"THAT drawling, raspy voice was unmistakable. But this time it was introducing songs, not singing them.
The once-reclusive Bob Dylan made his debut yesterday as a radio DJ in the latest twist of his long career.
For fans accustomed to his terse, mumbled comments at concerts, the singer-songwriter was positively chatty -- revealing a wry humour and even quoting Stevie Wonder in broken Italian.
Hard on the heels of the revelations in his bestselling Chronicles autobiography and the Martin Scorsese documentary No Direction Home on BBC Two, Dylan�s weekly radio show promises new insight into the music legend.
Introducing Slim Harpo's Raining in My Heart, for instance, the twice-divorced Dylan opines: "Slim wrote a bunch of songs with his wife, Lovelle. Boy, I wish I had a wife like that, help me write songs!"
The playlist for Dylan's hour-long show on America's XM Satellite Radio -- only available to British listeners on the web at www.xmradio.com -- offered clues to the master's musical roots.
The theme of his first show was the weather, a sly joke for the man who wrote about a dozen weather-related titles, including A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall and the protest classic Blowin' in the Wind.
It was, after all, a line in Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues -- "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows" -- that gave the Sixties radical group the Weathermen its name.
"Curious about what the weather looks like?" the 64-year-old rock poet growled as the show began. "Just look out your window or take a walk outside."
Dylan's mix of pop, blues, R&B, gospel and country, ranging from Judy Garland and Fats Domino to the Staple Singers and calypso's Lord Beginner, stopped with Jimi Hendrix. As well as lovingly reciting lyrics, Dylan also peppered his introductions with comments on his musical forbears. Presenting Dean Martin’s I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine, he noted that it was also recorded by Elvis Presley and observed: “We forget how much Elvis wanted to be Dean.” Of Hendrix’s The Wind Cries Mary, he said: “This shows his more gentle side.”
Dylan also reintroduced now forgotten bands such as the Prisonaires, formed by convicts in a Tennessee jail in the 1940s, who had a hit with Just Walkin’ in the Rain. “The Prisonaires’ lead singer, Johnny Bragg, was sentenced to 99 years for rape when he was 11 years old. But, you know, for a black man in Tennessee in the Forties, rape could have meant just looking at the wrong white woman in a wrong way,” Dylan explained.
In 1955 “Johnny Bragg, who was out on parole, was sitting in the back seat of his car with a white girl, who was his wife, which somehow violated his parole and he ended up spending six years back in the lock-up,” he said.
Dylan is the latest star to have his own radio show. The trend began with Steve Van Zandt’s Underground Garage in 2002, and artists as varied as Eminem, Tom Petty and Snoop Dogg play DJ on satellite radio.
Dylan is being deployed by the market-leading XM Satellite, which has more than 6.5 million subscribers, against rival Sirius Satellite Radio, which hired the “shock jock” Howard Stern to build an audience of four million.
Blow, Wind, Blow
You Are My Sunshine
Just Walking in the Rain
After the Clouds Roll Away
Let the Four Winds Blow
Raining in My Heart
The Wind Cries Mary
Come Rain or Come Shine
A Place in the Sun
I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine
Keep on the Sunny Side