Local Performers Celebrate Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan turns seventy-five this week and his birthday is being celebrated by local musicians in two separate shows.  On Thursday at The Leeky Canoe Chris Scerri is dedicating his open mic night to Bob Dylan songs and on Saturday at Heartwood Hall in Owen Sound The Kreuger Band will be including a number of Dylan songs in their show.

Since he first surfaced in Greenwich Village as a Woody Guthrie imitator in 1961 Dylan has had an immense influence on the culture of the United States and his work has resonated around the world.  Last year he was the first musician to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  He has been a constant innovator.  In his early days in the folk clubs, when his peers were building their repertoires on songs of Appalachia and Harlem, Dylan began to create his own original songs in the folk song style, essentially creating what we know today as a “singer-songwriter”.  His simple and evocative song “Blowing In The Wind” became the prototype for hundreds of anti-war songs.  He created equally powerful songs in support of the integration movement of the sixties.  Influenced by French poetry and existential theatre, he explored dream-like stream of consciousness songs in a way that had never been done before and had a great influence on The Beatles. He enraged folk purists when he adopted a blues band to give his songs a new setting.  He shone the spotlight on individuals who became symbols of inequality, from Medgar Evers and Hattie Carroll to Hurricane Carter, who won his freedom as a result of the attention brought to his case by a Dylan song.  The anti-establishment activist group, The Weathermen, took their name from a line of one of his songs.  He explored Christianity, the Nashville sound, history and literature on a long meandering creative journey that continues today, proving that “he not busy being born is busy dying.”

“He is the common denominator for songwriters,” says Chris Scerri.  This time last year he had dedicated his Leeky jam to Dylan at the request of his daughter Kara, who shares the same birthday.  It was such a success that he decided to do it again this year.  He sent the word out to local singers who frequent his open mic nights and was surprised at the enthusiasm of the response.  While he will be sharing the night with co-host John Zaslow who will be accompanying Chris as well as doing a few of his own favourite Dylan songs, he also expects contributions from Craig Smith, Larry Jensen, Bill Monahan, Paul Armstrong, Michael O’Connell, Tom Thwaits, Laura Conning and others.

“It’s interesting that each musician has his own favourites,” says Chris, “I think the songs people have chosen, and the way they decide to do them, will reflect themselves.”  To sort it all out he has had to create a colour-coded spreadsheet.  He had asked each singer to indicate which Dylan songs they would like to perform and the results are all over the map, spanning the huge impressive catalogue that Dylan has created.  Chris says he may have to draw straws for a few songs that were chosen by several performers, including “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right” and “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”.

It will be a busy and intriguing night and Chris adds, “I’ve got a couple of surprises I hope to make happen.”

Bryan Leckie, whose group The Kreuger Band will be in concert on Saturday night at Heartwood Hall in Owen Sound, is also acknowledging his debt to Bob Dylan with a number of Dylan songs to be “Kreugerized” as part of the show.  Being Kreugerized means to enjoy the embellishment of the superb harmonies provided by The Kreuger Girls and guitar accompaniment of Trevor Mackenzie, highlights of a very popular local band.  The show will mix such Dylan classics as “Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat” with songs from the band’s recent release “Kreuger Motel”, a 3-CD set full of sparkling originals.

Bryan Leckie is certainly a die-hard Dylan fan, and a bubbling spring of anecdotes about Dylan songs and recordings.  He considers Dylan’s golden period to be the early electric phase encapsulated in the albums “Bringing It All Hack Home,”, “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde.”

“I wanted to include “Sad-Eyed Lady of The Lowlands” in the set,” he says, “but the band wouldn’t go for it.”  Almost twelve minutes long, it would have eaten up a pretty big chunk of a set.

Although he didn’t realize it when he booked the gig, it happens that Saturday night is the anniversary of the famous Albert Hall concert in England when he was booed and heckled for singing with an electric band.  This for Dylan fans this heightens the significance of the celebration.

Return to Front Page for today’s update

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *