On May 24, 2021, Bob Dylan turns 80. A great moment for a VPRO podcast series about the legend, under the name The Bobcast.
Dylan is probably the most important pop musician and lyricist of the last sixty years and a cultural-social icon that knows no equal. Dylan’s impact can hardly be overestimated: from his performance alongside Martin Luther King, during the March on Washington in 1963, to his last performance in the Netherlands, where he amazed Amsterdam with a Sinatra repertoire.
Reason enough for the VPRO to make a beautiful podcast series.
‘In the run-up to that 80th anniversary, we try to unravel the mystery of Dylan in the 26-part fortnightly podcast series De Bobcast. In talks with a wide variety of Dutch artists, musicians and other Dylan-adepts, we deal with as many aspects of the artist Dylan as possible: the lyricist, the musician, the stage artist, the political, the religious and the personal Dylan, the young and the old Dylan. Dylan: the chronicler of Americana’.
The versatile Dylan
Bob Dylan knows how to reinvent himself over and over again and to surprise his audience. As a committed folkie with songs like “Blowin’ in The Wind” and “The Times they are a-changin”. As an electro-rocker, vilified by his first fans. As country-artist and stadium-minstreel. From Born Again Christian to scratching pop with deep-darkness ballads and from Christmas Carols-chroniquer to crooner of standards. Well it’s not always (but almost always), interesting and surprising without exception, versatility is Dylan’s middle name.
He has inspired artists for generations, brought politics and poetry into pop music, laid the foundation for country rock and Americana and organised the first stadium tour in pop history. From his meaning for and knowledge of American leader to the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016: the scope of his meaning is endless. If you want to know America, you have to listen to Dylan.
Dylan and the Netherlands
At the same time we try to answer the question how Dylan also influenced the Dutch cultural landscape. How are musicians like Ernst Jansz and Henk Hofstede, or Tim Knol and Lucky Fonz III, influenced by him? What is his role in the oeuvre of grand artists such as Freek de Jonge and Herman van Veen or an actress such as Monique van der Ven, publisher Wouter van Oorschot or presenter Matthijs van Nieuwkerk? Why does Halina Reijn resort to Dylan to fight her stage nerves? What inspiration does the Auxiliary Bishop of Den Bosch draw from his work?
Despite the bookcase full of Dylan literature, there is no artist of his stature to be found that we know so little about. No one in his category of fame has succeeded so well in shielding his private life and creating his own myth, whether in his autobiographical “Chronicles” or in “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese”: the real Dylan always remains hidden.
It’s about pop music, but it’s also about the major cultural and social changes of the past 60 years. Emancipation, civil rights movement, pop culture, secularization and rebirth. About reinventing yourself over and over again, about high peaks and deep valleys. This makes it a series that is also interesting for listeners who are not necessarily fans of Bob Dylan, but are interested in cultural development and artistry. In the form of conversations and live performances.
To get close to the human Dylan, we are planning two trips to the United States, to visit the places that were important in his career and to meet people from his immediate surroundings. With the high-pitched goal of at least getting Dylan on the phone in the end.
This podcast series can be found at http://vpro.nl/bobcast and you will come across it, among other things:
- Matthijs van Nieuwkerk
- Monique van der Ven
- Herman van Veen
- Larry Campbell – Dylan’s bandleader for ten years
- Elliot Landy – Dylan’s house photographer in his Woodstock days
Idea, research, editing and composition: Lars Hulshof and Chris Kijne Editorial staff: Anton de Goede Productie: Ymke Kreiken
Finally, the VPRO gives some nice quotes about the pop phenomenon:
- Bob Dylan: Don’t follow leaders, watch the parkin’ meters.
- Chris Kijne: When I first heard Dylan, the windows opened and came into the world.
- Lars Hulshof: When you travel with Dylan, you know one thing for sure: there’s never another way back.
- Freek the Younger: Dylan is at Shakespearean altitude.
- Matthijs van Nieuwkerk: Dylan was my guide in the years of distinction.
- Herman van Veen: Dylan is a kind of ‘modern art’ troubadour. He admonishes, warns, lets you know.
- Larry Campbell: What’s Dylan really like? “Mercurial,” I mean, it’s in all the books about him, and you know, it’s all true. You can hang with him and everything – it’s like hanging with anybody else, and then it’s not.