Who knew Dylan loves Blur and LL Cool J? Or that he's an expert on topics including the sixteenth-century European tulip market and the career of Martin Sheen? On Theme Time Radio Hour, his weekly XM Radio show, Dylan tells jokes, fields e-mails and plays music — all related to weekly themes that have so far included the devil, coffee, flowers, dogs and divorce. Dylan introduces songs with the cool patter that ruled the airwaves when he was growing up. Here, in his own words, are highlights from four of the best shows.
"Tonight we're going to visit the big house. The clink, the brig, the coop, the gray-bar hotel, the hoosegow, the joint, the jug, the pen, the pokey, the slammer, the stir. A real hush-hush subject where everyone is hurting for someone or something. We're going to learn about cons, jailbirds, stoolies, lifers, new fish and politicians. Prison, the house of many doors."
"Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair": Bessie Smith
"Bessie Smith doesn't want to be in prison. She caught him with a trifling Jane. She cut him with her barlow knife. She kicked him in the side. She stood there laughing as he wallowed around and died. She admits it. She's nutso crazy, unbalanced, unsound, loony, witless and wrong. She has a grave disorder of the mind that impairs her capacity to function normally in society."
"Jail Bait": Andre Williams
"'Jail Bait' talks about a rough temptation but a common invitation. A good association, but a quick limitation that will take you out of circulation. He's talking about that younger generation. He's talking about jail bait."
"Okie's in the Pokie": Jimmie Patton
"Will Rogers said there is no more independence in politics than there is in jails. Harry Truman said the White House is the finest prison in the world. Nelson Mandela said, 'In my country we go to prison first and then become president.' Jimmie Patton put it another way: Okie's in the pokie."
"Christmas in Prison": John Prime
"Charles Bukowski once said. 'I don't like jail, they have the wrong kind of bars there.' Prisoners spend a lot of time in the library. I guess they enjoy escape literature . . . John captures the isolation and loneliness of spending Christmas away from your loved one. Sometimes it's not such a bad thing."
"Tonight we're going to head out to the field of dreams, schemes and themes, the ever-widening diamond, to look at the national pastime: baseball."
"Home Run": Chance Halladay
"In the Fifties, every red-blooded American boy either wanted to play baseball or be Elvis Presley. Here's a rockabilly song by Chance Halladay that combines the best of both."
"The Ball Game": Sister Wynona Carr
"If diamonds are a girl's best friend, why do so many girls get mad when you want to go to the ballpark? You tell me. Sister Wynona Carr was a powerful gospel singer. She also recorded some rhythm & blues numbers. Her best-known number, however, is a gospel song, and it's all about the game of baseball."
"Joe DiMaggio's Done It Again": Billy Bragg and Wilco
"Here's a song about Joltin' Joe by Billy Bragg and Wilco from the album Mermaid Avenue, where they take the unfinished lyrics of Woody Guthrie and add music to them. Guthrie left behind 2,500 unfinished songs. The lyrics about New York streets, filmstar idols, drinking, loving, dying and even spaceships were chosen because they presented a completely different aspect to Woody's public persona. Here's a song Woody wrote about the Yankee Clipper."
"Heart": "Damn Yankees" (1955 Original Broadway Cast)
"This is a song from the play Damn Yankees — I don't mean the band Ted Nugent is in with those guys from Styx . . . That's it for another show. I'm going to head to the dugout, see if I can find a relief pitcher."
"We got an e-mail from Johnny Depp in Paris, France. He wants to know: 'Who was the father of modern communism?' Well, Johnny, Karl Marx was the father of modern communism. He also fathered seven children. Four of them survived to adulthood. His only son, Frederick Demuth, was illegitimate. I wonder if he calls his daddy on Father's Day?"
"That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine": The Everly Brothers
"This is the Everly Brothers, doing 'That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine' — written by Gene Autry, who got a gold record for it back in 1932, back when a gold record meant something. The Everly Brothers did an album of songs called Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, and they've always had a strong sense of family — even when they're not speaking with each other."
"Father Time": Lowell Fulson
"Lowell was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where you can still get the best steak sandwich in the country."
"Father Alone": The Swan Silverstones
"The Swan Silverstones, featuring the Reverend Claude Jeter — no relationship to Derek, as far as I know."
"Sometimes a relationship goes down like the Titanic. Divorce is the sacrament of adultery. Join us as we listen to things going to pieces."
"The Grand Tour": George Jones
"It takes two to make a divorce, and here's Tammy Wynette's ex-husband George Jones with a grand weeper of a song. A house where heartbreak lives, but the wife doesn't."
"Alimony": Tommy Tucker
"Lotta things can kill you. Knives, bullets, ropes, strychnine, iodine and carbon monoxide. A radio in the bathtub, a golf ball bouncing off a tree, bulldozers, a big rock can fall on you, parachute can fail to open, car crash, boat, bus mishap, you can drown in a glass of water. But alimony is killing Tommy Tucker."
"Mexican Divorce": The Drifters
"A Mexican divorce was easier, quick and less expensive than a U.S. divorce. What made it easier was that both spouses did not have to be present at the hearing. They could send a lawyer instead. Some celebrities that had Mexican divorces included Johnny Carson, Katharine Hepburn, Richard Burton and Marilyn Monroe."
"Divorce Me C.O.D.": Merle Travis
"Time has run out here, and all this talk about sadness and broken hearts has made me want to go to Elmo's bar and get myself a drink. I'm going to make like a divorce and split."
This story is from the September 7th, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone.