Rebecca Black tweaks Dylan classic.

Call me out-of-touch, but I only found out today who Rebecca Black is and just now viewed her paradigm-shattering YouTube video "Friday" (which has been watched by one million viewers since I last brushed my teeth).

But here's the reverse problem: young audiences are so disconnected from the past—and unaware of the roots of popular music—that many are unaware of the original Dylan version of "Friday."

To be fair, Black's version—with some innovative lyrical embellishments— hits emotional peaks you might not hear in Dylan's 1962 performance. But cultural fossil that I am, I nevertheless prefer the stark urgency of the stripped-down guitar-and-vocal rendition by a young Dylan who was just beginning to explore his Rimbaud-influenced, impressionistic lyrical palette.

Interestingly, the song he recorded after "Friday" was not—as we would expect—"Saturday" (because Dylan loved to pull the rug out from under us). Instead he chose to record "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" which nevertheless picks up on the dark, apocalyptic imagery hinted at in "Friday."

Ironies abound here. Based on her immediate appeal to the YouTube universe and the pre-teen schoolyard demographic, Black's career will likely eclipse Dylan's by Tuesday afternoon, even as she tries to reproduce his cerebral approach! (The test will come with her release of "Visions of Johanna" later in the week.) But the business lesson here should never surprise us: Quality is timeless.

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  1. Well said. I was especially impressed by the YouTube comments on Dylan’s version. For instance, “Bob Dylan's version makes the lyrics have more meaning for some reason.” There's a profound insight there...I think.

  2. Me and the old lady used to roll a few and listen to all his early stuff ...I think I remember this from a folk festival I went to... I wish he had stayed with the early stuff, but then he got into that poetic crap and I just couldn't follow it...he never stayed with anything too neither.

  3. Hey Lou. If you caught this song live it would have been VERY early in Dylan's career because by the time he hit the Newburyport Folk Festival in 63 he wasn't doing his party repertoire any more. But, yes, it's too bad Dylan didn't stick with his frat boy sound. What a waste. He could have been HUGE.

  4. Thanks for the heads up, Dirk. Yes, I know there's a LOT of skepticism and controversy on this topic but I'm on top of it. Some people think Dylan recorded "Friday" in the Another Side of Bob Dylan sessions, but my team of researchers assures me the track was recorded as part of his December 1962 session. Also, the theme gives it away. By 1963 his songs became more political, and after that impressionistic. But the underlying quality of the musical composition, the trenchant vocal delivery, and the powerful lyrical statement speak to a transcendent gift Dylan had, which has never been more colorfully on display than here. Ms. Black clearly draws inspiration from this with her ambitious — and largely successful — remake. Quality begets quality.

  5. I think that it is actually a sad commentary on society... the Rebecca Black cover has gained noteriety not for its quality...

    This is precisely the kind of kitsch that passes for entertainment. Maybe it is a 'sign of the apocalypse' that we can reward something that is so reviled... almost a collective psychotic break, if you will...

  6. But I'm lovin' the YouTube comments on Dylan's rendition, such as...

    "I was at Monterey Pop when Dylan first performed this song live. It changed my life. THANK YOU, THANK YOU for posting this. I am 63 now and it takes more and more to get off these days. This song brought it all back. Thank you, thank you. Partying, partying Yeah!"

    Of course Dylan never performed at Monterey Pop, but rumor has it that Hendrix played a few bars of the song leading up to his famous performance of "The Star Spangled Banner" - which is probably what the commentator is referring to.

  7. whaaaat?? your killing me with this stuff... if that's dylan i'm jumping off a bridge cause the world is coming to an end.

  8. Thanks, guys. I can tell you love this song as much as I do. The accolades just keep rolling in.

    I've been told on good authority that the Beatles even jammed on "Friday" to boost morale during those turbulent all-day "Let It Be" sessions in 1969. Years later it's believed Yoko did an atonal version of the song, though it's difficult to definitively identify.

  9. There was a college radio station in Austin that played this song every Friday for months and months in the mid-sixties. It sure brings back some sweet memories. How come nobody writes songs like this anymore??

  10. The first time I ever heard this song I was 14. My so-called boyfriend and I were at a little country fair in SmithCenter, Kansas. My grandpa told me it is the geographical center of the US, but I don't really know.

    Anyway, this boy and I were walking through the fair and he kept trying to steer me to the Tunnel of Love. I asked myself 'Maggie, would you really go kissin' with a boy who couldn't even win you a stuffed poodle or goldfish?'. I couldn't really answer myself - I was interested in the smoochin'.

    Anyway, we heard an new sound coming from the bandstand and hurried over. There was this messy haired guy singing this song about Friday. Since it really WAS Friday, we stopped to listen. I loved the song, but had a little trouble with the hair. My boyfriend - well, let's just say we never did make it to the tunnel. What a jerk.

    Later that summer, into the fall, that singer came to work at my dad's farm for a while, but he didn't stay long. And was I surprised when I turned on Bandstand and there he was.

    Oh, it's a small world.

  11. Jorge: my thoughts EXACTLY! It's been ALL downhill since 1962.

    Dorothy: what a touching story! I'll bet "Maggie's Farm" was written about your dad's farm. Was his name Maggie?

  12. This was my Dad's favorite record when we were growing up in Ann Arbor. He wore out the vinyl playing it over and over and over. I got pretty sick of it at the time but it's nice to hear 45 years later. The words are beautiful and timeless. Classic Dylan.
    - Geraldine

  13. Geraldine: beautiful and timeless indeed!!

    Ok, my friends are BEGGING me to give this a rest, but let me include my favorite of the MANY inspirational comments from the YouTube post on Dylan’s version of “Friday"...

    “Thank you. This version helps soothe and heal the huge lesions in my brain opened up by the original.”

    “Dylan was looking forward to a weekend when there was no war. The song is an allegory for the drudgery of war. Friday is a metaphor for the coming of peace.”

    “’Friday’ gives me so much hope - thank you Dylan.”

    “Dylan was looking forward to a weekend when there was no war. The song is an allegory for the drudgery of war. Friday is a metaphor for the coming of peace.”

    “Astonishing, as we can see Dylan assimilate our different time dimensions and the way we experience them. He's obviously referring to the tension which exists in our way of comprehnding 'clock time' ("Yesterday was thursday") against the background of existential time ("Time is going, ticking on and on").”

    “in nam, this was practically an anthem for anyone serving in the conflict over seas.”

    And last but not least…

    “bravo.....rebecca black......the new Dylan.”

  14. Perhaps the business lesson here is: different folks have different definitions of quality.

    And maybe the musical lesson is: old farts will be as uppity about Ms. Black updating an old Dylan song as old folkies were when Dylan came along in the first place.

    We're all standing on the shoulders of giants, whether we're giants or pygmies ourselves. Plus ca change?

  15. ok, enuf is enuf... we all know this ain't dylan... well, all of us except the rebecca black fans who have no clue who Dylan is.

  16. Mark: yes, plus ca change.
    TS: you're right of course. We've stretched readers' credulity to the breaking point. But we had some fun in the process. Thanks to everyone who played along. The business lesson? You can fool some of the people some of the time.

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