Dylan To Sing In Campus Show

Council President Matthew W. Mahan ’05 declines to confirm

Legendary singer and songwriter Bob Dylan has performed at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington, in Madison Square Garden, and in venues across the globe—a trail which will soon include Harvard’s Gordon Indoor Track and Tennis Center, according to several Bob Dylan websites.

Dylan will reportedly perform at Harvard Gordon Athletic Center on Nov. 21, the date slated for a Harvard Concert Commission (HCC) sponsored concert. Several members of the HCC declined to comment last night.

Undergraduate Council president Matthew W. Mahan ’05 also declined to comment on Dylan’s rumored performance last night, though he said he doubted the announcement would be on the Dylan websites “much longer.”

“Nothing’s set in stone,” Mahan said.

Dylan is currently on a tour of college campuses, and last night a performance at Harvard was listed on www.bobdylan.com and www.expectingrain.com, two websites that are reliable for tour date information, said Professor Richard F. Thomas, who teaches a freshman seminar on Dylan.

Thomas, who is also the chair of the classics department, said that the announcement combined with Tuesday’s release of the first volume of Dylan’s autobiography is “pretty exciting.”

“The stars are coming into alignment between the concert and the Chronicles: Volume One coming out,” he said.

One of Thomas’ freshman seminar students said last night that despite rumors that Dylan had lost his performance edge, he looked forward to seeing him in concert.

“The idea of seeing him in the flesh is a totally different experience than listening to him off a recording, even though I’m not expecting him to be a great live performer,” said Gabriel E. Feingold ’08.

Dylan, who turned 63 in May, rose to prominence in the early 1960s for his poetic protest songs, such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are A-Changin,” and distinctive nasal voice and folk guitar strumming.

It is Dylan’s skill as a songwriter that has earned the academic attention of Thomas’ class, though Thomas said he initially met with skepticism about the class’ scholarly value.

“Some of us know that poetry isn’t limited to the Norton Anthology,” Thomas said.

Dylan angered many early fans—but ultimately garnered even more acclaim—by going electric, largely abandoning social protest music to embrace a variety of more pop-oriented styles after 1965.

The songwriter has released over 40 albums, including 1997’s Time Out of Mind, a Grammy-winning comeback album that followed several poorly-received efforts and a brief flirtation with fundamentalist Christianity. He won the 2001 Academy Award for Best Song in a Motion Picture for “Things Have Changed” and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

Though Dylan was arguably more popular in decades past, Thomas said that at the five Dylan concerts he has attended in the last few years, fans were a mix of ages.

“He’s basically intergenerational,” Thomas said. “Dylan never stopped—there’s a continuum.”

Thomas added that several other professors have mentioned their excitement about the concert.

“[Some were] people who I would never have guessed were Dylan fans, but there are a lot out there,” Thomas said.

—Staff writer Katharine A. Kaplan can be reached at kkaplan@fas.harvard.edu.