October 23, 2016

"WHAT?"

Greil Marcus on Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize (Jon Wiener interviews Greil Marcus, OCTOBER 22, 2016, LA Review of Books)

In the song "Highway 61 Revisited" from 1965, Dylan sings these lines: "Abe says 'Where you want this killin' done?'/ God says 'Out on Highway 61.'" A friend told me, "he deserves the Nobel prize just for those two lines." You heard him sing this song two weeks ago at the Desert Trip festival in Indio -- what was that like? [...]

"Highway 61 Revisited" is probably the best song Bob Dylan ever wrote. It seemed liked that in 1965, and it seems like that today: the way the language begins to break down in that first voice: "Abe say, 'what?'" So fast.

The first time I ever drove onto Highway 61, which was in the Twin Cities, I really expected to have some sort of mystical vision. The highway had taken on such a charged sense from that song that it just didn't seem like a real place, it didn't seem like it could be ordinary in any way.

I grew up in Minnesota, so Highway 61 had been part of my life. It's the way you got from Duluth to Minneapolis and St. Paul -- Bob Dylan was born in Duluth and went to college for a year in Minneapolis. And then if you followed Highway 61 south, it went down the Mississippi all the way to New Orleans.

James Marsh came to the US to make four hour-long films for the BBC that were biographies of songs, and "Highway 61 Revisited" was one of them. He shows you that, among other things, Elvis Presley lived on Highway 61, Martin Luther King was assassinated on Highway 61, and Bessie Smith had her fatal auto accident on Highway 61. Just to name a few things.

Posted by at October 23, 2016 7:45 AM

  

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