The Arty Semite

'Blowin' in the Wind?' With a 13-Pound Book, Not So Much

By Gabe Friedman

Be careful, because the latest Bob Dylan book may break your coffee table.

A comprehensive collection of Dylan’s lyrics, entitled “The Lyrics: Since 1962,” will be published by Simon & Schuster on October 28. It will consist of about 1,000 pages and weigh thirteen and a half pounds. Only 3,000 copies will be printed in the United States (500 will be sold in Great Britain), and each will cost $200. Fifty select copies will be signed by The Bard himself and sell for $5,000.

Jonathan Karp, the publisher and president of Simon & Schuster, told The New York Times that the book will be the “biggest, most expensive” book the company has ever published.

In 2004, Simon & Schuster published “Lyrics: 1962-2001,” but the updated version comes with a few additions. Firstly, this collection was edited by Christopher Ricks, a professor at Boston College who in 2003 also wrote “Dylan’s Vision of Sin,” a close reading of Dylan’s lyrical themes. Ricks, along with co-editors Lisa and Julie Nemrow (who designed the book’s layout), contributed a lengthy introduction to the upcoming collection, and alternate lyric versions of songs released on the “Bootleg Series,” a series of live albums, will also be included. Wide thirteen-inch pages will allow for large reproductions of the front and back artwork of thirty-three albums.

Lastly, for the biggest Dylan fans, Ricks notes where and how the song lyrics changed over time. “They’re amazing, shape-changing things,” he told The New York Times.

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Lip-Synching Bob Dylan's 'Rolling Stone'

By Adam Soclof

(JTA) — The first official music video for Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” is making the rounds on the internet. And Dylan’s endorsement is only half the reason why.

The video, produced by media start-up Interlude, includes a novel interactive channel-tuning button, each channel mimicking a different cable channel or news program, featuring cameos by Drew Carey and a matzah-eating Danny Brown. The video was filmed under creative directorship of 27-year old Vania Heymann, an Israeli graduate of the Bezalel Arts school.

In just two years, Heymann’s video portfolio has grown from student film trailer about Yiddish-speaking hitman “Der Mentsh” to a digital shorts series on Eretz Nehederet (Israel’s Saturday Night Live), a Pepsi Max commercial and now a Bob Dylan music video — 48 years after the original release — with the artist’s blessing.

Seems as if Heymann isn’t pacing himself between achievements in digital advertising. As long as he doesn’t tire out, that could be a good development for digital media consumers and brands.

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Bob Dylan for the 12-Year-Old Set

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Ned The Kids Dylan

If Bob Dylan were 12 years old, he’d sound like Ned The Kids Dylan. That’s because Ned The Kids Dylan, a pre-pubescent singer-songwriter from Northhampton, England, sounds an awful lot like the bard with the birth name Robert Zimmerman — only with a voice that hasn’t dropped yet.

Ned The Kids Dylan, who tours Great Britain playing his guitar and singing original songs at road shows and music festivals, has been hanging out at concerts for years already, listening to a variety of prominent artists. While Dylan is his number-one idol, he also cites Laura Marling, Billy Bragg and Ray Davies as influences.

The youngster really likes Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” album, and his favorite Dylan songs are “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Maggie’s Farm,” and “Tangled Up In Blue.” The prodigy is at no loss for words in explaining how and why the icon has been such an inspiration for him.

“Dylan is a storyteller who tells you the truth as horrible as it may be. His words are so well crafted that within minutes he can change the way you think. If I could do that, change the way people think, inspire them, move them, then I would have done what I set out to do!” he told American Songwriter.

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A Bob Dylan Farewell to the Chinatown Bus

By Forward Staff

Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, we found out that Bob Dylan had been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters for his “iconic place in the American culture.” Now we have a pretty great example of that iconic status.

Over at The New Yorker, Marc Philippe Eskenazi has created an homage to another iconic American institution: The super cheap Fung Wah New York-Boston bus, which was recently shut down for safety violations. The tune and inspiration is, of course, Bob Dylan’s “Farewell Angelina.” Check it out after the jump.

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Bob Dylan Inducted Into American Academy

By Forward Staff

Getty Images
Bob Dylan receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Bob Dylan has become the first rock star to be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Because of the multi-disciplinary nature of his work, Dylan will be an honorary inductee, joining such notables as Meryl Streep, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese.

