Nobel Winners Fo and Dylan Pass in the Night
They are a matched pair, Bob Dylan in Oslo for the Nobel Prize, and Dario Fo, who already had a Nobel Prize, on his way to the Great Beyond for a reunion with Franca Rame.
Dylan and Fo, a couple of troublemakers. Dylan upset the establishment with his macaw singing voice and his confrontational lyrics; Fo upset entire nations with his anarchic words.
Which one of them wrote, “Something is happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Signore Rossi?”
My wife saw Rame, a true survivor, on stage in London a few decades ago, performing a short Fo play about a woman locked in her apartment by her husband, wearing a shortie negligee, ironing endlessly. It was an allegory.
After that, we cheered when the United States lifted a 15-year ban on Fo and Rame for their political views. (What, you think Trump invented this stuff?) They were heroes to us for thumbing their noses at convention, and hardship.
Dylan was more accessible here in the Stati Uniti, honking on his harmonica, rasping into the microphone, an outsider.
I have never met Dylan, exactly, but I annoyed the heck out of him in 1974 when I covered the great tour by him and The Band. Dylan did not do interviews but Bill Graham, the great promoter, slipped me into a highly secure sound check in an empty Madison Square Garden. I mean, even ushers and security people had to wait outside. But I was crouched down behind a chair, observing Zim as he checked out the acoustics and the lighting, uneventfully, as I described in my early space-holder story.
That evening, the joint was throbbing, like when Clyde and Willis were at their best. Dylan came out on stage and in a rare aside to the audience, he rasped it was “An honnuh to be here.” Wow! Dylan speaks!
That night, after a knockout show, Dylan was back in his hotel suite, perusing the early edition of the Times. He reached for the phone and called David Geffen, the uber-promoter, in Europe, to report: He Had Been Observed.
Dylan was so mad that the next day Graham sidled up to me and said he had to tell them that I sneaked in there on my own. Absolutely, Bill, I said.
I’ve always been proud that an innocuous little early story could spur Dylan into phone rage.
Now he is a Nobel winner, deservedly, for all the songs he gave us.
The best description Dylan was written by Joan Baez in Diamonds and Rust,” describing their love affair between “the unwashed phenomenon” and “the Madonna” who was his for free.
One of the most romantic sentences in pop music:
“Speaking strictly for me
We both could have died then and there.”
Then Baez sums up her vision of Dylan:
“Now you're telling me
You're not nostalgic
Then give me another word for it
You who are so good with words
And at keeping things vague
Because I need some of that vagueness now
It's all come back too clearly
Yes I loved you dearly
And if you're offering me diamonds and rust
I've already paid.”
Dylan and Baez, matched in their temporary way. I like to think of Fo and Rame, performing again.
10/13/2016 09:10:28 pm
Nice piece. I am a big Dylan fan but have nothing to add to the vast body of great critical and fan appreciations. Hopefully my dad will show up and post something because he and my mom had a bit of a front row seat at the beginning.
10/14/2016 09:40:04 am
Hi, Josh. Waiting to hear from Alan on this one.
10/14/2016 09:32:19 am
Apropos of Bob Dylan and Dario Fo:
10/14/2016 09:46:53 am
Bruce, thanks. We have a long history of heads-in-sand.
10/14/2016 09:50:23 am
I've always regarded Dylan, Simon, Woody G as poets writing in the grandest meter....song. The Nobel folks have validated that idea. Fo at least co-writes in that famous Italian hand language so I could understand a bit of it!
10/14/2016 01:56:46 pm
10/14/2016 10:41:36 am
Brian, thanks. I agree with a lot of what you say, but in Brazil, Lula and Dilma both fell way short of claims of change. As often happens with revolution. Dare I say Cuba? I get leery when I hear revolution. But shaking things up? That's what Dylan and Fo do.
10/14/2016 02:48:22 pm
George, revolutions are rough, but can have a silver lining. I don't know the condition of the streets you grew up with in Queens, but when I grew up in New Jersey, I was pleased to read an old letter by Leon Trotsky to the American people in which he had promised:
10/14/2016 03:24:17 pm
Brian: my parents walked on 168 st. Queens In front of the Newhouse Cossacks. GV
10/14/2016 03:52:13 pm
11/30/2016 05:07:28 am
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From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.