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Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen - Tasks

Check out YouTube for song versions of the lyrics quoted in the article.

Discussion

  1. What does it mean that an artist has integrity?
  2. Study the excerpts of Dylan’s and Cohen’s songs. In which ways do they differ? Can you see similarities?
  3. Do you think it is appropriate to call Dylan and Cohen modernist poets? Why / why not?

Research

  1. The examples of Dylan songs in the article are taken from his early career in the 60s. Check the Internet or YouTube for newer material and compare.
    (Suggested titles: “Tangled up in Blue” from Blood on the Tracks, 1974, “Jokerman” from Infidels, 1983, or “Thunder on the Mountain” from Modern Times, 2006.) Which differences and changes can you find?
  2. Dylan and Cohen are great and acclaimed musical poets, but they may not be unique. Do you know other artists / bands that have strong poetical lyrics? Do some research and present your favourite rock lyrics for the class.

Working with the Songs

  1. What do you make of the imagery of Dylan’s “Mr Tambourine Man”? What do you associate with it? What is the singer asking for?
  2. The imagery of “Desolation Row” is both wild and fantastic. On the net you will find a full version, read it and play the song. See if you can place all his references and allusions.
  3. Like Bono said, it is hard to figure out any meaning in the lines of “I Want You”, but find it on the net, play it and follow the lyrics. Does it make any sense or is it just words and changing imagery?
  4. Look at the juxtapositions of Cohen’s “Love Calls You by Your Name”, what can you say about the distance between the two items in each one?
  5. Read the second stanza of Cohen’s “Anthem”. What is this about, and how do you interpret “the dove”?
  6. Explain the two last lines of Cohen’s “Anthem”. What do we call such a literary technique?

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