Bob Dylan and the Poetry of the Blues

Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

> Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

If anyone had doubts about Bob Dylan's debt to the blues, they wouldn't have had by the end of Michael Gray's authoritative talk on Tuesday night.

The subject would be familiar to anyone who has read Gray's acclaimed analysis of Dylan's work, Song and Dance Man, but his fluent and funny delivery added life to his erudite tome.

Dylan's love of the acoustic country blues of the 1920s and 30s is evident in both his music and his lyrics, including many phrases we might think of as quirky Dylan originals. With obscure recordings and film footage, Gray showed how Pledging My Time built on Jimmy Reed's Odd and Ends, and how Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat adapted Lightnin' Hopkins's Automobile Blues, to name just two of many. In two fascinating hours, Gray took the audience from Dylan's youth in Minnesota, to creaky old age.

In a career characterised by sharp changes of direction that have by turn enthralled and infuriated his fans, Gray showed that Dylan's use of the blues has been a rare constant. In doing so he managed to add to our understanding of both Dylan's work and the songs that have inspired him.

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