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 Tangled Up In Gloom

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It's morbid times on Bob Dylan's latest.

by Clark Collins in Entertainment Weekly

Bob Dylan
Together Through Life

Bob Dylanhould you ever start a band that performs only Bob Dylan's songs about death, you'd have no shortage of material. But the sound of scythe-sharpening is particularly loud on this follow-up to 2006's majestic Modern Times. On "Life Is Hard" and "Forgetful Heart," Dylan sings from the perspective of someone biding his time before the embrace of the grave. Elsewhere, he tells of murders either threatened or just escaped, as on "If You Ever Go To Houston" and "My Wife's Home Town."

Bob Dylan - 'Together Through Life'While Dylan's grim-reaper ruminations are familiar territory, Life does offer some surprises. Produced, like his last two albums, by Dylan alter ego "Jack Frost," it prominently features south-of-the-border-style accordion (courtesy of Los Lobos' David Hidalgo) throughout, which handsomely frames the guitar playing of Tom Petty sideman Mike Campbell. Then there are the lyrics. All but one of these 10 songs were co-written by longtime Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Alas, the pair have come up with some desperately uninspired stuff, such as the "fun"-and-"sun"-rhyming blues of "Shake Shake Mama," or "Jolene," another unmemorable boogie shuffle (unlikely to be confused with the iconic Dolly Parton tune).

Even so, Life does feature some quality material. On the truly touching "Forgetful Heart," Dylan croaks about the door having closed on his emotions, "if indeed there ever was a door." And the set is nicely bookended by the funky "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" and the rockabilly-inclined "It's All Good," which Dylan performs with gleeful sarcasm. Unlike with his last few albums, however, you shouldn't consider buying this a matter of life or death. B-  

 Bea Arthur, 1922-2009

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'Maude''s Rue McClanahan and producer Norman Lear
remember the Emmy and Tony-winning actress.

from Entertainment Weekly


Rue McClanahanBea Arthurhen I first worked with her on Maude and came back to New York -- I was still living here -- actors descended upon me and said, "Good heavens! Anything but!" We immediately took to each other and just clicked right away. That height -- she was 5'10" flat-footed -- and that deep voice and that manner she was able to summon up made people think she would be difficult. But she wasn't -- she was anything but. She just demanded as near perfection as possible because that's what she gave. And she did not suffer fools gladly. But she appreciated real talent. She really did honor it.

Bea taught me to be outrageously courageous, as a comedienne to go out on a limb, to go farther than I've ever dreamed of going. I guess I learned to do that, because [laughs] I think I did that as Blanche [on The Golden Girls]. Blanche had to say and do things that Rue found difficult. And it would always be Bea who said [deepens voice to imitate Arthur], "Oh, say it! It's funny!" As a friend, she was giving and loving to me. She was a very close, quiet, rather timid person, very gentle, and her emotions were right under the surface. I saw someone say something once that they didn't mean to be a cutting remark, but it hit her wrong and she immediately burst into tears. That's not seen very often, but those feelings were right under the surface.

She came from theater, and the theater tends to be more gritty than television. She understood that kind of humor. She had a one-woman show on Broadway -- I'm so glad she got to do that. And she told some pretty raunchy jokes, live on stage. In fact, a couple were just a bit too much for me! [Laughs] But boy, she could tell a dirty joke. Oh my God, she was funny!


Norman Lear called her after I'd seen "Shoestring Revue," which was an Off Broadway show. The stage was dark. It was like a street scene. It was one lit streetlight, and she came out in the highest of heels and dressed to kill. She leaned against the streetlight and sang a torch song called "Garbage"; it was about some guy who had treated her like garbage. It's a big song, and every time she hit the word garbage, there was a laugh attack in the audience. I never forgot that.

I used to do the George Gobel variety show. I brought her out to play sketches. We had become great friends and worked together a number of times, and then came All in the Family. We wanted to do an episode where somebody could really lambaste Archie. And having grown up in my family, I knew that there was nothing like an old relative. So we brought in Maude as Edith's best friend and cousin, who never wanted her to marry this man. So she had all the anger over the years.

That episode was not quite finished [airing] in New York when I got a call from [CBS programming chief] Fred Silverman saying, "That woman, she's got to have a series of her own." Now, we understood that in the course of a week's rehearsal. There was no doubt this was a television star.  

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