1st Edition

The Politics and Power of Bob Dylan’s Live Performances Play a Song for Me

Edited By Erin C. Callahan, Court Carney Copyright 2024

    Ephemeral by nature, the concert setlist is a rich, if underexplored, text for scholarly research. How an artist curates a show is a significant aspect of any concert’s appeal. Through the placement of songs, variations in order, or the omission of material, Bob Dylan’s setlists form a meta-narrative speaking to the power and significance of his music. These essays use the setlists from concerts throughout Dylan’s career to study his approach to his material from the 1960s to the 2020s. These chapters, from various disciplinary perspectives, illustrate how the concert setlist can be used as a source to explore many aspects of Dylan’s public life. Finally, this collection provides a new method to examine other musicians across genres with an interdisciplinary approach to setlists and the selectivity of performance. Unique in its approach and wide-ranging scholarly methodology, this book deepens our understanding of Bob Dylan, the performer.

    Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: The Politics and Power of Bob Dylan’s Live Performances – Erin C. Callahan and Court Carney
    2. Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and the Implications of the Past: A Case Study – Court Carney
    3. "Might as Well Just Stay Up Here": Bob Dylan’s Pivotal Performance at Montreal’s Finjan Club in 1962 – Simon McAslan
    4. I’m Ready to Go Anywhere: Bob Dylan’s Propulsive Vector of Engagement with Audiences, 1964-1966 – Keith Nainby and John Radosta
    5. "Hurricane" and Bob Dylan’s Protest Music Renaissance on the Rolling Thunder Tour – Skye Landgraf
    6. Reaching for the Nashville Skyline: Bob Dylan’s Country Music Connections and Lasting Impact on the Emerging 1970s Country-Rock Movement – McKenzie L. Isom
    7. The Rolling Thunder Revue’s Critical Bicentennial Nostalgia – Jason Tebbe
    8. "All the World’s a Stage": Bob Dylan’s Spontaneous Performativity in Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue (2019) and NBC’s Hard Rain (1976) – Sara Martínez
    9. The Warfield Cycle: Dylan’s Mystery Plays, San Francisco, November 1980 – Graley Herren
    10. "Hanging in the balance of the reality of man": Dylan’s Artistic Vision of Impermanence, October 1981 – Jim Salvucci
    11. Bob Dylan’s Splayed Anthems – Robert Reginio
    12. Bob Dylan’s Waste Land: Contemporary Existential Anxieties Reflected in the 2013-2019 Set Lists – Erin C. Callahan
    13. "What’s Going On in Your Show:" A look at the Shadow Kingdom setlist – Nina Goss
    14. "Today and Tomorrow and Yesterday Too": Time in Bob Dylan's Work of the 2020s – Laura Tenschert
    15. Encore: The Never-Ending Sonnets: On Bob Dylan’s Never-Ending Tour, 1987-1997 – Jeff Fallis
    16. Epilogue: From Angel to Devil, From Lovelorn to Enchantment: Dylan’s Setlists in 2022 – Erin C. Callahan and Court Carney

    List of Contributors



    List of Contributors

    Jeff Fallis is a poet and critic who teaches at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville. His poems and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, The Oxford American, James Baldwin Review, The Iowa Review, Ploughshares, B O D Y, and elsewhere.

    Nina Goss is an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University in New York City. She co-edited Tearing the World Apart: Bob Dylan and the 21st Century released in 2017 and Dylan at Play in 2011. She also taught classes on Bob Dylan and has delivered papers at conferences including MLA, Arkansas State University’s Delta Symposium, and Southern Denmark’s "New Approaches to Bob Dylan’s Songs" (2018).

    Graley Herren is a Professor of English at Xavier University in Cincinnati. He is the author of Samuel Beckett’s Plays on Film and Television (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), The Self-Reflexive Art of Don DeLillo (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), and Dreams and Dialogues in Dylan’s Time Out of Mind (Anthem Press, 2021). He serves on the board of the Comparative Drama Conference and edited five volumes of its Text & Presentation book series (McFarland, 2012-2016).

    McKenzie L. Isom is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at Purdue University where she specializes in 20th c. US gender, popular culture studies and American music. She previously obtained a B.A. and a M.A. degree in 20th c. US History from Indiana and Purdue University, respectively. Her dissertation, "Rustic Roots and Rhinestone Cowboys: Southern Identity, Authenticity, and the Gendered Construction of Persona in the Long 1970s Country Music Industry," examines the evolution of the term "authenticity" within the country music industry and its impact on female artists and their careers over time.

