Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dylan's subversive song selection, and prophetic sermon on Psalm 27 and Rabbi Hirsch commentary, at 1991 Grammy Awards

First, watch this:

For commentary on  what just happened..
see this link , this link, and see  the two posts  below.

See  also

Bob Dylan's Top Five Awards Speeches 


 From Greil Marcus' 
"ranters & crowd pleasers: punk in pop music, 1977-92":

1. Bob Dylan:  at the Grammy Awards, 20 February 1991.
Thirty years after arriving in New York from Minnesota, Bob Dylan stepped
forward to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.  With the Gulf War in
progress, the blanket of acceptance that had been draped over the show was so
heavy the WAR SUCKS t-shirt New Kid on the Block Donnie Wahlberg wore to the
American Music Awards a few weeks earlier would have been forbidden here;
maybe that's why Dylan sang "Masters of War", from 1963, and maybe that's why
he disguised it, smearing the verses into one long word.  If you caught on to
the number, the lyric did emerge - "And I'll stand o'er your grave/'Til I'm
sure that you're dead" - but lyrics were not the point.  What was was the ride
Dylan and hid band gave them.  With hats pulled down and dressed in dark
clothes, looking and moving like Chicago hipsters from the end of the fifties,
guitarists Cesar Diaz and John Jackson, bassist Tony Garnier, and drummer Ian
Wallace went after the song as if it were theirs as much as Dylan's: a chance
at revenge, excitement, pleasure.  You couldn't tell one from the other, and
why bother?

With this career performance behind him, Dylan took his trophy from a beaming
Jack Nicholson; he squinted, as if looking for his mother, who was in the
"Well," he said, "my daddy, he didn't leave me much, you know he was a very simple man,
but what he did tell me was this, he did say, son, he said..

- there was a long pause, nervous laughter from the crowd 

[well, he said so many things, you know.
-more laughter]-
"he say, you know it's possible to become so defiled in this world
that your own mother  and father will abandon you ; and if that happens,
God will always believe in your own ability to mend your ways."

Then he walked off.  He had managed to get in and out without thanking anybody,
and this night it really did seem as if he owed nobody anything.

From: Martin Grossman (tgg@slip.net)
Newsgroups: rec.music.dylan
Subject: Re: 91 Grammy Performance
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 1998 11:16:33 -0400

It seems to me Ronnie Schreiber nailed the source of Bob's Grammy speech
some time ago. Said Ronnie:

At the time of the acceptance speech, I turned to my wife and said that
Dylan's comments were an allusion to Psalms 27:10: "When my father and
mother abandon me, HaShem (G-d) will gather me up."

I went back to the sources and discovered that Dylan's remarks were
almost a verbatim account of the commentary of Rabbi Shimshon Rafael
Hirsch (the spiritual leader of traditional Jewry in Germany in the mid
19th century) on that verse:

"Even if I were so depraved that my own mother and father would
abandon me to my own devices, God would still gather me up and believe
in my ability to mend my ways."

Now, we have no way of knowing if Abram Zimmerman really taught this to
his son or if Bob simply picked it up from a commentary on the Jewish
prayer book (Ps. 27 is recited at the morning and evening prayer
services during the month before the Jewish New Year), but in any case,
the wording is too similar to Hirsch's to ignore. Note how both Hirsch
and Dylan reversed the "father and mother" of the original verse to
"mother and father" and Dylan's use of the phrase  "believe in your own
ability to mend your own ways" directly parallels Hirsch's "believe in
my ability to mend my ways". 

It's unlikely Dylan's father was familiar with the writings of Rabbi
Hirsch, the 19th Century leader of German neo-Orthodoxy. Dylan's
involvement with Judaism over the past ten or fifteen years has been
mostly through Chabad -- also an unlikely place for him to have been
introduced to the Hirsch commentary. It's more likely Dylan saw the
quote in the Metsudah Siddur, a prayerbook popular among Baalei Tshuvah
(as "returnees" to orthodox Judaism are know, although many of them are
encountering serious Judaism for the first time). The lines from Hirsch
are cited in the Metsudah commentary and represent its translation from
Hirsch's German. And we can speculate that it's their language that
Dylan echoes. 

Note from MG: By attributing the words to his father, Dylan is following
a long tradition of attribution in Judaism. He can be said to be using
"father(s) in a wider sense, meaning his heritage.

Martin Grossman

From Mark Aldrich:

It took him less than a minute, even with his nervous hat fumbling and pauses, but Dylan had just delivered an Old Testament sermon (Psalm 27:10) about the disfigurement of a life spent enslaved to the material things to the bejeweled, genial, war-applauding, music millionaire crowd.
Here is the speech:
  There is a rich history of commentary in Jewish tradition. There is also a rich history of commentary in interpreting Bob Dylan’s every public utterance. Psalm 27 begins (in the King James Version): “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” In King James, verse 10 reads, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.”
Where does “defiled” come from? “Mend your ways?” A couple Dylan interpreters suggest that his language is straight out of the works of one the founders of Orthodox Judaism in the 19th Century, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. Hirsch’s commentary on the psalm verse reads: “Even if I were so depraved that my own mother and father would abandon me to my own devices, God would still gather me up and believe in my ability to mend my ways” (Yaffe, Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown, Yale UP). As David Yaffe, the author of the Hirsch discovery points out, Dylan in the late-’80s and early 1990s was a frequent performer on the annual Los Angeles-area Chabad telethons that usually offered entertainment from great (and far older) performers like Norm Crosby, Jan Murray, and Sid Caesar. Perhaps he was reading a lot of scriptural commentary; Rabbi Hirsch is not an obscure figure in that field.
Who better to receive a scriptural pronouncement such as this than a bejeweled, genial, war-applauding Hollywood audience? I am no Talmudic scholar, nor am I a Bob Dylan interpreter, but this is one of the many reasons I enjoy Bob Dylan’s every appearance.  link

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