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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Singer-songwriter Mary Lee Kortes honors her muse with new book 'Dreaming of Dylan'

Mary Lee Kortes


Mary Lee Kortes took a detour in 2002 from the acclaimed original material she’d been recording with her band Mary Lee’s Corvette.

She recorded live Bob Dylan’s entire 1975 Blood on the Tracks album, from a female perspective. Her Dylan homage not only won more accolades (a four-star review in Rolling Stone) and international airplay, but her version of “You’re A Big Girl Now” was featured on Dylan’s own website, and she eventually opened for him on some of his concert dates.

Kortes now carries her devotion to Dylan a step further via the Nov. 13 publication of Dreaming of Dylan: 115 Dreams About Bob (BMG). Taking its title from Dylan’s 1965 Bringing It All Back Home album track “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”—a surrealistic trip through early U.S. history within a fractured Moby Dick setting—Dreaming of Dylan is pretty much just that: a book collection of dreams of Dylan, collected and edited by Kortes (who also shares her own Dylan dreams), from the likes of Patti Smith (her “Dog Dream” tale relates a dream she had of Dylan in 1971 that Sam Shepard suggested she write about—which she did, in “a kind of nursery song” that she has performed ever since); Squirrel Nut Zippers frontman Jimbo Mathus, guitarist Kevin Odegard (whose guitar intro graced Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue” single from Blood on the Tracks), drummer Will Rigby, and representatives of more commonplace vocations like dentists, attorneys, plumbers and pastors.

The dreams—”alternately touching, funny, puzzling, wise, crude, tender, frightening, and romantic,” writes Kortes in her foreword--are accompanied by over 100 original images and illustrations. Collecting them, she adds, “has been a wild pleasure ride.”

Of her own Dylan dreams, Kortes notes having had dreamtime dinner with him many times, including one “in a small dark restaurant with brick walls and candles [where] the warmth in his eyes was a guide, a magnet. Without words, he let me know he liked me and my music, and, in that silent approval, encouraged me to keep going.”

It later dawned on her that “he’d taken up such wide residence in so many minds…scampering through our collective unconscious, sometimes scoundrel, sometimes savior, and often simply a friend.” So the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter, characterized by Rolling Stone as a vocal blend of “the high-mountain sunshine of Dolly Parton with a sweet-iron undercoat of Chrissie Hynde,” began seeking dreams and illustrations from others on Dylan’s fan site.

“As he said himself,” she writes, quoting a famous line in Dylan’s “Talking World War III Blues” from his 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, “`I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours.’ The contributors here have kept their part of the bargain.”

Meanwhile, Kortes has a new song, “Dreaming of Him,” inspired by images from her Dylan dreams, and set for Nov. 9 release on iTunes, but already included in a feature at the popmatters website. She’ll promote the book at Little City Books in Hoboken (Nov. 16) and at Joe’s Pub in New York (Jan. 24, 2019), where she’ll reprise her performance of Blood on the Tracks.

Other promotional events are in the works.

Mary Lee's Corvette's"Tangled Up in Blue"



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