NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — In a year when the musical world is still mourning icons Prince, David Bowie and Merle Haggard, musicians of all genres and generations have been celebrating a still active legend — Bob Dylan — in an annual all-star concert series for 15 years.
This year’s two-day Dylan Fest, held in Nashville, Tennessee, includes classics like “Like a Rolling Stone,” ”Tangled Up in Blue” and “All Along the Watchtower,” and performers such as Ann Wilson of Heart, Wynonna Judd, Emmylou Harris, Kacey Musgraves, Jason Isbell, Butch Walker and Kesha. The festivities kicked off Monday and more performers are slated for Tuesday — Dylan’s 75th birthday — at the historic Ryman Auditorium.
The performances are being livestreamed on AOL.com.
The Dylan Fest started at a bar the Lower East Side with a small group of friends getting together to sing his songs on his 60th birthday. Since then, the concert series has expanded to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin and Chicago, raised money for charities and included musical celebrations of other icons including Tom Petty, George Harrison, Fleetwood Mac and the Beach Boys.
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“It’s quite a trend when someone dies to try to pay tribute to them,” said Dylan Fest organizer Austin Scaggs, a music writer and musician. “I like to celebrate when these people …are alive and I want them to know there is another generation behind them, or two generations now, that are feeling the same feeling about their music.”
A day after her impressive performance of Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me, Babe” at the Billboard Music Awards, pop singer Kesha was back in Nashville on Monday to deliver a standout version of Dylan’s gospel song “I Shall Be Released,” and got a standing ovation. She performed barefoot in a sparkly light blue suit.
The singer, who had hits with “Tik Tok” and “We R Who We R,” is part of what Scaggs likes to call the “Fest Family,” which also includes the Kings of Leon, Norah Jones, Dhani Harrison and Jakob Dylan.
“I sense a specialness about her, a uniqueness,” Scaggs of Kesha. “And I know that manifests itself with her acting crazy or acting wild, but the bottom line is she has an incredible voice and she has a real passion for music.”
Backstage the crowd of musicians waiting to perform was mostly young millennials from Americana, folk, indie rock and country, a second generation of Dylan fans.
“If you want to listen to great songs, instead of going to a thousand artists, you can just go to his catalog and find so many great ones,” said singer-songwriter Holly Williams, who sang his classic “The Times They Are A-Changin'” on Monday night.
“No matter how old, how young you are, we can all relate to the lines, ‘Come gather round people wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown,'” she said.