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Bob Dylan - The 1970's on Muddy Bottom Blues

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Bob Dylan
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Muddy Bottom Blues

Program #174 (May 31 at 8:00 p.m. and June 1 at 3:00 p.m.)

Bob Dylan started his career in the early 1960s with songs that defined social issues such as the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. During this time the rebellion against mainstream society was rising amongst the youth as they adopted alternative lifestyles as a way of achieving self-transformation.

Through his songs, Dylan challenged the accepted beliefs of American society, focusing on the feelings of individuals rather than entire social groups. This led him to become known as the unofficial spokesperson for the counter-culture movement of the 1960’s and many young people looked up to him for their ideas concerning social ideas.

Bob Dylan was born in Minnesota in 1941. While attending the University of Minneapolis in 1959, he joined the on campus folk scene during the time when awareness of political and sexual freedoms increased among students. Two years later, Dylan moved to Greenwich Village in New York where he played local gigs before getting signed by Columbia records in October of 1961.

Dylan followed his country inclinations on 1969's Nashville Skyline, which was recorded in Nashville with several of the country industry's top session men. While the album was a hit, spawning the Top Ten single "Lay Lady Lay," it was criticized in some quarters for uneven material. The mixed reception was the beginning of a full-blown backlash that arrived with the double album Self Portrait. Released early in June of 1970, the album was a hodgepodge of covers, live tracks, reinterpretations, and new songs greeted with negative reviews from all quarters of the press. Dylan followed the album quickly with New Morning, which was hailed as a comeback.

Following the release of New Morning, Dylan began to wander restlessly. He moved back to Greenwich Village, he finally published Tarantula in November of 1970, and he performed at the Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971. During 1972, he began his acting career by playing Alias in Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, which was released in 1973. He also wrote the soundtrack for the film, which featured "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," his biggest hit since "Lay Lady Lay." The Pat Garrett soundtrack was the final record released under his Columbia contract before he moved to David Geffen's fledgling Asylum Records.

As retaliation, Columbia assembled Dylan, a collection of Self Portrait outtakes, for release at the end of 1973. Dylan only recorded two albums -- including 1974's Planet Waves, coincidentally his first number one album -- before he moved back to Columbia. The Band supported Dylan on Planet Waves and its accompanying tour, which became the most successful tour in rock & roll history; it was captured on 1974's double-live album Before the Flood.

Dylan's 1974 tour was the beginning of a comeback culminating with 1975's Blood on the Tracks. Largely inspired by the disintegration of his marriage, Blood on the Tracks was hailed as a return to form by critics and it became his second number one album. After jamming with folkies in Greenwich Village, Dylan decided to launch a gigantic tour, loosely based on traveling medicine shows. Lining up an extensive list of supporting musicians -- including Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Arlo Guthrie, Mick Ronson, Roger McGuinn, and poet Allen Ginsberg -- Dylan dubbed the tour the Rolling Thunder Revue and set out on the road in the fall of 1975.

For the next year, the Rolling Thunder Revue toured on and off, with Dylan filming many of the concerts for a future film. During the tour, Desire was released to considerable acclaim and success, spending five weeks on the top of the charts. Throughout the Rolling Thunder Revue, Dylan showcased "Hurricane," a protest song he had written about boxer Rubin Carter, who had been unjustly imprisoned for murder. The live album Hard Rain was released at the end of the tour. Dylan released Renaldo and Clara, a four-hour film based on the Rolling Thunder tour, to poor reviews in early 1978.

Early in 1978, Dylan set out on another extensive tour, this time backed by a band that resembled a Las Vegas lounge act. The group was featured on the 1978 album Street Legal and the 1979 live album At Budokan. At the conclusion of the tour in late 1978, Dylan announced that he was a born-again Christian, and he launched a series of Christian albums that following summer with Slow Train Coming. Though the reviews were mixed, the album was a success, peaking at number three and going platinum.

(provided by Allmusic)