    Skye Landgraf is a MA candidate in English at the George Washington University. Her thesis, "There’s Something Happening Here: Odetta, Dylan, and the Legacy of ‘60s Exceptionalism,'' under the direction of Dr. Gayle Wald, is an exploration of American protest music of the 1960s and its operationalized legacy which has critically shaped our contemporary cultural perceptions of political resistance. Her recent paper, "Odetta Sings Dylan and the Sonic Labor of Black Female Musicians," appeared at PopCon 2021, highlighted the role of folksinger Odetta in crafting our contemporary understanding of Dylan as a songwriter.

    Simon McAslan teaches English Literature at Vanier College in Montreal, where he offers a course on Bob Dylan. His work on Dylan includes the essay, "‘How Could It Be Any Other Way?’ Bob Dylan’s Editorial Decisions in The Lyrics 1961-2012,” (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020), part of a collection of papers from the conference “Things Have Changed: Bob Dylan in the Twenty-First Century” at Universiteì d’Artois (France) in 2018. He also presented his paper, "History, Story, and Resistance in Bob Dylan’s ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll’" at the MLA Annual Convention in January 2021.

    Sara Martinez holds a Ph.D. in English Literature awarded by Lancaster University (United Kingdom). Her thesis: "‘I Celebrate Myself, and Sing Myself’: An Insight into Bob Dylan’s Chameleonic-like Masculinity: Writings and Songs, 1962 – 1970" is a critical study of singer, songwriter Bob Dylan that develops an innovative argument on the chameleon-like evolution of his professional career –his lyrics, music, and innovative performances onstage–just like the alternative models of masculinity that challenged the hegemonic stereotypes of ‘the breadwinner’ and ‘the soldier’ over fourteen years.

    Keith Nainby is Professor of Communication Studies at California State University, Stanislaus, where he teaches in the areas of communication pedagogy and performance studies. He previously collaborated with John M. Radosta on the book Bob Dylan in Performance: Song, Stage, and Screen, and he has also published two additional book chapters and one journal article on Dylan’s work. His additional publications include scholarship and editorship on sound studies topics in communication and performance.

    John M. Radosta teaches high school English and creative writing near Boston, Massachusetts. He previously collaborated with Keith Nainby on Bob Dylan in Performance: Song, Stage, and Screen. Under a pseudonym, he writes crime fiction and has published numerous short stories and a novel. He recently combined both interests in "The Simple Art of Music: Bob Dylan and Noir," which appeared in Dylan Review.

    Robert Reginio is a Professor of English at Alfred University in New York. He is the main editor of Samuel Beckett and Contemporary Art (Ibidem Press, 2007). He has published two essays on Bob Dylan: "Listening to the Other: The Problem of Empathy in Bob Dylan" in New Approaches to Bob Dylan. (University of Southern Denmark Press 2020) and "'Nettie Moore:' Minstrelsy and the Cultural Economy of Race in Bob Dylan's Late Albums" in Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan’s Road from Minnesota to the World, (University of Minnesota Press 2009). He serves on the editorial board of the online journal the Dylan Review and is currently at work on two book projects: one, a collaboration with Dr. Nina Goss of Fordham and Dr. Simon McAslan of Vanier College, titled Bob Dylan: Damaged Life, Endurance, and History (the proposal is under review), and the other, a monograph on the poetics of John Wesley Harding.

    Jim Salvucci served on the English faculty and as a dean at Stevenson University for fifteen years where he frequently taught a course on the life and work of Bob Dylan. He later served as the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Buena Vista University and at Union College (Kentucky). He is a frequent presenter and blogger on Dylan and many other topics and has published on Dylan. He currently lives in Newburgh, NY, where he is a management consultant to nonprofit organizations.

    Jason Tebbe is a teacher and historian residing in New Jersey. He is currently working on a project related to the history of the Bicentennial of the American Revolution.




    Erin C. Callahan (PhD, Drew University) is Professor of English at San Jacinto College in Houston, Texas. She has published on gender in the Star Wars Saga, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Charles Schulz’s Peanuts and contributed an essay to 21st Century Dylan: Late and Timely. She has presented at various conferences, including ACA/PCA, PAMLA, Bob Dylan in the 21st Century in Arras, France, and The World of Bob Dylan, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

    Court Carney (PhD, LSU) is Professor of History at Stephen F. Austin State University, where he teaches on race, memory, culture, and music. He is the author of Cuttin’ Up: How Jazz Got America’s Ear and a forthcoming book on the public memory of Nathan Bedford Forrest.