We celebrate the magical decade of a masterpiece: Storm, record that led to the verdict of the Nobel committee, because four years after Bob Dylan published this prodigy of poetry, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Tempest falls in line Love and Theft (2001) and Modern Times (2006), which Dylan himself produced under the pseudonym Jack Frost.
The tetralogy is completed with Time Out of Mind (2010) and the line extends to other master albums, including the beautiful Together Through Life (2009), where he provides one of the keys to his literary affiliation.
In the piece from that album entitled I Feel a Change Coming On, is portrayed: “I’m listening to Billy Joe Shaver / and I’m reading James Joyce / Some people tell me / I have the blood of the land in my voice”.
Precisely that virtue, that of extolling the American lyrical treasure, appeared in the minutes of the Nobel jury.
The literary values of the work of Robert Allen Zimmerman are amply demonstrated in his monumental production: in addition to the number of “official” records, he himself has been responsible for publishing several volumes of the series Bootlegs, with previously unreleased recordings, alternate takes, and plenty of little-known material that he generously offers to the public, to the detriment of piracy.
The literary citations throughout his work are not limited to Joyce and the list is endless. Very cultured references, authors that few read, such as Thucydides, and that the musician born in Duluth, Minnesota, devoured in the immense library of the apartment of some wealthy, but relieved friends, who gave him asylum in Greenwich Village when the young Zimmerman decided to leave the homeland to climb to the pinnacle of the planet.
Connoisseurs revel in the following simile: Bob Dylan’s move from his native Duluth to Manhattan is akin to William Shakespeare’s exodus from Avon to London.
Precisely the title of the album that we review today, Storm, is completely Shakespearean, even in the face of the strong rumors of the gossip press that at the time spread the species that it was the Duluth musician’s swan song, because the Avon playwright wrote The Tempest as their opus final. Very funny, Dylan himself went out to silence rumors with a quasi joke: “Shakespeare wrote at the end of his production TheTempest, I only wrote Storm”, he said, smiling mischievously, and added: “they are different works”.
Known for his silence and his great sense of irony, Bob Dylan also let out another joke when the gossip press mercilessly attacked him citing squawks in his singing and tiresome gaps in his music.
Don’t worry, Dylan replied without seeing them, “my music is nothing; words are the key.” And indeed, Bob Dylan’s work is essentially poetic.
If we put aside the gentle irony of the author of Chronicles, we observe that it is another of his ways of making fun of his adversaries, because in the disc that concerns us today, Storm, we have an example of music of enormous quality, richness and variety.
The disk starts with duquesne whistle, danceable piece, singable and full of Dylan’s own: the full domain of allegories, rhetorical figures, metaphors, puns, alliterations, simple and forceful speech and many moments of great literary complexity. There are passages throughout Dylan’s work that are enigmatic, unfathomable, untranslatable, very much like James Joyce, very much like William Shakespeare.
the whistle of duquesne is many things at the same time: to begin with, it is the poetic spirit contained in the whistle of a train near or far, and duquesne is at the same time a small city in the United States, as a metaphor or simile for the author’s native Duluth (another piece on the album, ScarletTown, it is also a metaphor of the terroir), and it is also a train, a dream, a woman.
I wake up every morning with that woman in my breast Everybody’s telling me she’s gone to my head
That woman hidden in the poet’s heart, asleep on his chest, in reality, others say, is only in his head.
What is polysemic is that of Dylan, coupled with the intrinsic rhythm of his verses, which have an inner music by themselves, but on this album it rises to the status of a masterpiece.
The second piece of Tempest, Soon After Midnight, exemplifies the above:
I’m searching for phrases To sing your praises I need to tell someone It’s soon after midnight And my day has just begun
That need to tell someone is another key to all of Bob Dylan’s work. That phrase appears on this album in the first or third person: “I need to tell someone”, and it’s Dylan’s aeda vocation in action.
