Bob Dylan chronicles roots of his music at gala in his honor

Sat Feb 7, 2015 6:53am EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Bob Dylan, known for playing concerts with barely a word spoken to his audience, gave a lengthy speech on Friday at a gala in his honor where he chronicled the roots of his music while also praising and ribbing famous figures.

The 73-year-old Dylan, considered by many musicians and critics to be the best singer-songwriter of his time, spoke for 40 minutes at the Los Angeles event tied to this weekend's Grammy Awards, as he was named "person of the year" by the MusiCares charity.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter handed Dylan the award after a night of performances of his songs, including "Knocking on Heaven's Door" and "Standing in the Doorway", by a cast of superstars.

Beck and Sheryl Crow played harmonica, Jack White flew through a guitar solo, Bruce Springsteen jammed with Tom Morello, Norah Jones gave a bluesy piano performance and Los Lobos sang in Spanish.

But Dylan neither played nor sang. Instead, he read from a speech detailing his roots in folk music.

"All these songs are connected, don't be fooled, I was just opening up a different door in a different kind of way," Dylan, wearing a bolo tie, told the audience.

To prove his point, Dylan recited lyrics from traditional songs such as "John Henry" and "Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies", followed by words from his most famous songs such as "Blowin' In the Wind" and "The Times They Are A-Changin'", demonstrating how his lyrics mirrored the earlier songs.

He also spoke rapturously about musical figures from his past, calling Joan Baez a "free, independent spirit" and Nina Simone an "overwhelming artist".   Continued...

Musician Bob Dylan speaks at the 2015 MusiCares Person of the Year tribute honoring Bob Dylan in Los Angeles, California February 6, 2015.  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni