The Westport Historical Society’s very popular folk music series, Coffeehouse at the Wheeler’s, has a hit! Singer-songwriter Suzanne Sheridan and her band will pay tribute to American rock poet Bob Dylan on his selection for the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. The Westport Historical Society’s first Dylan concert was an immediate sell-out so a second date has been added which is Friday, May 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Society’s Sheffer Gallery.
The Nobel Prize honored Dylan "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition." He is the first musician ever to win the award and the first American to win in the literature category since Toni Morrison won in 1993. The New York Times called it “perhaps the most radical choice in history stretching back to 1901" when the first Nobel’s were awarded.
Over a career that has spanned more than five decades, Dylan has written songs in many genres, from folk, blues and country to rock, English folk, jazz and the Great American Songbook. In the 60’s, Songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’” became anthems of the civil rights and anti-war movements. Later, he composed beautiful love songs, such as “Make You Feel My Love,” first commercially released by Billy Joel in 1997 under the title "To Make You Feel My Love" before Dylan's version appeared later that same year. It has since been covered by numerous performers and has proved to be a commercial success for recording artists such as Adele, Garth Brooks, Bryan Ferry and Kelly Clarkson. Two covers of the song (one by Garth Brooks and one by Trisha Yearwood) were featured on the soundtrack of the 1998 film Hope Floats. Dylan eventually released the song as a single.
“A lot of his songs are amazing,” Sheridan says, but she especially likes “Make You Feel My Love” for the “sensitivity” displayed by it. Another of her favorites is “It Ain’t Me Babe,” which shows the cynical side of Dylan’s personality. His output has always been characterized by what Sheridan calls “telling the truth to power” and by a “poetic spirituality.” Dylan’s list of accolades is a long one. In addition to the Nobel, he has received 11 Grammys, a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, a special Pulitzer Prize, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama. He is also a member of several music halls of fame, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Sheridan will be covering the Dylan songs that “really appeal to me” and that capture “the essence of who Dylan is.” These most likely will include “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Like a Rollin’ Stone,” “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” “I Shall Be Released,” “Forever Young,” “Lay Lady Lay,” “Just Like a Woman” and “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man.” The Coffeehouse might even see Sheridan trying an imitation of Dylan’s scratchy, high-pitched vocalizations, she says.
Sheridan will be joined by musicians Bob Cooper on keyboard and organ; Colin Healy on harmonica, mandolin and fiddle; and Paul Horton on lead guitar, a well-known Nashville studio musician.
Sheridan did her first Coffeehouse at the Wheeler’s in 2012. She has done concerts featuring the music of Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen (her personal favorites), Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Linda Ronstadt, Carole King, James Taylor, Carly Simon, and Pete Seeger in addition to singer-songwriter circles.
The "Bob Dylan Tribute Concert” will be on Friday, May 12 from 6-8 p.m. at the Westport Historical Society, 25 Avery Place, across from Town Hall. There is a $20 donation, which includes wine and light refreshments. Please call for reservations at (203) 222-1424. For more information visit westporthistory.org.