NASHVILLE, Tenn, May 25, (AP): In a year when the musical world is still mourning icons Prince, David Bowie and Merle Haggard, musicians of all genres and generations have been celebrating a still active legend — Bob Dylan — in an annual all-star concert series for 15 years.
This year’s two-day Dylan Fest, held in Nashville, Tennessee, includes classics like “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Tangled Up in Blue” and “All Along the Watchtower,” and performers such as Ann Wilson of Heart, Wynonna Judd, Emmylou Harris, Kacey Musgraves, Jason Isbell, Butch Walker and Kesha. The festivities kicked off Monday and more performers are slated for Tuesday — Dylan’s 75th birthday — at the historic Ryman Auditorium.
The performances are being livestreamed on AOL.com.
The Dylan Fest started at a bar the Lower East Side with a small group of friends getting together to sing his songs on his 60th birthday. Since then, the concert series has expanded to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin and Chicago, raised money for charities and included musical celebrations of other icons including Tom Petty, George Harrison, Fleetwood Mac and the Beach Boys.
“It’s quite a trend when someone dies to try to pay tribute to them,” said Dylan Fest organizer Austin Scaggs, a music writer and musician. “I like to celebrate when these people …are alive and I want them to know there is another generation behind them, or two generations now, that are feeling the same feeling about their music.”
A day after her impressive performance of Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me, Babe” at the Billboard Music Awards, pop singer Kesha was back in Nashville on Monday to deliver a standout version of Dylan’s gospel song “I Shall Be Released,” and got a standing ovation. She performed barefoot in a sparkly light blue suit.
The singer, who had hits with “Tik Tok” and “We R Who We R,” is part of what Scaggs likes to call the “Fest Family,” which also includes the Kings of Leon, Norah Jones, Dhani Harrison and Jakob Dylan.
“I sense a specialness about her, a uniqueness,” Scaggs of Kesha. “And I know that manifests itself with her acting crazy or acting wild, but the bottom line is she has an incredible voice and she has a real passion for music.”
Backstage the crowd of musicians waiting to perform was mostly young millennials from Americana, folk, indie rock and country, a second generation of Dylan fans.
“If you want to listen to great songs, instead of going to a thousand artists, you can just go to his catalog and find so many great ones,” said singer-songwriter Holly Williams, who sang his classic “The Times They Are A-Changin’” on Monday night.
“No matter how old, how young you are, we can all relate to the lines, ‘Come gather round people wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown,’” she said.
Paul McCartney said he began drinking heavily and almost quit music altogether after The Beatles broke up, in an interview due to air this week.
The music icon, now 73, admitted turning to alcohol to cope with the strain of leaving the Fab Four in April 1970, according to extracts of a BBC radio interview released Tuesday.
“I was breaking from my lifelong friends, not knowing whether I was going to continue in music,” McCartney said.
“I took to the bevvies (drinks). I took to a wee dram. It was great at first, then suddenly I wasn’t having a good time. It wasn’t working. I wanted to get back to square one, so I ended up forming Wings.”
Wings, which included McCartney’s wife Linda, formed in late 1971 and began by playing small unannounced gigs to students.
The band eventually enjoyed success, but McCartney acknowledged that some of the criticism levelled in the early years was valid, when his first wife, a novice musician, was still learning how to play the keyboard.
“To be fair we weren’t that good. We were terrible. We knew Linda couldn’t play but she learned and, looking back on it, I’m really glad we did it,” he said.
“I could have just formed a supergroup and rung up Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page and John Bonham, but we graduated from playing universities to town halls, which was quite funny as I’d been at Shea Stadium quite recently.”
McCartney, 73, said he was pleased he repaired his strained relationship with Beatles bandmate John Lennon before he was shot dead in 1980.
“I was really grateful that we got it back together before he died. Because it would have been very difficult to deal with if… well, it was very difficult anyway,” he said.
In 1982, McCartney wrote the song “Here Today” about Lennon.
After playing a section from it, he said: “I was thinking of all the things I never said to him. I’m quite private and don’t like to give too much away. Why should people know my innermost thoughts? But a song is the place to put them. In ‘Here Today’ I say to John, ‘I love you’.