Bob Dylan's eyes & Bill Morrissey
Monday, September 16, 2013
Bill Morrissey was at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival for one reason: to see his hero, Bob Dylan. The 14 year-old idolized Dylan, wanted to look like Dylan, talk like Dylanââto be Dylan. Most of all, he wanted to write songs like Dylan. He already knew it was the dream that would become his life. What Bill didnât know was that he would grow up to be one of the finest songwriters New England ever produced. He followed Dylan everywhere but was especially excited about these things called âworkshops.â Performers sat on small stages, swapping songs and talking about their craft. Bill could get right up front, study Dylanâs guitar playing, how he sang, talked, moved. He could steal his secrets. As Dylan ambled on stage, Bill hunched forward eagerly, rocking back and forth, despite all his efforts to be cool. Other performers walked alongside Dylan, but Bill didnât notice. He stared at Dylan, soaking in everything, every tousle of hair, how his shirt wasnât quite tucked in or untucked. Very cool. His black stovepipe jeans were wrinkled and worn, especially at the leg bottoms. So cool. Ah, engineer boots; Bill knew a store that sold those back home. Dylan sang and Bill barely breathed. Dylan finished his song, not acknowledging the cheers. Too cool for applause. Bill shook his head in quiet awe. Dylan slumped in his chair, and the next singer took his turn. Billâs eyes stayed on Dylan as he slithered nervously in his chair, crossing and uncrossing his legs, somehow both laconic and manic. So cool. Make a note of that. The last singer was an old black man in a floppy hat. He cleared his throat, laughed for no apparent reason, and began to play. Bill was still staring at Dylan. Suddenly, Dylan lurched forward in his chair, jerking his head toward the old black guy. For the entire song, Dylan never moved, his eyes locked on the old black man the way Billâs eyes were locked on Dylan. Whatâs Dylan doing? Billâs eyes darted over to the old man, a strange smile on his face, as though he had a secret everyone else wanted to know. He looked back at Dylan, his mouth emulating the smile, eyes wide and unblinking. Billâs eyes jerked back to the old singer, then back to Dylanââwhatâs going on here? Back to Dylan, back to the black man, untilâ¦AHA! For the rest of his life, Bill Morrissey would say it was the light-bulb moment of his life, his great songwriter epiphany. âIf I want to learn to write like that cat,â he thought, looking at Dylan, âI gotta stop listening to that cat, and start listening to this cat.â His head bobbed toward the old black man, still wearing that âI-got-a-secretâ smile. So Bill Morrissey stopped listening to Bob Dylan for awhile, and began studying the songs of the old black singer, Mississippi John Hurt. He stopped trying to steal Dylanâs secrets, and started studying the guy whose secrets Dylan was stealing. He heard that Dylan was influenced by Woody Guthrie, and studied his music, too, which led him to Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, and The Weavers. He read that Dylan loved Hank Williams, so Bill studied him, which led him to Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, whoâd inspired Hank Williams. And thatâs how Bill Morrissey learned how songwriters learn to be songwriters. Scott Alarik Scott presents his popular Roots of Songwriting workshop, with live & archival music, colorful tales, and discussion, as part of the New England Americana Festival, Saturday, September, September 28, 3:30 PM. at Club Passim, 47 Palmer St., in Harvard Square. Admission is free for festival-goers, $5 for the general public. clubpassim.org/calendar Scott will also host that eveningâs festival concert at Club Passim. Other events: 1st Annual Harvard Square Folk Festival, September, 21, noon-5 PM. Palmer Street, Harvard Square. Free outdoor concert with Celtic fiddler-singer-songwriter Ellie Buckland, avant-folk hipster Wishbone Zoe, smart folk-rocker Dietrich Strause, fiddler-dancer-singer extraordinaire Laura Cortese, and hot teen songwriter Hayley Reardon. Scott will host the festival, and offer stories from his novel, Revival. Please help us launch a new Harvard Square tradition. Brother Sun at New Moon Coffeehouse, Saturday, September 21, 8 PM UU Church,16 Ashland Street , Haverhill, MA. Scott performs excerpts from his novel, Revival. www.newmooncoffeehouse.org Patty Larkin at me&thee Coffeehouse, Friday, September, 27, 8 PM. UU Church, 28 Mugford St., Marblehead, MA. Scott performs excerpts from his novel, Revival. www.meandthee.org Cormac McCarthy at Off the Common Coffeehouse, Saturday, October 5, 8 PM. UU Church, 50 School St., Bridgewater, MA. Scott performs excerpts from his novel, Revival. www.offthecommon.org Other news: Noel Paul Stookey, of Peter, Paul, and Mary, recently wrote of Revival: âItâs romantic, itâs tragic, itâs funny, itâs sexy, and most importantly, itâs accurate.â This month, Scott takes his first two vinyl albums to a mastering studio, and will offer them for digital download on his website later this fallââin all their analog glory. Later this fall, Scott records a much-requested audio book of his novel, Revival, and hopes to have it available digitally in time for the holidays.