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Cover art double take: Melinda Doolittle & Bob Dylan

February 13th, 2009 · 5 Comments

The last really cool homage to the iconic album cover photograph from Bob Dylan’s 1963 The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was in the film Vanilla Sky.  Now we have another in the cover art of American Idol finalist Melinda Doolittle’s new CD.  It’s very tastefully done, but what is it that links the two, other than a fetishistic interest on the part of the record label’s graphic designer?  Is there something in the music?…  Regardless, it’s always nice to see a contemporary work of art (and music) get the respect that it is due.

Bob Dylan's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963)   Melinda Doolittle's Coming Back to You (2009)

still frame of Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz in Vanilla Sky
A frame from the aforementioned scene in Vanilla Sky.

Tags: film · music

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bernie G // Feb 15, 2009 at 8:32 PM

    I have it on unimpeachable authority that Melinda chose to render an homage to the great Bard because (a) she truly admires him as the genius he is (b) she wanted to cast an allusion to the 60’s, underscoring the generally retrospective cast of the repertoire on the album. I think one can also observe that both (this early) Melinda and (that early) Dylan were both deeply rooted in, and respective experts in, (different) sets of home-grown American genres (at very different life-stages and professional experiences).

    –Bernie, eternal fan of Bob Dylan and Melinda

  • 2 Brentski // Feb 16, 2009 at 8:20 AM

    Further proof, Bernie? She covers two Robert Johnson tunes on there.

  • 3 Bernie G // Feb 16, 2009 at 9:46 AM

    Yes, I know — as anyone who has read Dylan’s Chronicles knows, the troubled, enigmatic Mississippi giant left a huge impression on the young Dylan, especially the mystical and symbolic aspects of the older bluesman’s poetic art. Melinda’s art is neither Dylanesque nor Johnsonesque, but quite like both men, on this album she adapts and personalizes the idioms in which she is immersed. Of course, the Blues underlies many of Melinda’s favored idioms, not just the raw Johnsonesque blues, but the harmonies and rhythms of “R&B.” Melinda’s adaptations of Johnson are also quite interesting in light of the famed immoral excesses of the dissolute itinerant’s life contrasted with Melinda’s very public Christian devotion and charitable efforts.

    I would look forward to Melinda exploring Dylan masterpieces.

  • 4 spitballarmy // Feb 16, 2009 at 10:09 AM

    OK, then. The two Robert Johnson songs on Melinda’s album are “Dust My Broom” and “Walking Blues,” for anyone reading who would like to know.

    I also just read that Doolittle covers three songs by Sammy Cahn on her album. The eerie coincidences branch out from there: Sammy Cahn’s fourth and final Oscar for Best Song was for “Call Me Irresponsible” in…wait for it…1963!

    Further, Cahn was born in New York’s Lower East Side. I would automatically assume that the Dylan cover shot was taken in Greenwich Village, but maybe…?

  • 5 Bernie G // Feb 16, 2009 at 10:24 AM

    New York was the center of American song-writing for many years, well into the 60’s (think musical theater, Tin Pan Alley and the Brill building), if not the folk idioms we’ve just discussed. Greenwich Village isn’t exactly the Lower East Side (geographically or sociologically) let alone the teeming Lower East Side of Cahn’s youth. Yet, there is (as I read it) an appeal to “the city, the big city” in both cover images; for Dylan, arrival-as-imprimatur from both Hibbing, MN, and his own sideshow-and-hobo Origins Myth, and for Melinda, appeal to the rhythms and pulses of “the city”, (which have led to abuse of the term “urban” as relates to music.) which (in fact) draws a sharp line separating itself from the more “rural” folk poetry of Dylan’s album. Sort of “I just got here” and “This is where I am at home”, respectively.

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