Tulsa lands Bob Dylan archive

Bob Dylan

A few years ago, Tulsa was lucky enough to acquire the archive of folk-music legend Woody Guthrie.

So it seems natural Tulsa also would acquire the archive of music legend Bob Dylan, who began his career as a Woody Guthrie disciple.

The New York Times got the scoop this week of the Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation — which also bought the Guthrie archive — buying the musician’s personal collection of notebooks, letters, contracts, photographs, artwork, rare recordings, films, musical instruments and assorted other memorabilia Dylan collected over his 50-plus-year career. In all, the archive contained more than 6,000 items.

Media outlets that include Rolling Stone reported foundation paid between $15 million and $20 million for the Bob Dylan archive, which would fill the payload of two semi trucks.

A news release from the Bob Dylan archive website gives a lot of detail about the acquisition:

  • The foundation and the University of Tulsa will oversee the archive at the university’s Helmerich Center for American Research. But a museum to show replicas of the artifacts eventually will open near the Woody Guthrie Center in the city’s downtown Brady District, just a few blocks north of Route 66.
  • Dylan said in the release: “I’m glad that my archives, which have been collected all these years, have finally found a home and are to be included with the works of Woody Guthrie and especially alongside all the valuable artifacts from the Native American Nations. To me, it makes a lot of sense and it’s a great honor.”
  • Tulsa will spend the next two years sorting, digitizing and preserving the archive.
  • The foundation and university are planning a public exhibition of some of the archive later this year.

The release also reveals some of the items in the archive:

  • A notebook from 1974 containing Dylan’s handwritten lyrics to songs that were recorded for the artist’s biggest-selling album, “Blood On The Tracks,” including “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Simple Twist Of Fate” and “Idiot Wind.”
  • Sketches, writings and edits from “Tarantula,” Dylan’s 1965 collection of experimental poetry.
  • Dylan lyrics and chord progressions for unrecorded songs, circa 1970.
  • Handwritten notes from Dylan and director Howard Alk, detailing editing notes and shot selects from the films “Eat The Document” (1971) and “Renaldo And Clara” (1978).
  • Dylan’s 1962 signed contract with Witmark Music, his first music publisher.
  • Dylan’s 1966 wallet that included a paper with Johnny Cash’s address and phone number and a business card from Otis Redding.
  • Complete, never-released Dylan concert films from Toronto’s Massey Hall in 1980 and New York’s Supper Club from 1993.
  • Dylan’s earliest music recordings from 1959.
  • The leather jacket worn by Dylan onstage at The Newport Folk Festival in 1965, the year he went electric.
  • The surviving harp from inside the piano on which Dylan composed “Like A Rolling Stone.”
  • Lyrics to “Chimes Of Freedom,” handwritten by Dylan in 1964 on hotel stationary, complete with annotations and additional verses.
  • In-progress and final lyrics to all songs from Dylan’s latter-day acclaimed album, “Time Out Of Mind,: handwritten and annotated by the artist.

I predicted at the time of the acquisition of the Guthrie archive Tulsa would become a destination for many folk musicians. With the Bob Dylan archive, the appeal of Tulsa to musicians and music fans will be multiplied several times over.

Dylan perhaps is best known for his massive hit single from 1965, “Like a Rolling Stone,” but he probably is the most influential songwriter of second half of the 20th century. I read a pop-music reference book that argued he was one of a handful of people responsible for ending the Vietnam War.

Woody Guthrie’s links to Route 66 are many. But any links to the Mother Road and Dylan are scant. Early in his career, Dylan claimed to have spent part of his childhood in the Route 66 town of Gallup, New Mexico. That probably was Dylan messing around with a reporter; he grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota.

In terms of highways, Dylan was much more associated with U.S. 61. That highway went through his hometown, and he recorded the well-known “Highway 61 Revisited” for a now-classic album of the same name in 1965.

(Image of Bob Dylan at the 2010 Arkena Rock Festival by Dena Flows via Flickr)

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