Bob Dylan’s Shadow Kingdom: The Early Songs as a Re-negotiation of Personal and Artistic Politics

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftPaper uden forlag/tidsskriftForskning

53 Downloads (Pure)


In early 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to Bob Dylan’s “Never Ending Tour”, which had been running since 1988. In June of 2020, however, Dylan released new music on record for the first time since 2012, namely the album, Rough and Rowdy Ways. Dylan’s true ‘pandemic response’ came later, namely in July 2021, where he took to the digital pay-per-view platform veeps, which streamed the recently filmed music film Shadow Kingdom: The Early Songs of Bob Dylan. The film had been recorded in early 2021 on an LA soundstage, and featured 13 songs by Dylan, re-imagined and performed by a small band of masked musicians, fronted by a relaxed and suavely singing Dylan.
This paper investigates the purposes of Dylan re-investigating this material at this precise point in his personal and our general cultural history. What is it Dylan wants to memorialise at age 80? And why is Shadow Kingdom the perfect response, culturally speaking, for a pandemic-stricken world in 2021? In other words, what is it all that he is bringing back home in this work of art?
Dylan chose a setting that evokes a “speak-easy” stage in the 1920s. Fake end credits mention a jazz club in Marseille, France as the ‘location’. The film is shot entirely in black and white, and the audience is racially mixed. Thus, we are in a temporally, culturally, and geographically displaced environment.
It is therefore possible to see Shadow Kingdom as creating an alternate reality – much as the pandemic has forced us to do – but in this case one where racial inequality and segregation, political protest and the efficacy of such protests and the whole continuum of obscure musical history (which Dylan has been obsessed with for decades) all are re-imagined, re-mediated, and re-experienced by the viewing audience.
The paper will be multidisciplinary in its use of literary analysis of the lyrics, and archival investigation of the alterations to some songs; its attempt at musical analysis across genres and epochs; its engagement with US and world history and Dylan’s interpretation of and commentary on events; and finally in its focus on cultural heritage and lineage and Dylan’s remediation and revisioning of those.
Publikationsdato18 maj 2022
Antal sider6
StatusIkke-udgivet - 18 maj 2022
BegivenhedMaple Leaf and Eagle, 2022 - University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Varighed: 18 maj 202221 maj 2022
Konferencens nummer: 19


KonferenceMaple Leaf and Eagle, 2022
LokationUniversity of Helsinki


  • lyrics
  • bob dylan
  • Imagology