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Namecheck: Did Timrod Influence Dylan?


This song, When the Deal Goes Down, is from Bob Dylan's new album, Modern Times.

(Soundbite of When the Deal Goes Down)

Mr. BOB DYLAN (Singer): (Singing) In the still of the night, in the world's ancient light, where wisdom grows up in strife.

SIEGEL: We read today in The New York Times that a careful listener of the album has found that some of Dylan's lyrics owe quite a bit to a 19th Century Southern poet named Henry Timrod. Timrod has been called the poet laureate of the Confederacy. He was a war correspondent for a Charleston, South Carolina paper during the Civil War, and the person who has found the coincidence of lyrics in Dylan's work and several Timrod poems is Scott Warmuth, a disc jockey at 94 Rock KZRR in Albuquerque.

Welcome to the program, Scott Warmuth.

Mr. SCOTT WARMUTH (KZRR, Albuquerque, New Mexico): Well thank you, thank you very much.

SIEGEL: What have you found in the way of Henry Timrod quotations or paraphrases in Dylan's new album?

Mr. WARMUTH: Well, I found well over a dozen references to different Timrod poems on Dylan's current record and some recent recordings as well.

SIEGEL: For example, in the song When the Deal Goes Down that we just part of, there's a line - where wisdom grows up in strife. That's one of the lines you found.

Mr. WARMUTH: That's correct, and it's straight out of a poem by Henry Timrod called Retirement, where Timrod writes there is a wisdom that grows up in strife. And that was just one of five different Timrod poems referenced in that one song alone that I discovered. I took a phrase from the lyrics in the new album, frailer than the flowers, and did a Google search and found that the hits were Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Henry Timrod. Well, let me see what Henry Timrod's about, and lo and behold, Henry Timrod and Bob Dylan both rhyme frailer than the flowers with these precious hours.

So I thought that was pretty interesting. I went and kept digging and got a collection of the Timrod poems and looked and found reference after reference after reference. And I went and posted those online to a Bob Dylan fan site.

SIEGEL: Now it certainly is in the spirit of folk music to draw upon lots of songs that went before.

Mr. WARMUTH: Oh absolutely. That's something that Bob Dylan has always done. On his first album, his first original song is Song to Woody, which is built on the melody of a Woody Guthrie song, so the nod there is apparent. That's something that has continued - that folk process, the folk tradition - through all of Bob Dylan's work.

SIEGEL: Now I should say that we've tried to contact Bob Dylan's people. We've put in call to them, and we haven't had any comment back from them, but it sounds as though, from what you found, that Bob Dylan has been reading a man who by present day standards would be considered a pretty obscure American poet.

Mr. WARMUTH: Absolutely, sure. If you're a Bob Dylan fan, people always are hunting, searching for Bob Dylan in different ways. Some people want to pilgrimage to Hibbing, Minnesota. Some people want to steal his garbage. For me, it's all about his work and the music, and that's where I like to hunt and look for things - what's going on in his lyrics, what's in Bob Dylan's record collection, what's on his bookshelf, what is he listening to? He's unapproachable as a songwriter and an artist, and his influences are always going to be of interest to me.

SIEGEL: Well, Scott Warmuth, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. WARMUTH: My pleasure.

SIEGEL: Scott Warmuth, a disc jockey at 94 Rock KZRR in Albuquerque and the man who has discovered the appearance of some rhymes from the 19th Century Southern poet Henry Timrod in Bob Dylan's new album. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.