“The board of directors considered the diversity of his work and acknowledged his iconic place in the American culture,” Academy executive director Virginia Dajani told the Associated Press. “Bob Dylan is a multi-talented artist whose work so thoroughly crosses several disciplines that it defies categorization.”

Dylan has also been the recipient of an honorary Pulitzer Prize, in 2008, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2012.

The Academy of Arts and Letters, which was founded in 1898 and is based in Manhattan, consists of 250 members in the categories of music, literature and visual arts. It also includes 75 honorary members from abroad and 10 honorary American members. New members are inducted only when one of the existing members dies.

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Bob Dylan Previews New Album With 'Early Roman Kings'

By Adam Langer

Getty Images

Strip away the over-the-top visuals and the dialogue in the new trailer for the Cinemax “Strike Back” series and you can hear the first single off Bob Dylan’s forthcoming “Tempest” album.

To our ears, the song, “Early Roman Kings,” sounds like a bluesy cross between Muddy Waters’s “Mannish Boy” and “My Wife’s Home Town,” which wasn’t one of the more inspiring cuts off Dylan’s last CD of original music, “Together Through Life.”

But the vocals are sharp, the snarling, evocative lyrics bring to mind “Slow Train Coming”-era Zimmerman, and, well, as for our final assessment, we’ll wait until the full album is released on September 11.

Listen to ‘Early Roman Kings’:

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Don't Feel Bad, Jonah Lehrer. Dylan Lied Too.

By Adam Langer

getty images
Bob Dylan

Well, the verdict is already in on Jonah Lehrer, the New Yorker writer who has admitted to making up Bob Dylan quotes for his book Imagine. The sentence has been meted out too, actually by Lehrer himself in the form of his resignation from the magazine. But inventing Dylan quotes seems to be far from the worst crime a journalist could commit, and if Lehrer’s ever looking for an advocate, he might find a good one in Dylan himself, hardly the world’s greatest spokesman for truth. Some words on Mr. Lehrer’s behalf courtesy of Mr. Dylan.

“Life is more or less a lie, but then again that’s exactly the way we want it to be.” (Chronicles, Volume 1)

“What did I owe the rest of the world? Nothing. Not a damn thing. The press? I figured you lie to it.” (Chronicles, Vol. 1)

“All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.” (Things Have Changed)

The truth is far from you, so you know you got to lie” (Trouble in Mind)

“Don’t trust me to tell you the truth when the truth may only be ashes and dust.” (Trust Yourself)

“The truth is only fiction, and fiction’s only a lie.” (Stormy Season)

Actually, we made up that last one, but it sure sounds like something Bob would say. Making up Dylan quotes turns out to be surprisingly tempting.

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Author Blogs: Borrowed Words

By Leslie Maitland

Earlier this week, Leslie Maitland wrote about reconnecting branches of her family separated by the Diaspora of the Nazi years. Her blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:


I have always been fascinated by epigraphs—those borrowed words that authors choose to introduce and encapsulate the message of their books.

And so, almost as soon as I started writing my own book, Crossing the Borders of Time, I found my thoughts exploring several possibilities, words whose power had won them space in my catalogue of memory.

The book involves a search to find my mother’s long-lost love, the young and handsome Frenchman she’d left behind in 1942, when—fleeing the Nazis—she was forced to board the last refugee ship to escape France before the Germans sealed its ports. She was Jewish and 18; he was Catholic and 21. “Whatever the length of our separation, our love will survive it, because it depends on us alone,” Roland had written to Janine in a farewell note before she sailed. “I give you my vow that whatever the time we must wait, you will be my wife.”

But war and disapproving family had intervened, and even as she tried to build a different life than the one she had imagined, Mom shared with me her longing for the love that had been stolen from her.

The story of their star-crossed romance, culminating in my efforts to reunite the pair, first called to mind Bob Dylan’s paean to a young love that endures:

The future for me is already a thing of the past. You were my first love and you will be my last.

Yet even in my silent reading, the gnarly twang of Dylan’s unique delivery resounded as unreservedly American. It set the wrong mood as the opener for a love story that unfolded in Europe of the war years, and its tone seemed too lighthearted for the period and the harrowing experiences I was depicting.

Besides, Dylan belonged to my youth. His rebellious ballads could be interpreted as a rejection of my parents’ generation. Indeed, the disdain that he expressed was not lost on my father, who actually forbade me to play Dylan’s albums on his phonograph, as if their scathing lyrics might damage the machinery.

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Could Paul Simon Be Your Professor?

