Dylan's Rolling Thunder Tour Rolls Again

With a new film and music recording, Bob Dylan’s rollicking Rolling Thunder Revue tour of 1975-76 is back in the public eye. Writing for UMass Lowell, longtime music journalist Dave Perry recounts the Lowell, Mass., stop of Dylan’s caravan. The gypsy bandmates stopped in Lowell for this reason, according to Rolling Stone magazine: “The Pilgrims Have Landed on Kerouac’s Grave.” In tribute to one of his early artistic influences, Dylan stayed overnight in a motel by the highway after the concert in Costello Gym on the north campus of what is now UMass Lowell, across Riverside Street from young Jack’s growing-up neighborhood in the 1930’s. In the morning the group, guided by Kerouac’s brother-in-law Tony Sampas whose sister had married Jack in 1966, visited highly charged Kerouac locations in the city like the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes behind the Franco-American School on Pawtucket Street (also a setting for scenes in K’s novel “Doctor Sax”), a powerful religious site for young Jack, and the author’s grave at Seventh and Lincoln streets in Edson Cemetery in South Lowell (where Dylan and Allen Ginsberg communed with Kerouac’s spirit in the bright November sun under autumn trees).

Many years later, I was with my family in Liverpool, England, doing the Beatles pilgrimage, visiting the suburban-like home where young John Lennon grew up (Aunt Mimi’s on Menlove Avenue). The curator who greeted us said Bob Dylan had been there two weeks earlier, looking around John’s old bedroom, the tiny enclosed porch where John and Paul McCartney composed songs, and the landscaped back yard beyond which is the children’s home called Strawberry Field, where John roamed the grounds and woods. Dylan is a pilgrim like the rest of us.

Here’s the Dave Perry article.

Later, I wrote a poem to mark the occasion of Dylan’s public tribute to Jack Kerouac:

Dylan Sings to Kerouac

The railroad earth

The hot autumn earth

The cemetery earth

The Lincoln earth

The November earth

The dharma karma earth

The Indian summer earth

The Rolling Thunder earth

The musical earth

The deep dug earth

The Lowell earth

The afternoon earth

The literary earth

The cowboy poet earth

The Minnesota earth

The French-Canadian earth

The old Jewish earth

The Bicentennial earth

The folk ground

The quiet ground

The round red earth

The hay-colored earth

The sunny leaves on earth

The brown and red-brick leaves

The yellow-orange leaves

The golden red grave leaves.

(1975)

Joan Baez & Bob Dylan singing at Costello Gym in Lowell, Nov. 2, ‘75. Photo courtesy of UMass Lowell.

Joan Baez & Bob Dylan singing at Costello Gym in Lowell, Nov. 2, ‘75. Photo courtesy of UMass Lowell.


My ink-and-watercolor notebook sketch of the concert scene made a day later.

My ink-and-watercolor notebook sketch of the concert scene made a day later.

Dylan and poet Allen Ginsberg at Jack Kerouac’s grave in Edson Cemetery, Nov. 3, 1975. Photo courtesy of “Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder” by film director Martin Scorsese.

Dylan and poet Allen Ginsberg at Jack Kerouac’s grave in Edson Cemetery, Nov. 3, 1975. Photo courtesy of “Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder” by film director Martin Scorsese.