Thursday, May 7, 2009


It was after hearing that Robert Hunter, lyricist for the Grateful Dead, co-wrote eight of the new songs on Bob Dylan's "Together Through Life," that I was prompted to see if my memory served me well with the recollection that the last vinyl album I bought was "Dylan & the Dead." Yep.

Previous to this week, when I bought a vinyl copy of Bob Dylan's "Together Through Life," the last vinyl album I bought was "Dylan & the Dead," a live album from Grateful Dead Productions, Inc, released in 1989. I only listened to it one or two times, as I was not much of a Grateful Dead fan after 1971 and wasn't impressed with Dylan on that live album. A few days ago, I listened to "Dylan & the Dead" again. It sounds much better than I had remembered. We're all so much older, that's for sure. Many of us have died. Those who were born in 1989 are as old today as Dylan was in 1961.

When I look at the tracks on that old live album, recorded in 1987, I see that two of its seven songs are from "Slow Train Coming" (Bob Dylan's Christian years of the early 1980s), and the final song is "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" from the soundtrack of "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid" from 1973.

On the new album is a song titled "Forgetful Heart." It ends with:

"The door has closed forevermore
If indeed there ever was a door."

So twenty years went by, just like that. Albums were replaced by cassette tapes, cassette tapes replaced by CDs, CDs replaced by iTunes. Not to mention years of war, terrorist attacks and more war. And Barack Obama is President of the United States today.

As with all except the first of the Bob Dylan albums, I can't say that I like all the songs on this new album. They hurt where I hurt. They are hard to listen to. There is anger, sorrow, loneliness, grief,and dark humor here. The old songs couldn't touch where we hadn't been hurt yet. The new songs don't touch where we haven't been healed yet. Still, as always, I am moved in unexpected ways.

Robert Hunter's "Box of Rain"


Anonymous said...

well said. kjm

Zhoen said...

I can't say I like the new album, but it won't let me go, either. Bob Dylan is not trivial.