Bruce Jenkins has been a sportswriter at the San Francisco Chronicle for over 40 years, but he’s also the son of famed Frank Sinatra producer Gordon Jenkins, who produced some of Sinatra’s greatest recordings. In 2005 Bruce Jenkins book about his father, “Goodbye: In Search of Gordon Jenkins,” was published.
Leave it to Greil Marcus to ask Jenkins for his thoughts on Bob Dylan’s Shadows In THe Night, an album which features new versions of songs that Gordon Jenkins recorded with Sinatra including “Where Are You?,” “The Night We Called It A Day,” “I’m A Fool To Want You” and “Autumn Leaves.”
I listened to this album strictly from the perspective of being Gordon Jenkins’ son – and I have to tell you, I found it quite sweet and tender.
“My father always said that he and Sinatra made ‘September of My Years’ at exactly the right time (1965) of their lives: mid-fifties, harboring untold memories of lost love and heartbreak, but still absolutely in their prime. I’m so glad to hear Dylan, in his interviews, speak to this. At his peak, he was far too contemporary to pay much attention to Sinatra. He wrote the smartest lyrics of his generation (and of many others, I might add) and spoke to the people right then and there. It seems that as a lover of words, though, he stashed certain lyrics in the back of his mind, deeply meaningful passages from songs he knew would stand up over time.
“He dug the melodies, too. And it was such a good idea to abandon any reliance upon strings, horns, or even the piano. That’s been done. Dylan went into the studio with a wonderful pedal steel player, Donny Herron, who carried the instrumentals along with two guitarists, a bass player, and a percussionist. The result is a decidedly fresh interpretation of some classic material, and if Dylan’s voice sounds a little raw, hey, the man’s been belting ‘em out for decades. My father used to get up and leave the room if some half-baked singer appeared on television, and Dylan’s work might have driven him crazy after two or three bars. For me — and this is so crucial — the feeling is there, and if a Sinatra-Jenkins record strikes the image of a well-worn fellow pondering his fate in some lonesome tavern, Dylan resurrects it to perfection.
For more from Jenkins, plus the rest of Greil Marcus’ excellent new “Real Life Rock” column, head hear.
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