By Gary Shapiro

Courtesy of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Paul Simon is best known as a singer, songwriter and guitarist — not a college professor and academic. But Simon, who was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on October 1, had a brief stint in academia, teaching a songwriting class at New York University at the beginning of the 1970s.

This relatively little known aspect of the Simon’s career is discussed by David Browne in his new book, “Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970” (Da Capo Press, 2011).

Browne, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine, tells how Simon taught a weekly seminar in songwriting in the period just after he and Art Garfunkel quietly broke up. “One of my cousins auditioned for it,” said Browne. “He didn’t get in. He was a little too advanced.”

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Are Bob Dylan’s Asia Paintings Stunningly Unoriginal?

By Ezra Glinter

The Bob Dylan fan world has been abuzz recently about the musician’s exhibit of paintings at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, and whether those paintings are copied from historic photographs.

Gagosian Gallery

In a discussion on the Dylan fan site Expecting Rain, similarities have been noted between paintings in the show and pictures by photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Léon Busy and Dmitri Kessel. One commenter called Okinawa Soba hase even suggested that Dylan used his Flickr gallery to find these images, since at least five or six of the photographs used for the 18 paintings in the show are featured there.

While Dylan has likely not broken any copyright laws, fans and critics question whether the imitations diminish the importance of the artworks, or if they are another iteration of Dylan’s career-long shell game of influences and personas. One critique comes from Soba, who writes that “while Dylan had broken no laws, he seems to have violated a common ‘social ethic’ that for most of us in the graphics world involves giving credit for sources of inspiration, or direct credit for material upon which a ‘derivative work’ is based.”

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Bob Dylan's Asia Paintings Go on View in New York

By Ezra Glinter

Bob Dylan, ‘The Monk,’ 2009, Acyrlic on canvas. Photo by Joshua White.

While you have to admire Bob Dylan’s persistent touring now that he’s in his 70s, even die-hard fans admit that the singer-songwriter’s voice is pretty much shot. If you’re not likely to get much aesthetic pleasure out of a Dylan concert these days, however, there are other ways to appreciate his recent work.

Starting today, Dylan’s paintings are being shown for the first time in New York in an exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery titled “The Asia Series.”

For decades Dylan has dabbled in drawing and painting, creating album covers for The Band’s 1968 “Music From the Big Pink” and his own 1970 album, “Self Portrait.” According to the Wall Street Journal, Dylan also credited the success of 1975’s “Blood on the Tracks” to his studies with New York City painting teacher Norman Raeben.

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Four Poems By Alicia Jo Rabins

By Jake Marmer

Courtesy Alicia Jo Rabins

Each Thursday, The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week, Jake Marmer introduces four poems by Alicia Jo Rabins.

Songwriters who are also known as poets often only become so once they receive a degree of popular acclaim for their music. Cases in point include Bob Dylan and Ani Di Franco, David Byrne and Lou Reed. With the recent album, “Half You Half Me” by her Girls in Trouble project, violinist and indie singer-songwriter Alicia Jo Rabins has made a powerful pitch for inclusion in that elite realm. Each song on the album is a lyrical exploration about another female character in the Tanakh — the “girls” of the project’s name.

But her writing is not confined to her lyrics, and today on the Arty Semite we’re featuring four poems that were written as such, not for songs. The first three works are part of her “Ancient Studies” cycle, and walk the line between mythic and contemporary, culminating perhaps most intensely in the third piece where a customer service phone call turns into a deeply personal hallucination. The final work featured here returns the poetic context inherent to much kabbalistic thought back into poetry, lightly swinging images and abstractions into a meditation on things most timeless.

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Bob Dylan Proves He's Still Got It in Tel Aviv

By Ben Shalev

Crossposted from Haaretz

Getty Images

Those who cast doubt on Bob Dylan’s ability to perform were forced to eat their words after his excellent performance Monday night.

What hasn’t been said about the old-timer’s performance skills? They said that he was tired, they warned that his voice has gone, they predicted a catastrophe similar to his 1987 performance, but all their warnings were unfounded.

It was not a perfect performance, but it exceeded the expectations of the most optimistic of Dylan’s fans. Whoever left the stadium disappointed arrived initially with unrealistic expectations.

Read more at Haaretz.com

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Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan!

By Stephen Hazan Arnoff

Getty Images

Seventy does not mean old or young. As Bob Dylan says in Floater:

The old men ’round here, sometimes they get
On bad terms with the younger men
But old, young, age don’t carry weight
It doesn’t matter in the end

In the imagination of the Jewish sages of Late Antiquity, 70 means quality, not quantity. It means wisdom and variety.

