This weekend I tagged along on a wonderful trip to Woodstock, New York with David Kinney, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who is working on a new book on Bob Dylan for Simon & Schuster. It was partially wonderful because I had to do zero work whatsoever while David did all the heavy lifting, and because it was jammed packed with events that any Dylan fan would have loved to have experienced.
In two days, we visited Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble, met Elliot Landy, photographer of Dylan, the Band and rock’s elite during the 60s, and hung out for two and half hours at Big Pink, the house where the infamous Basement Tapes were made.
David got some great interviews—all of which I’m sworn to secrecy not to reveal. However, I can say that Woodstock is like any small town, except that it experienced a period of extreme fame within the lifetime of many of its current residents. The fallout from that fame is still evident everywhere—with all the stories, jealousies and continuing misunderstandings that one learns to expect from human nature.
I especially enjoyed meeting Don and Sue LaSala, the current owners of Big Pink. Though tourists continue to come on pilgrimages to the historic house constantly, they were charming and friendly and allowed us inside, both in the famous basement and upstairs in the living quarters.
To sit around a warm, friendly fire in Big Pink with truly nice people was a strangely ghostlike disconnect. To me the house is sacred ground, where amazing art was made by extraordinary people. Yet being there was so “now” and in the moment. The LaSalas are determined not to allow Big Pink to become a museum, but a living real place where art continues to be made. I admired their attitude.
Of course, Levon Helm connects to those days and his “barn” still continues the tradition, as we found Saturday night at the Midnight Ramble. Carolyn Wonderland, a wonderful blues singer who reminded me of Janis Joplin, was the opening act. Levon’s regular band was there, led by the former Dylan guitarist Larry Campbell.
Levon’s voice was weak, and Larry did most of the speaking. But it was a very substantial show that lasted more than three hours. At $150 it’s expensive, but worth it.
We met Elliott Landy on Sunday at Bread Alone, a small Woodstock coffee shop. Though Landy took some of the great rock and roll pictures of the 60s, he was definitely a very lucky guy who was at the right place at the right time. What years he had in 1968 and 69!
Perhaps some of his most famous pictures were of Bob Dylan and Band. He shot Dylan at his first Woodstock home on Byrdcliffe Road, and the Band at various locations in town. Many of his images have become icons. Perhaps best known is the photograph of Dylan tipping his hat used on the cover of Nashville Skyline. All by Elliot Landy.