Friday, February 28, 2014

Van Morrison's Moondance

Photo image by Elliott Landy, from allmusic

Into the Mystic and Moondance were early hits of this talented singer. Other great songs were Come Running and These Dreams of You.

Born in Belfast, he released his first album at age 23. He never looked back, or at the critics.

"Born to sing, no Plan B," says Van Morrison's website. In recent weeks, he has performed in Cardiff, Bristol and Brighton.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cat Stevens

Image from Biography.com

In the late sixties when my closest friend got married, she and her husband to be asked me to sing at their wedding. I could not turn down the honour, but it was certainly a challenge to sing Morning has Broken, by Cat Stevens.

In the event, the pianist stumbled and left me hanging. We got back on track somehow, and the wedding went ahead, no doubt without anyone noticing the flaws in the music.

The former Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam, sings here to honour Muhammad Yunus for his Nobel Peace Prize. Islam's website describes him as a "humanitarian and education philanthropist."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ian and Sylvia Tyson

Image from critics at large

An early and great hit of this duo was the release in 1964 of Ian Tyson's composition, Four Strong Winds.

This song hit a nerve and was later this sung by many others including John Denver, Bobby Bare, The Brothers Four, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, The Kingston Trio, Sarah McLachlan, Neil Young Blue Rodeo and The Seekers.

This duo, once a married couple, made hits with The Mighty Quinn and Farewell to the North, a song I played over and over in my second winter in Vancouver, spent mostly alone in my "garrett" on West 43rd near Dunbar. It gave me a pleasing frisson of homesickness for the North I'd left to come and study in the city. Other hit were The Renegade, London Life and This Wheel's on Fire.

After their divorce, Sylvia joined three other women singers to form a group called Quartette. Spring of 45 is a joyful little tune about a soldier who returns safely from the war. Also, in 2011, Sylvia published a novel called Joyner's Dream.

Meanwhile, Ian Tyson carries on with his separate musical career. Last year he appeared in Toronto and Wyoming. This year he is scheduled to sing in several locations around Alberta, Washington and Oregon.

Back in the day, he sang the old hit Summer Wages with Sylvia and Emmy Lou Harris. Very dated now, it still has a good sound.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pete Seeger

Image of Pete Seeger from The Rolling Stone

Pete Seeger was part of the folk scene from the late forties. By the mid-fifties, he was in trouble for views expressed in early protest songs: he was  black-listed by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee.

During the sixties, his pacifism and support of the civil rights movement made him a folk hero. With his banjo, he sang for the underdog: from migrant farm workers and union men. At the beginning of the folk wave, he formed the Weavers in 1948.

Among  his most famous songs were Goodnight Irene and his own composition Where have all the Flowers Gone? With Lee Hays, he co-wrote If I had a Hammer; in the sixties, everyone sang that.

Seeger lived to the ripe old age, and died last month aged 94 after a brief stay in a New York hospital. According to CBC, his granddaughter later reported that only ten days earlier, he had been chopping wood. In 2012, when he was 92, his lifetime of work was recognized by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which awarded him a Distinguished Service Award.

In spite of the government having banned his singing on radio forty years earlier, in 1996, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Connie Kaldor and Moonlight Grocery

Image from picatic

Like Joni Mitchell and Buffy Ste Marie, Connie Kaldor is a Canadian singer with roots in the prairies. Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, she was educated in theatre at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

Kaldor is a pianist, guitarist and singer whose loveliest music evokes prairies scenes. A personal favourite is Wood River, a song of consolation for a troubled time. Saskatoon Moon  and The Canoe Song also evoke the prairie landscape.

Caldor also excels at songs that portray the socio-cultural history of her home region of Canada. Arguably the best of these is Batoche, which evokes the Riel Rebellions and the culture of the Metis.

Moonlight Grocery and Wanderlust express the restlessness of a small-town girl seeking a bigger life. "Every once in awhile, in a woman's life, she's got to pack her bags, and hit that trail...."

Harsh and Unforgiving portrays the hard life of the Saskatchewan farmer, expressed in the immortal line, "one eye on the banker and the other on the sky."

