Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Anyone who knows about Bobby Zimmerman knows about Gerde's Folk City. It was where he got his first big break. It was where he hung out. It was where he made a name for himself. It was where he met Baez. It was where he hung out with Suze. It was where he played his new original stuff. It was where "Blowin" was first played. It was where many of his contemporaries first met and heard him play. It was where, as John Hammond recently told me, Bobby played his best solo shows. It was his turf. Gerde's, in a way, was the House that Dylan Built. 

I've often wonder'd if Dylan and Gerde's would have been Dylan and Gerde's without Dylan and Gerde's. The answer is pretty obvious to me. Dylan would have become the poet laureate of his generation whether he was discover'd on a street corner on the Square or the Wha? or the Gaslight. Like the biological fact that all female babies are born with all their lifetime's worth of eggs within their ovaries, so to, Uncle Bobby had all his songs with him when he came to New York. They just had to manifest and present themselves in time. Bobby Z was born to become Bob Dylan.

And Gerde's....well....Dylan was one in a long string of Folk singers to launch out of there. Established troubadors and Blues giants were perfoming there way before Dylan crossed the Hudson. It's probable that he knew this fact before he left Hibbing. Since he showed up at Folk City his first possible Monday, it's likely that playing the open mike at Gerde's was part of his plan during the infancy of his New York experience.

In other words, Gerde's already had cemented its name into the foundation of American Music History pre-Bob. When Bob became too large an act to play announced gigs in the Village, Mike Porco and Folk City carried on. Future legends came to Greenwich Village to launch their careers and several more found a home at Porco's place.

The Italian eatery and bar cum New York's Center of Folk Music would have drawn crowds and a new breed of Singer/Songwriter even if Dylan made Boston his HQ. They would have come to New York and they would have coveted the paying gig anyway. They would have had the City, love, life, death, heartache and current events to draw topical inspiration from. They would have had the Blues, Bluegrass, traditional and Rock to build upon. And they would have had Bob's music and legend to aspire towards. Somehow someway and from somewhere. 

But fate didn't have it that way. Bob came to Gerde's. And through the years, hundreds -perhaps thousands- came to Gerde's simply because Bob came to Gerde's. Mike Porco's "legend" was born 50 years ago because he offered his stage and guardianship to the birthday boy. His lasting effect on one little out of the way club is immeasurable.  

The two were destined to be intertwined and only because of that is my opinion worth more than a red cent. Because of that, the Folk City Family had a legendary figure to associate themselves with. Because of the Gerde's connection, Bobby brought it all back home in 1975 to kick off the Rolling Thunder Revue. (Yankee Stadium can't claim that!) Because of that, even more people came to Gerde's to feel the lingering magic still in the air of the late '70s. And because of that, we celebrate the still unfolding life of Uncle Bobby.              


"Talkin' New York"

Rambling out of the wild west
Leaving the towns I love best
Thought I'd seen some ups and down 
'Till I come into New York town
People going down to the ground
Building going up to the sky.

Wintertime in New York town
The wind blowing snow around
Walk around with nowhere to go 
Somebody could freeze right to the bone
I froze right to the bone 
New York Times said it was the coldest winter in seventeen years 
I didn't feel so cold then.

I swung on to my old guitar 
Grabbed hold of a subway car
And after a rocking, reeling, rolling ride
I landed up on the downtown side: 
Greenwich Village.

I walked down there and ended up 
In one of them coffee-houses on the block
Got on the stage to sing and play 
Man there said, Come back some other day
You sound like a hillbilly 
We want folksingers here.

Well, I got a harmonica job begun to play 
Blowing my lungs out for a dollar a day
I blowed inside out and upside down 
The man there said he loved my sound
He was raving about he loved my sound 
Dollar a day's worth.

After weeks and weeks of hanging around 
I finally got a job in New York town
In a bigger place, bigger money too 
Even joined the Union and paid my dues.

Now, a very great man once said 
That some people rob you with a fountain pen
It don't take too long to find out 
Just what he was talking about
A lot of people don't have much food on their table
But they got a lot of forks and knives 
And they gotta cut something.

So one morning when the sun was warm 
I rambled out of New York town
Pulled my cap down over my eyes 
And heated out for the western skies
So long New York 
Howdy, East Orange


"Not Dark Yet"

Shadows are fallin' and I've been here all day
It's too hot to sleep and time is runnin' away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I've still got the scars that the sun didn't heal
There's not even room enough to be anywhere
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.

Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there's been some kind of pain
She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writin' what was in her mind
I just don't see why I should even care
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.

Well, I've been to London and I been to gay Paris
I've followed the river and I got to the sea
I've been down on the bottom of the world full of lies
I ain't lookin' for nothin' in anyone's eyes
Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.

I was born here and I'll die here against my will
I know it looks like I'm movin' but I'm standin' still
Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb
I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don't even hear the murmur of a prayer
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there. 


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