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Thank you, Mr Dylan, for enriching my playlist

A new Bob Dylan interview leads this listener down a rabbit hole of new and old music

A personal collection of love letters written by Bob Dylan to his high school sweetheart in the late 1950s. Image via AP
A personal collection of love letters written by Bob Dylan to his high school sweetheart in the late 1950s. Image via AP

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I think it was about 50 years ago when my father, who would have turned 102 a few weeks back, made me listen to the 19th century Czech composer Antonin Dvořák’s Moravian Duets, a cycle of 23 Moravian folk poetry sung in two voices and set against an accompaniment of a piano. To my rebellious teenage ears, more tuned to the Beatles than to operatic singing styles, it was alien and, I must confess, also a bit irritating. But I remember how he painstakingly tried to make me pronounce Dvořák’s name correctly—sadly, it is something that I still can’t do.

Over the years I had forgotten about Dvořák and that listening session with Baba until the end of last month when I read an interview with an 81-year-old man where he mentioned how he had just discovered the Moravian Duets although it is over 100 years old. The 81-year-old man is Bob Dylan and the lengthy interview, a rare one for him to do, was to the Wall Street Journal and was related to the most recent book that Dylan has written—The Philosophy of Modern Song.

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The interview has created ripples in the media everywhere with his insightful quotes and his intriguingly thoughtful musings about everything from songwriting techniques, the internet, social media and contemporary musicians and their works excerpted in other publications and in various languages across the world.

What inspired me in that Dylan interview is his response to questions about how he discovers new music today and what are the new and old musicians and bands that he likes. Dylan’s responses are fascinating and, while some of what he said are his favourite new musicians can seem surprising—he likes Eminem, for instance, and has attended two Metallica gigs—there are so many cues I picked up from his interview to follow up and discover great new musicians.

Such as, for instance, Zach Deputy. In the interview Dylan said that he had discovered Deputy recently and that he was a one-man band. Not having heard of the man, I checked the young musician out—he’s from Savannah in Georgia and he describes his music as "island-infused drum n' bass gospel ninja soul”. I listened to a few of his songs and they are filled with fresh, satisfying newness: there’s a touch of calypso, funk, and even hip hop. Deputy, naturally, was thrilled about Dylan mentioning him and on his Instagram account posted a photo of himself with the caption: “Bob Dylan has been listening to your boy!! I am honoured”.

The musicians Dylan said that he has been listening to nowadays include a few that I already know such as the reputed rappers, the Wu-Tang Clan, from Staten Island, who have been highly influential and pioneering in the genre. Their Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), released in 1993, is among the genre’s all time best albums. He also mentioned Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Jack White, and the Arctic Monkeys’ main man, Alex Turner.

Then there were the ones that I wasn’t quite so familiar with. Dylan said he’s a fan of Royal Blood, a British hard blues rock duo whose most recent album, Typhoons, I checked out and quickly put the band on my growing list of favourites. They make heavy-ish guitar rock that is hook-filled and fittingly good for evenings.

Another British musician Dylan named was Rag ‘n’ Bone Man (birth name Rory Graham) who, I am ashamed to say, I hadn’t heard of even though his top songs on Spotify have upwards of 600 million listens. Rag ‘n’ Bone Man is a neo-blues singer with a deep baritone voice that is accompanied with electronic music and hip hop-style beats3well worth exploring.

The interview with Dylan also took me back to very old music. The octogenarian legend mentioned that once one of his grandchildren who was eight at the time asked him whether he had ever met the Andrew Sisters and heard their song Rum and Coca Cola. Dylan told her that he hadn’t and had wondered where the child had heard of them. The Andrew Sisters were from the 1940s and I discovered that the Rum and Coca Cola song was a calypso-type tune with a risque (for that era) lyrics that go: “Since the Yankee come to Trinidad/ They got the young girls all goin' mad/ Young girls say they treat 'em nice/ Make Trinidad like paradise.” Another of his grandkids once asked him whether he had written the song Oh Susanna, which was actually written by Stephen Foster, known as the father of American music, back in the 1840s.

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The interview took me on a time travel journey back into the past. I discovered the music of Meade “Lux” Lewis, a boogie-woogie style pianist, from 1939-40; I got to know Teddy Bunn, an acoustic jazz guitarist of the 1930s; and Sid Cattlet, a drummer from the 1940s and got to listen to a compilation titled Complete Jazz Series (1944-46), featuring him and several of that era’s great jazz musicians.

There’s so much more in the Dylan interview to cherish, and so many musicians mentioned that I am dying to discover. And, of course, there are the quotes. Such as the one about Ringo Starr. Says Dylan: “I love Ringo. He’s not a bad singer, and he’s a great musician. If I’d had him as a drummer, I would’ve been the Beatles, too.” I am sure he had a seriously deadpan expression when he said that.

The Lounge List (Five tracks to bookend your week)

Home by Zach Deputy from Out Of The Water

Linger Awhile by Sid Catlett from Complete Jazz Series (1944-1946)

Out of the Black by Royal Blood from Royal Blood

Fireflies by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man from Life By Misadventure

Rum and Coca Cola by The Andrews Sisters (1944 single version)

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