Kaldor has also done a lot of songs for children. A multiple Juno winner, she continues to do concerts. In April she'll be in Chicago, and Fort Macleod, Alberta.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Simon and Garfunkel

Image: Alive radio, Australia

Last week, Paul Simon sang in Vancouver with British rocker Sting, formerly of the well-known band The Police. I was not at that concert, but when Paul Simon sang with Art Garfunkel back in the day, I listened to all their music.

Simon and Garfunkel hit the ground running with Sounds of Silence in 1966. The eponymous track of that album was  described by Art Garfunkel as a song about the failure of communication. It's been preserved in the US Library of Congress, one of only 25 to be selected for that honor.

Listening again as the 50th anniversary of this release  approaches, I feel deep admiration for the lyrics of Paul Simon. His lines are courageous, versatile and subtle, and their enduring poeticism can serve, to borrow a phrase, as a Bridge over Troubled Water.

The Boxer tells the story of a "poor boy" whose "story's seldom told." This humble man shares the profound understanding that "a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."

In the Fourth Avenue apartment I shared with two fellow-students in 1969, this song formed a backdrop to a favour done for a friend. I hand-hemmed a pair of blue and white bell-bottoms with  unconscionably wide stripes. My roommate and I deemed my friend Mike looked groovy wearing his freshly hemmed pants and his new gold-framed granny glasses. In fact, like Simon and Garfunkel in their song, we were all "feeling groovy."

Depending on your interpretation, the lyrics of Me and Julio down by the Schoolyard refer obliquely to prevailing social and legal sanctions against either political activism, interracial friendships, pre-marital sex or homosexuality, all matters of great social disapproval in that era.

Mrs. Robinson is a song about a woman who might be called a cougar today. It gained fame as part of the score for The Graduate, a comic film of the era, starring a young Dustin Hoffman and the older woman, Anne Bancroft. The darkly comedic opening lines are pure genius: "We'd like to know a little bit about you for our files. We'd like to help you learn to help yourself." The paternalism harks back to the dark shadow of McCarthyism and forward to history in the making.

This duo had many hits and their songs were incredibly varied, even including a lovely rendition of the British traditional ballad Scarborough Fair.

In 2010, when Simon and Garfunkel headlined at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Art Garfunkel was having trouble with his voice; now, reports the Rolling Stone, it is "96% back."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Stan Rogers

Image from CBC Music

Stan Rogers, a Canadian musician of towering talent, died in a plane crash at the tragically young age of 34 . In 2013, thirty years after his death, his fellow musicians remembered him in an event called Rise Again, a reference to a line from his well-loved ballad, The Mary Ellen Carter.

Stan wrote and sang of Canadian regions, history and experience. He captured the national obsession with the Northwest Passage in a song of that name, and he crooned ballads of the farmers, fishers and other ordinary folk in their daily work.

Lies is a heartfelt paean to an aging ranch wife and mother, with her life of "toil and care." Looking into the mirror, she sees the lines of encroaching age, but soon shakes off her mood, telling herself the mirror is telling lies as she thinks about the Legion dance she'll soon attend with her husband.

The Field Behind the Plough is another great classic, portraying, as it does, the life of a farmer who thinks about his dead ailing fellow farmers, his tight finances, and his wife and kids as he ploughs the field to "put another season's promise in the ground."

Fogarty's Cove a song of exuberant return to the fiddle and dance culture of his Nova Scotian roots and Barrett's Privateers is a rousing historic ballad about the perils of piracy.

Definitely among Stan's best loved tunes is Forty-Five Years, a love song to a wife whose smiling face he will still want to see "forty-five years from now." Tragically, Stan died long before reaching age of forty-five, let alone sharing a marriage of that length.

A year after his death, the Canadian Conference of the Arts posthumously awarded Stan Rogers the Diplome d'Honneur. Most strangely, he still has not been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, in spite of many public requests that this be done. Here's a video with a song by John Gorka expressing the public dismay at this astonishing omission.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Lightfoot: from The Canadian Railroad Trilogy to Bobby McGee

Image from Canadian Music Hall of Fame

When I was young in rural Alberta, my parents subscribed to a newspaper called the Winnipeg Free Press, a farmer's paper.

