bob dylan

Merle or Bob, Marcia or Laurie


Apparently, Bob Dylan gave a speech the other night that was generally well received, but made headlines for a couple of digs Mr. Zimmerman directed at some of his musical peers. Dylan said some condescending things about Leiber & Stoller and Tom T. Hall and had this to say about Merle Haggard:

“[He] didn’t even think much of my songs. I know he didn’t. He didn’t say that to me, but I know way back when he didn’t. Buck Owens did, and he recorded some of my early songs,” Dylan said. “Together Again, that’s Buck Owens. And that trumps anything else out of Bakersfield. Buck Owens or Merle Haggard, if you had to have somebody’s blessing, you can figure it out.”

This is a pretty juvenile thing, if you ask me. But who doesn’t like a good manufactured controversy? Alas, Merle did not take the bait.

Growing up in the 60s and 70s I remember all the false binaries of the day. The great fault lines: Beatles or Stones, Lennon or McCartney, Ginger or Mary Anne, MARCIA BRADY or LAURIE PARTRIDGE!!!! Was this kind of thinking symptomatic of adolescence or did it have something to do with the era itself? Maybe it is something in Boomer DNA?

One can only speculate what went through Dylan’s mind when he chose to call out the only living songwriter whose body of work eclipses his (and hey, maybe that’s the reason right there).  Here’s my blinding glimpse of the obvious for everybody: You don’t have to choose one or the other.  You can have your Haggard and Dylan too! Still, it’s a little saddening to have any kind of harsh words between these two Giants of American Song.

Allow me to imagine this dream scenario: Dylan, seeing his words in print and realizing they were a bit harsh, reaches out to Haggard and they make a record together. I see an opportunity here.


While we’re on the subject of the Merle, want to share this fascinating find from a 1972 documentary (terrible quality, alas) featuring Haggard wandering through an abandoned labor camp. What swagger the dude had back then!

Phil Ochs’ birthday: You know what they say, or you don’t

I’m strongly of the opinion that Phil Ochs’ “Love Me I’m a Liberal,” as timeless as it is, could use an update.

There is this one, from Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon, good as far as it goes, but a lot has happened since 2007. There’s Schumer, there’s Clooney, there’s Kerry on a surfboard, there’s Bill,there’s Hillary (lots of Hillary!), but it would be nice to have a verse or two about the current occupant of the White House, who probably wasn’t even on Jello Biafra’s radar in 2007.

Here also, for comparison, Phil’s version:

AND, Todd Snider doing a beautiful version of his great song “Thin Wild Mercury,” about the time Dylan kicked Phil out of his limo for “speakin’ his mind.” (It’s pretty stripped down: the studio take is much more uptempo.)

Happy Birthday, Phil.  We could have used you the past few years…..

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