There are the 70 descendants of Noah, the 70 names of Jerusalem, and the 70 wise men of Jerusalem. Legend speaks of a gathering of 70 translators of the Hebrew Bible into Greek for the first time — hence the Septuagint. Most important are the 70 faces of the Torah.

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At 70, Bob Dylan Remains the Reluctant Prophet

By Seth Rogovoy

Getty Images

Bob Dylan turns 70 on May 24. So what? Well, for one, let’s see you continue to perform two-hour concerts 100 nights a year, as you’ve been doing practically nonstop for the past quarter-century or so, all over the world, keeping things new and fresh, while the music industry around you falls apart; your body is battered by so many aches and pains that you can barely hold a guitar, and your singing voice — never the greatest to begin with — is nothing but a hollow shell of what it once was. You’re lucky if you can even spit out the lyrics of songs from throughout your 50-year career in a talking voice, much less even remember them.

So that’s what. It’s incredibly impressive and unprecedented. Sure, B.B. King and Willie Nelson are older and have been at it longer, but those two have been phoning it in for at least two or three decades at this point. Only Bob Dylan continues to take the stage, night after night, for no apparent reason; it can’t be for the money, and he sure doesn’t seem to be having a good time. Yet he still delves deep into 30- and 40-year-old songs and discovers new nuances, previously overlooked twists and turns of phrase, seemingly channeling something far beyond the conventional rock concert experience in which an artist delivers renditions of greatest hits and some new songs so you might buy one of his more recent recordings.

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Out and About: Israeli Music for Syrian Protestors; The Shame of Playing Shylock

By Ezra Glinter

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Patrick Stewart will play Shylock in a new production by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
  • The Independent takes a look at Habonim, the Socialist Zionist youth group that was once home to Mike Leigh, David Baddiel and Sacha Baron Cohen.

  • The Brooklyn Rail revisits the work of Russian Jewish filmmaker Dziga Vertov, on the occasion of a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.

  • Israeli singer Amir Benayoun (profiled in the Forward here) has recorded a CD in Arabic that has been passed on to Syrian protestors.

  • The shame of Shylock: Patrick Stewart, Anthony Sher and others tell what it’s like to play Shakespeare’s most infamous role.

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Out and About: Eichmann, 50 Years Later; Israel on the (Art) World Stage

By Ezra Glinter

‘Kalkidan’ by Kehinde Wiley. Courtesy Roberts & Tilton.
  • Israeli authors such as David Grossman and Amos Oz are protesting their government’s decision to deport Palestinian bookstore owner Munther Fahmi.

  • A 2,000-year-old synagogue in the Libyan town of Yefren is said to have been destroyed by government forces.

  • On the 50th anniversary of the Eichmann Trial, Deborah E. Lipstadt looks at six of the trial’s most significant moments.

  • Los Angeles artist Kehinde Wiley has made Israel the subject of his new show.

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Out and About: Elizabeth Taylor's Best Roles; Translating Kabbalistic Poetry

By Ezra Glinter

Getty Images

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Out and About: Midrash and the Megillah; Einstein's Archives Unleashed

By Ezra Glinter

Poet Itzik Manger

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Why Matisyahu Is More Interesting Than His Music

By Mordechai Shinefield

Getty Images

Last week on an adorable TMZ segment, former Degrassi child actor and current ubiquitous pop radio presence Drake called himself “one of the best Jews to ever do it,” where “it” presumably meant spitting lines. Conveniently timed to coincide with the release of his new album, “Live at Stubb’s Vol. II,” peyot-sporting rap-reggae-pop singer Matisyahu fought back: “He happens to be Jewish just like Bob Dylan happened to be Jewish, but what I’m doing is really tapping into my roots and culture, and trying to blend that with the mainstream… Drake’s being Jewish is just a by-product.” Jay-Z vs. Nas Pt. II this is not (it’s not even Eminem vs. Insane Clown Posse quality), but it does raise a question that anyone writing and reading about Jewish music has to confront eventually: What is Jewish music?

A snarkier critic might point out that Matisyahu dueting with Evangelical Christian nu-metal rockers P.O.D. in 2006 did very little for his Jewish bona fides (the “Testify” album cover contained a giant crucifix in place of the second ‘t’) but I’ll just wonder aloud if Matisyahu returning to Stubb’s on an album indicates his own uncertainty about his Jewishness.

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