That paper continued to arrive in the mail when we moved to BC. In fact, I got a free teddy bear when my father extended the subscription by another five years.

It was in this paper that I read about Gordon Lightfoot's early ambitions to become the most famous Canadian folksinger. Impressed by his determination, I watched his rise to fame.

By the time I started at UBC, he had put out the Canadian Railroad Trilogy, a historo-cultural document sung for Canada's Centennial in 1967. In 2010 it became a book.

Lightfoot went on to write and sing many more hits, from romantic lyrics to If You Could Read my Mind, Love and Song for a Winter's Night to lonesome rambler ballads like For Lovin' Me, Bobby McGee and Early Morning Rain. That was playing on the local radio station on a hot summer day when as a teen I made my first saskatoon pie with wild berries.

I listened to his songs and sang them over and over, and even my mother expressed a liking for "that fellow who sings about the old roof leaking." She was referring to Did She Mention my Name?

Other artists who have sung his songs include Elvis Presley, Paul Anka, Bob Dylan, Richie Havens, Judy Collins and Peter, Paul and Mary.

For his great musical output, Gordon Lightfoot has been awarded with both the Officer and Companion awards of the Order of Canada. He has also earned 17 Juno Awards, and in 2007, his face was put on a Canadian postage stamp.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Leonard Cohen

Image from The Guardian Music blog

Today, the Arts Club Theatre's production, The Chelsea Hotel, opens at the Surrey Arts Centre. This show features the songs of Leonard Cohen.

Cohen has been part of the music scene for a long time. He also wrote an experimental novel,  Beautiful Losers, and has published two other novels as well as books of poetry.

One folksinger friend back in the day used the epithet "Six-note Leonard" in an ironic reference to his unvarying melodies, but we sang his songs all the same.

And so did lots of famous people. Suzanne was one of Cohen's early hits, evoking a black and white photo of a run-down neighbourhood in his home town of Montreal. Judy Collins slso made this song a hit. Another early song was Famous Blue Raincoat, sung by Cohen himself and also by Jennifer Warnes. This was only the beginning of a long musical career.

Leonard Cohen is still writing and singing songs. In 2012 he toured North America and Europe, last summer he was back in Europe and in the fall he performed in Australia and New Zealand.

In 2013, he also won a Juno as Artist of the Year and another as Songwriter of the Year. His album Old Ideas was nominated for the Fonogram Hungarian Music Awards.

Post-show note: The group of six that performed Chelsea Hotel sang all the classics mentioned above and more, showcasing Leonard Cohen's versatility and moving the audience effortlessly from laughter to seriousness, for instance with these trenchant words of social criticism:

"I don't like your fashion business, Mister. I don't like those drugs that keep you thin.
I don't like what happened to my sister. First we take Manhattan -- then we take Berlin."

I waited for Bird on a Wire, and was rewarded. It was the fitting end of a lively evening of music, dance and various other antics.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Carly Simon's hit You're so Vain

Carly Simon poses between Paul and Linda McCartney, posted on a recent tweet by Carly.

Is she being vain, boasting of her association with the famous ex-Beatle?

I'll always remember how her taunting lyrics from You're so Vain came to my mind when many years ago I walked into the Yale Hotel with a friend to hear some music, and caught him admiring himself in the mirror that lined the wall. Thought about Carly's lyrics:

"You're so vain. You probably think this song is about you. Don't you? Don't you?" She was not above criticizing vanity in others. But then, who is?

But who was Carly addressing? Cat Stevens or Mick Jagger or Kris Kristofferson maybe? Not James Taylor; she'd just married him. It seems she'll never tell, but she does like to keep the rumours alive.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A lullaby for Sweet Baby James and a dirge for a suicide

Record cover image from allmusic

In 1970, Taylor sang his cowboy lullaby Sweet Baby James on BBC, and it became a huge hit. It's folksy and bluesy and it has a whiff of country about it too.

Here he sings it in 2008, and explains how he came to write it for his new baby nephew, also called James.

A hit song with a completely different background and mood is Fire and Rain, written after a fellow inmate killed herself at a mental institution where Taylor spent some time.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Tapestry woven by Carole King

Album cover image from whitgunnfreeservers

King was a songwriter whose lyrics were sung by numerous artists long before she became a star. For Aretha Franklin, King and her first husband, Gerry Goffin, wrote You Make me Feel Like a Natural Woman.