Not only does he stage for us stories of love and disenchantment, of joy and desolation, of dreams and poetic figures, but he tells us entire epics, in the manner of Homer, in accordance with his status as an aeda. In ancient Greece, the aeda was the one who sang poetry, and danced it, represented it, filled it with dust on the sidewalks and with it went through dangers and adventures. When the printing press was invented, the aeda fell silent. Poetry lost its voice. Poetry and music, those twin sisters, parted ways. They started their way alone.
Now, Bob Dylan returns the voice to poetry. He is a modern aeda. His works (which are not songs) resemble those of William Shakespeare, not only in their richness of language (Dylan’s lexicon is frankly amazing), but in their dramaturgical intensity.
His great themes: love, survival and death are developed in different tones, atmospheres, scenarios, as the case may be in each episode of his vast work.
In the second cut of the album, then, he tells us a story “that are actually several” in metaphors and allegories linked with variants of the central verse, instead of the hackneyed chorus used by almost everyone who writes songs:
It’s soon after midnight And the moon is in my eye
It’s soon after midnight And I’ve got a date with the fairy queen
And those compliments of Cupid resound when Eros bursts onto the scene:
I’ve got a heavy stacked woman, with a smile on her face And she has crowned, my soul with grace I’m still hurting from an arrow, that pierced my chest I’m gonna have to take my head, and bury it between your breasts
The dramaturgical resources, the theatrical innovations, the scenic intrigues of his compositions have great resources and turns of humor and fantastic effects, for example narrating a very intricate, turbulent couple’s relationship, in the tone of a fairy tale.
The climax of the album Storm It arrives with the antepenultimate and penultimate pieces: Tin Angel, prodigious composition in 28 quatrains with a total of 112 verses, which is practically an opera, and the central piece of the disc: Storm, composition of 45 quatrains with 180 verses without a chorus, in 14 minutes of overwhelming intensity.
In Tempest, Bob Dylan recounts the sinking of the Titanics, but just as in a later work, Murder Must Foul, where he deals with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the aeda actually narrates dreams, draws metaphors, builds allegories and, now, yes, we have in full the great theme of all of Bob Dylan’s work: the human condition.
The narrator, the aeda, takes the body of a woman, a celestial body and an evanescent figure:
The pale moon rose in it’s glory Out on the western town She told a sad, sad story
And he puts the orchestra to play “evanescent love songs” and places the ship’s lookout on stage: asleep, dreaming that the titanica sinks “into the underworld.”
There are absolutely Shakespearean passages, like this one, where A Midsummer Night’s Dream reigns supreme:
Cupid struck his bosom And broke it with a snap The closest woman to him He fell into her lap
The storm is actually made up of words: “backward, forward, far and fast/ they mumbled, fumbled, and tumbled”.
And now the narrator, the aeda, takes on the body of a “fourteenth-century” poet (no doubt Dante Alighieri) and then a painter who, before the scene, takes his sketchbook, closes his eyes and describes the catastrophe (Michelangelo , in an unforeseen turn of the Sistine under the ocean) and all this great scenic mural, covered with a solemn Purcell-style music, like a monumental trench, a gigantic hymn.
Hymn, the final piece is one of the most beautiful hymns Bob Dylan ever wrote: roll on john, tribute to his friend John Lennon, another fallen angel, ambushed by human evil, and the anthem is an amazing staging due to its musical ability to synthesize all of Lennon’s music in a single tone: at the same time it seems that we are listening to the Lennon song titled Mother, but in reality it is a staging in sounds of piety, by Michelangelo, as a metaphor of the sacrificed hero, offered to redeem others, but it still seems that we are listening imagine, or any other or all Lennon songs, in a single Dylan song.
Behold, in all its power and fullness, the work of Robert Allen Zimmerman, Nobel Prize for Literature.
We want to say thanks to the writer of this write-up for this amazing material
Ten years of a classic