I’m not sure how so many years got by without my having seen this. I was alerted to it by a fine piece, “Why We Keep on Rolling With Dylan” (basically an onstage dialogue between critic Greil Marcus and novelist Don DeLillo), that appeared last month in The Daily Telegraph in the UK.
“In 1991, Bob Dylan was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy show,” Marcus explains. “They now hand these out very promiscuously, but this was unusual at the time — it was a big deal. So Dylan comes on with a very noisy, loud, small band, all dressed in dark suits with fedoras pulled down over their heads. And they go into the most furious, unrelenting, speeded-up piece of music.
“And Dylan is slurring his words, you cannot understand what he’s saying, but you don’t need to. The sound that’s being made is so thrilling. And about halfway through, at least for me — other people might have caught on more quickly, maybe later — I realised he was singing ‘Masters of War.’ His most unforgiving, bitter, unlimited denunciation that he’s ever recorded. It’s a song about arms merchants. It ends with ‘And I hope that you die, I’ll stand over your grave, I’ll follow your coffin.’
“Not too many songs really wish for the death of the subject, the person who’s being addressed. Then he gave a little speech after his award, where he managed not to thank anybody.”
Essential viewing for anyone interested in Dylanography.