For Bobby Vee, the pair composed Take Good Care of My Baby, and Will You Love me Tomorrow was originally composed for the Shirelles. This song was also sung by the late Amy Winehouse on the soundtrack to Bridget Jones' Diary.

Her composition You've Got a Friend was made a hit by James Taylor, who was friends with King and Joni Mitchell in Laurel Canyon after King and Goffin divorced. Here, much later, Taylor and King sing this song together.

Carole King's Tapestry album, which came out in 1971, hit the top and stayed there for fifteen weeks, remaining on the charts for six whole years, a record not beaten until Michael Jackson came along with Thriller in 1982.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

In California, Joni Mitchell longs for a frozen river

1968 image from MTV hive

Joni Mitchell was the girl from Saskatchewan who became an international star. Six decades of amazing artistic production, included painting, ballet, 167 songs and 18 albums.

I loved her early music, especially The Circle Game. My favourite album Blue, was reissued last year as part of a boxed set; its song River evoked skating on frozen creeks and ponds.

Mitchell's songs were deeply personal; many of these evoked the sadness of love gone wrong, and a lot of people could relate. She wrote fearlessly about homesickness and even mental disturbance. Among the many artists who have sung her songs are Judy Collins, Nanaimo-born jazz singer Diana Krall,  Prince, and another Canadian, Sarah McLachlin.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Early Mick Jagger as a folkie and balladeer

Charlie Brooker image of a young Mick Jagger from the Mirror

Before he became the world's most famous rock and roller, Mick Jagger was a young, innocent and romantic balladeer.

As Tears Go By was a song of this period. Jagger and Marianne Faithfull were once very close.

Here's an early version of the bluesy Angie.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tragic Valentine: Joan Baez sings the pain of love

Image from The Melbourne Review

In the sixties, Joan Baez became the Queen of Folk to Bob Dylan's King. Both cared deeply about social justice issues and became known for their protest songs.

Now in her seventies, Baez has continued to share her voice and lyrics, speaking out for those with no voice of their own.

Baez sang folk ballads, Dylan songs, and her own compositions. How do I approach the gargantuan task of naming the hit songs of Joan Baez? I cnnot possibly express the effect she has had on the world of music. Fortunately, her songs speak for themselves.

In no particular order, my list might begin with an early version of Guantanamera. Then, since it is Valentine's Day, we may go on to tragic romance.

That in turn reminds me of the tragic traditional ballad Plaisir d'Amour, sung here in 1966, and another traditional ballad, I Never Will Marry. And of course, there was the lonely Jesse, and the disillusioned Dylan song Love is a Four-letter Word.

Love Song to a Stranger raises the one-night stand to high art, speaking of "passionate strangers who rescue each other from a lifetime of care."

In real life, Joan Baez did marry. Although the couple had a son, the couple did not stay together. She sings to young Gabriel and his little friends in the song Children and all that Jazz.

Diamonds and Rust is an apostrophe to Dylan. She sang many of his songs, including Boots of Spanish Leather and Forever Young.

Before she sings Amazing Grace at a 1985 Live Aid famine relief concert, she is introduced by, of all people, Jack Nicholson. Using her voice alone, she leads the huge crowd to join her in song.

To close, here Baez sings Gracias a la vida, a paean to life.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mimi and Farina sing Pack up Your Sorrows

Cover image from Ace Records

Mimi Baez, younger sister of Joan Baez, was also a singer. In 1963, aged eighteen, she married Richard Farina. With Richard's dulcimer, they produced a unique sound.

As well as Pack up Your Sorrows, this talented duo sang Richard's composition about the racial killings in Alabama, Birmingham Sunday, later sung by many others.

They also sang Pete Seeger's House of Un American Activities Blues Activity Dream, which pillories McCarthyism.

Richard Farina was born in Brooklyn and died tragically before his 30th birthday in a motorcycle accident in 1966. By then he had also published a novel, Been Down so Long it Looks Like up to me.

