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Category: Mainstream Published on Thursday, 27 December 2012 03:15 Written by Stephen PateOne of Dylan’s most poignant songs about life, love lost and despair in a recent live performance
Bob Dylan, Not Dark Yet
“Not Dark Yet” is one of the finest Bob Dylan songs from his late period masterpiece ”Time Out of Mind”.
A fan posted this rare concert video. The world-weariness Dylan wrote about in the atmospheric Daniel Lanois 1997 production seems even more poignant with Dylan’s current singing voice.
Time Out Of Mind
Until the triple-Grammy winning album “Time Out Of Mind”, Dylan’s 1990s CDs had been explorations of children’s music and really old folk music. Critics at the time derided Dylan for “Cats in the Well” from “Under The Red Sky” which has gone on to become a concert favourite.
In 1997 Dylan reunited with U2 producer Daniel Lanois, despite his misgivings about the 1989 production of ”Oh Mercy”, another masterpiece in my opinion.
The album was a watershed production for Dylan exploring aging and loneliness in songs that have become classics like “Love Sick” and “Time Out of Mind.” The love ballad from the album “To Make You Feel My Love” has been covered by dozen of artists. Adele’s cover on her debut album sold millions of copies and helped set her up as a torch singer.
CD trivia – Blues guitarist Duke Robillard who played in the studio on “Million Miles”, “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven”, and “Can’t Wait” during the “Time Out Of Mind” sessions will be joining the Bob Dylan band for the 2013 Never Ending Tour.
“Not Dark Yet”
“Not Dark Yet” is an understated poetic tour de force. Dylan sees the world as hopeless, not dark yet but almost. The song opens at dusk with Dylan in a despondent mood.
“Shadows are falling and I’ve been here all day
It’s too hot to sleep, time is running away”
The song sets the mood so well that movie Producer/Director Curtis Hanson wrote a scene in “Wonder Boys” around the song so that the scene ends when the shortened song ends.
In the movie, Michael Douglas plays Professor Grady Tripp a novelist with writer’s block. Tripp comes home from a Christmas party. His life is on the rocks. While other people pair off and find their way to end the day in a lover’s embrace or enthralled with their lives, Tripp is left with the angst from too much grass and the song as his soundtrack.
“Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain
Don’t even hear a murmur of a prayer
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there” Copyright © 1997 by Special Rider Music
Hanson appreciated Dylan and used three of his songs in the soundtrack. The Dylan songs fit the movie perfectly. Dylan won the Academy Award for Best Song with “Things Have Changed” which he wrote at Hanson’s request for “Wonder Boys.”
If you haven’t seen the “Wonder Boys”, try to find it. It’s a quirky sleeper and was not a box office hit. The ensemble cast, dialogue, cinematography, direction and soundtrack bear repeated viewing. “Wonder Boys” starred young Tobey Maguire (Spiderman) and Katie Holmes (Tom Cruise’s ex), Frances McDormand, Robert Downey, Jr. and Rip Torn in great performances, along with Douglas who comes off as more human than most of his roles. As a bonus, the DVD has the “Thing Have Changed” Dylan video.
Christopher Ricks, the Oxford scholar, says “Not Dark Yet” draws a line between the poet John Keats in Dylan’s writing. Ricks ” draws parallels between “Not Dark Yet” and the Keats’ poem Ode to a Nightingale. Broken down line for line, “similar turns of phrase, figures of speech, [and] felicities of rhyming” can be found throughout “Not Dark Yet” and the Ode. Ricks also argues that “there is a strong affinity with Keats in the way that in the song night colours, darkens, the whole atmosphere while never being spoken of…” (Wikipedia)
Ricks is the former editor of the Oxford Book of English Verse. He made Dylan’s songs a matter of scholarly study. His book ” Dylan’s Visions of Sin” is the best discussion of Dylan as a songwriter and poet. If you want to improve your song writing skills or just learn more about Dylan, “Visions of Sin” is a must read.
An official video of “Not Dark Yet” was released at the time of the CD. Get past the picture and the first bit of hum. That’s the original song.
Bob Dylan “Not Dark Yet” Official Video 1997
I’m not allowed to print the music for “Not Dark Yet” but you can get the lyrics yourself from Bob Dylan.com.
The song is not difficult to play on guitar. In the key of E, the chords are -
The descending bass line from B is relatively simple but very tasty.
Bar B at the 2nd fret, lift off the bar for the A note and, fret the E string with your thumb for the G#.
The Esus4 is optional but you can hear it on the CD.
Thanks for Eyolf Østrem for the chords and the Definitive Bob Dylan Songbook. My version is a bit of both.
The discussion on Wikipedia about the recording session trauma and drama is interesting.
By Stephen Pate, NJN Network
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