by having a good life and without any formal religiosity or belief is a major challenge to organised religion, and I’ve not noticed Bob proclaim that elsewhere.  But maybe I’ve not been paying attention properly.

Aaron: Then in 2004 at Apollo at 70: A Hot Night In Harlem, 19 June 2004 Bob performed A Change Is Gonna Come

Tony: It is interesting to see different personalities introduce Dylan in different ways – this is with the emphasis on “a change is going to come”.   It was written by Sam Cooke – and as it played I began to wonder what song Dylan has written that predicts change for the good will come.  I’m probably forgetting obvious examples, as I sit here writing this without looking things up (part of the rules of the game) but leaving aside the 18 months of religious writing, does Bob ever suggest this?

I’ve oft pointed out that “Times they are a changin” does not talk about change that comes about because of mankind’s efforts.  Just that stuff happens and things change.   And this song says the same – it is in fact a litany of what is wrong with the world

Then I go to my brother
And I say, brother, help me please
But he winds up, knockin' me
Back down on my knees

So in this regard it is very much like “Times” in that it proclaims things will change, but doesn’t once suggest that it will be because of any overt action by people.  It just happens.

And this song has an interesting past.  It was released as the B-side of “Shake” and was in fact issued soon after Sam Cooke had died in 1964. It was a hit, but not a huge hit.

Aaron: Last up this time from the Tony Bennett 90th birthday concert comes Once Upon A Time.

Tony:  Actually that is one of the best introductions of Bob that I’ve heard.  Nice and short and accurate.  And this shows Bob’s voice at its best.   Indeed if I heard this without any knowledge of who it was I am not sure I would have guessed it was Dylan.  There’s a touch of vibrato in the voice, and no stretching for the high notes.

But there’s also something here that suggests the singer is not totally happy with the range of the song – these classics tending to have a much wider vocal range than Bob’s own compositions.

Fascinating to see him perform by holding the mic stand.  I wonder what brought that on!

Dylan released and unreleased: the series


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