Beginning in 1974, Mimi Farina worked with prisoners and other shut-ins, bringing free live music into institutions through a charity called Bread and Roses. Mimi died of cancer in Mill Valley, California in 2001. She was only 56.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Both Sides Now by Judy Collins

Image from mlive

Both Sides Now, a Joni Mitchell song recorded in 1967 by singer-songwriter Judy Collins, was one of her early hits. Collins was part of the scene in Greenwich Village and on the folk circuit, singing old ballads like Silver Dagger, from the late sixties through the seventies.

Send in the Clowns was a Grammy Winner and Song of the Year for 1975. Other hits included Chelsea Morning and Turn Turn Turn (1966). Along with traditional ballads, Collins sang songs by Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Phil Ochs, Gordon Lightfoot (Early Morning Rain), and Leonard Cohen (Suzanne).

Born in Seattle and raised in Denver, Collins was drawn away from her expected career track as a concert pianist by the music scene of the sixties, and she soon became an icon of that scene.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Otis Redding watches the tide roll away

Otis Redding image from rockhall

In the mid-sixties, Otis Redding of Macon, Georgia, hit a nerve with Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.

Tragically, his musical career lasted only a few short years. Along with his fellow band members, he died in 1968 when his small plane crashed in a lake.

Redding left behind a huge musical legacy. In 2007 his widow Zelma established The Otis Redding Foundation, devoted to "progress through education," and "enlightenment through music."

In 2013, Lonely and Blue was released in Europe. The King of Soul box set is scheduled for release this February, in celebration of Black History month.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Those were the days by Mary Hopkin

Image from nndb

The innocent face of Welsh singer Mary Hopkin evokes another age, and may inspire the comment that was the title of her song. Those were the days -- when the idols of the day were long-haired sweet-voiced girls like Mary. Hopkin sang all through her childhood, spent near Swansea. She was a performing folksinger at age 17. Her brief biography can be found on BBC.

After performing Turn Turn Turn on a talent show called Opportunity Knocks in 1968, she became a sensation. This version of her huge hit was sung in France in 1969.

Today Mary Hopkin can be found on Facebook.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A World of our Own

Image of The Seekers from milesago

The Australian quartet the Seekers had a great hit in A World of our Own.

According to the Express, Seekers vocalist Judith Durham "defies illness" to participate in the upcoming 50th Anniversary tour that will launch in Cardiff in April.

Some great Seekers hits include Georgy Girl, Morningtown Ride, I'll Never Find Another You, and The Last Thing on my Mind.

Song writer Tom Paxton sang that song in 1966 here. Much later, he and Liam Clancy sang it together.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Piney Wood Hills

Image of Buffy Ste. Marie from Magnet Magazine

And speaking of Buffy Ste. Marie, as I was yesterday, makes me think of one of my all-time favourite songs of hers, The Piney Wood Hills.

Buffy is a Cree woman from Saskatchewan. As her website says, she "virtually invented the role of Native American international activist pop star." One of her greatest works was the song Now that the Buffalo's Gone, which speaks of the slaughter of the animal that had such physical and cultural importance to the Aboriginal people of the North American plains.

As well as sustaining a long career of composing, singing and television work, Buffy Ste. Marie paints and works with her philanthropic organization, the Cradleboard Teaching Project, where she designs curriculum that uses multimedia to educate through Native American cultural perspectives.

 Forty-five years in the music business, she has spring concerts coming up in Winnipeg, Swift Current and Lloydminster.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Donovan tries to Catch the Wind

Album cover image from donovan-unofficial.com

Released in 1965, Catch the Wind also caught the imagination and spirit of the times.

The sad ballad called Donna Donna -- "On a wagon, bound for market, there's a calf with a mournful eye..."-- came out on the same album, and was a great favourite of our high school folksinging club leader, a teacher called Don Hitchcock from Australia. (As the baby boom hit high school, many teachers were recruited from outside Canada to fill the need.)

Donovan was born in Glasgow, Scotland. His other early hits included Try for the Sun, a paean to the power of youth and innocence, and Colours, and he did a popular version of Buffy Ste. Marie's Universal Solider as well.

