An introduction to Bob Dylan’s literary world

It was an astonishing performance. An hour of texts and music which influenced Bob Dylan, as well as his own lyrics and versions. The words, meanings, messages mainly written during the 1950s and 1960s were eye-openers. Last chance to attend: 28th of March 2017 – in Amsterdam.

Before the performance started, I asked my small group of friends what they thought of Dylan being awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. Like me, a few thought it was rather over the top, wasn’t it?

Personally – even after this performance – I still think that if the prize had had to be awarded to a pop and song writer cum poet, Leonard Cohen should have been the one.

Nevertheless: we were at the theater for an introduction to Bob Dylan’s literary world. So we followed the audience and took our seats.

The short performance started. The same question was raised by Emlyn Stam. Of course his opinion was the exact opposite of mine and a great many critics. But the performance was on its way.

As usual, Kyle Dukes was perfect reciting poems and singing songs by Ginsberg, John Corigliano and Bob Dylan, Kerouac, Guthrie, Dylan Thomas. He simply knows how to impress a public by interpreting and acting Beat Poetry.

Original versions were often followed by interpretations by Dylan, or a Dylan’s song strongly influenced by the original. The interaction between Kyle Dukes reciting his texts and songs performed by Katharine Dain, with Reinild Mees at the piano, was fascinating.

Especially, during Rimbaud‘s “Solde”. As my friends said after the performance: what a voice! Meaning Katharine Dain’s. Perhaps Ravel‘s “Kaddish” could have been rendered more feelingly, but the “Claire de Lune” and Rimbaud’s “Aube”, as well as many other songs: perfect! Ms Dain’s voice can easily fill a far larger theater.

However, what impressed most: the messages contained in the selected texts – regardless if they were wrapped in poetry or songs. These messages, especially the ones dealing with war and less fortunate people, touched upon themes important during the 1950s and 1960s.

Yet the texts and lyrics are still awfully relevant. These included Coriglioano and Dylan’s versions of “Chimes of freedom”, Mr Tambourine Man, Blowin’ in the Wind, Masters of War; Henri Duparc‘s Elégie and many others.

The performance ended with Kyle Dukes and Katharine Dain jointly performing “Forever young”. A message of hope, a blessing, a prayer, a farewell, written in 1973. It’s summing up of what the American Dream should be, must never be forgotten. It seemed an especially relevant message to the current US government and administration – though it is bound to fall upon deaf ears.

Official Bob Dylan site: Tarantula
Official Bob Dylan site: Forever Young

The literary world of Bob Dylan will be performed again in Amsterdam, 28th of March 2017
– Katharine Dain soprano; songs
– Reinild Mees piano
– Kyle Dukes actor; songs and reading of texts
– Emlyn Stam: introduction and excerpt by president D.D. Eisenhower for January 17th, 1961


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