My own memories of Donovan include spilling lemon yogurt in my purse after I hastily tucked an opened container of it in there when the London Tube train stopped at Goodge Street. My mission? To see the "Sunny Goodge Street" Donovan mentioned in his song. I duly saw it, and it was indeed sunny that day. I returned to my hotel, The Garden in Knightsbridge, where I cleaned out my purse. That was a messy job, but my day ended with a happy sense of accomplishment at having seen what I wanted to see.

Donovan is still making music, and has recently published his autobiography.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Je Ne Regrette Rien

Image from Paris Attitude

Edith Piaf, the "little songbird" who rose from the gutters of Paris to share her gorgeous voice also wrote great lyrics.

In this profoundly moving song, she speaks of her philosophy of living without regret for the past, feeling chagrin for "ni le bien qu'on ma fait, ni le mal, tout ca m'est bien egale." It's all one to me, she says.

In 1983, a small theatre on Thurlow Street called City Stage produced a play called Piaf: her Songs, her Loves, directed by Ray Michal.  This electrifying performance launched the career of Joelle Rabu, who played the lead role.

Seeing that production started my Piaf craze. For years in my twenties, alone in a little house on the east side, I danced around the small living room, singing along with a record of Piaf. To this day, the only time my French sounds reasonably accented is when I sing the lyrics of Edith Piaf.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Angel of the Morning

Merrilee Rush image from Chucky G

Heard now, the lyrics of Angel of the Morning reveal a different ethos regarding how a woman viewed herself.

Merrilee Rush sang the original hit version; it came out in 1968. Crystal Gayle also did the song, as did Juice Newton and Skeeter Davis. It retains an innocent appeal, but a song that once sounded poignant now sounds historic.

Time passes, and suddenly we look back and see the divide we've crossed. The way we used to see ourselves and others has passed into history.

The song was written by Chip Taylor, who sang it again last May.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mason Williams and the smoothing iron

Album cover image from Mason Williams online

Mason Williams still plays a fine classical guitar. When I was introduced to his music in the sixties, my favourites were an old folk song called Dashing Away with a Smoothing Iron and his wonderful guitar arrangement of Greensleeves.

Classical Gas was another great hit, as was the theme song for a popular TV comedy show at the time, the Smothers Brothers.
 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Desiderata

Image from Fine Art America

"Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence." This good advice is from the Desiderata (Latin for what is desired), a cultural touchstone of the sixties generation of hippies, and those who identified with their values.

Many hung this prose poem, by American Max Ehrmann, on their walls in form of posters, and it was often quoted.

Even Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau referred to it after the Liberal Party lost the 1972 election, consoling his disappointed political supporters by reminding them that whether or not they knew it, "no doubt the universe [was] unfolding as it should."

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Times, they are a'Changin'

Recent image of Dylan from Sunday Mercury

After Bob Dylan wrote and sang it, this song and its title became a watchword for a generation and more.

The phrase found its way to the lips of many, whether or not they knew of its origin. In the sixties, it was used by the youth to address an older generation seen as morally bankrupt.

Protest songs like this one sounded a warning that things could not continue as they were. Like Dylan's Masters of War, this ballad spoke against the way the world was being run, and this notion resonated powerfully.

The phrase caught on and came into common use. Last week it was used by Claude Sauhel as the title of a political analysis of Middle East history in the Huffington Post.

Five days ago, it was used by Mark Binelli in the Rolling Stone. Again it was an article title, this time in reference to  the remarkable reign of Pope Francis, which has seen a radical departure from the customary ways of Popes.

Yet the poetic voice of Dylan came from a place of mystery. In 2013 he gave an interview where he talked about his creative process -- how some of his most famous songs "were almost magically written," in a way he still doesn't understand.

Dylan denies being "the archbishop of anarchy," or any kind of prophet, but he did use his art to express his passion for justice, and he famously composed a hard-hitting song about the framing of Hurricane Carter. In 2004, he published Volume I of his memoirs, Chronicles (Simon and Schuster), to great acclaim.

Uniquely, his song lyrics garnered a nomination for the Nobel Prize for literature. He didn't win, but the punters bet on him big time, according to The Guardian.

According to Uncut, Chronicles Volume II is underway and expected to come out this year.