Montag, 14. März 2011

Renowned Dylan author Günter Amendt & actor Dietmar Mues among four dead killed in freak accident.

One of the persons whose passion and love for Bob Dylan inspired the author of this blog for as long as he can remember, Günter Amendt, was among the four dead killed in a freak accident in Hamburg.

Although I never met Günter, his Dylan articles in Konkret magazine, his radio report of the 1984 Dylan/Baez/Santana tour and his subsequent book Reunion Sundown, as well as his other Dylan publications with their wealth of information and a fascinating prose style will be sorely missed.

A student of Adorno, sociologist Günter Amendt became famous (or notorious) through his highly controversial books Sex-Front (1970) and Das Sex-Buch (1979).

Back in 1978, he was invited by German impresario Fritz Rau to accompany Dylan and his entourage on a leg of his European tour.

In a 2001 German/French TV production for Arte ("Knockin' on Dylan's Door"), he remembered:

"During that tour by "slow train" through the Federal Republic of Germany, so to speak, it was obvious that there was going to be plenty of time, and Fritz Rau had the idea that if Dylan or someone from his band felt the need to know something of this country, he wanted someone to be present to provide answers to possible questions."

Günter Amendt's Bob Dylan publications (in addtion to numerous articles in Konkret magazine) include:
  • Reunion Sundown, Jokerman 84 revisits Highway 61. Eine Robertage über Dylans Europa-Tournee 1984. Zweitausendeins, Frankfurt am Main 1985
  • The Never Ending Tour. Günter Amendt über Bob Dylan. Konkret, Hamburg 1991
  • Back to the Sixties. Bob Dylan zum Sechzigsten. Konkret, Hamburg 2001.  
Review of Back to the Sixties:

"Far more modest, but also far more interesting and worth seeking out this time is the little paperback 'Back To The Sixties'. Bob Dylan Zum Sechzigsten which, in spite of its title, is not a nostalgic commemoration of that mythical decade nor a birthday tribute proper, but rather a collection of reviews, letters to the press and articles on Dylan originally published from 1978 to 2001 by Günter Amendt, a social scientist, journalist and publisher, and one of the most important and respected German experts in Dylan's oeuvre. 

Many of the pieces included here had been previously collected in two other books by Amendt, 'Reunion Sundown' (1984) and 'Never Ending Tour' (1991). As with most anthologies, a few of the featured texts are eminently forgettable, but the overall quality is high.

Amendt comes from the German Left and Pacifist movements, and his approach to Dylan's work is overtly political, which can be irritating at times, particularly when, as in the older reviews, the music somehow gets lost along the way, buried under a naïve anti-American or anti-religious discourse. However, even at his most obtuse as far as the music is concerned, Amendt is always fascinating to read, and the older texts do offer a revealing insight into Dylan's reception in Germany in the late seventies and early eighties by the more radical fans. After all, those were years of turmoil, and even if of interest mainly to German readers, they are now also part of the Dylan history from their perspective.

Amendt comes through in this book as an extraordinarily lucid, perceptive and thoughtful critic of Dylan's oeuvre (his review of Time Out Of Mind is impressive, for instance), who was only clearly out of his depth (but he admits as much himself) when it came to appraising Dylan's religious albums. How so many intelligent people never managed at the time to find the music beneath the preaching still baffles me, but this is bye the bye, and of course from Amendt's dogmatically leftist point of view it must have proved nigh on impossible. He does admit his mistake while still defending his strict anti-religious stance and now praises the music he first derided, but even so, it is hard to excuse texts like his supposedly 'humorous' review of Saved ("There Is No Hope With That Pope", on pp. 64-68), or maybe I'm missing the point. He certainly does not leave the reader indifferent and at his best, Amendt is really very good: I sincerely doubt there were many Dylan specialists aware, as far back as 1986, of the importance of Dylan as performing artist, and of the fact that his albums basically contain "projects of songs that are only to be fully developed on stage. If at all." (p. 108), an idea Dylan himself has touched upon recently in several interviews.

Perhaps the most interesting text is the... script for a three-hour 60th anniversary radio broadcast on German DLF radio, which includes Amendt's personal impressions of the 1978 German tour: on the promoter's invitation, he accompanied Dylan and the band through Germany, and has many memorable anecdotes to share. The book includes a few b/w photos, of album covers mostly, but there are a couple of interesting illustrations for trainspotters in the lot, such as the room allocation list of the Grand Hotel at Nuremberg (p. 24) or the invitation card to the ceremony at which Dylan was awarded the insignia of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the French Culture Minister (p. 121). A delightful little book."
(Source: The Bridge - Jotting Down Notes).

Actor Dietmar Mues (who was killed along with Amendt) in Günter Amendt's translation/production of Sam Shepard's True Dylan (two clips from Knockin' on Dylan's Door):

Bob Dylan author Günter Amendt dies in freak accident (Harold Lepidus)
Tödlicher Verkehrsunfall in Eppendorf (NDR)
Unfalltod in Eppendorf (FAZ
Polizei ermittelt wegen fahrlässiger Tötung (Der Spiegel
Horror-Crash reisst Promis ins Verderben (Hamburger Morgenpost)

Any copyrighted items are included here for "nonprofit educational purposes" (one of the criteria of "fair use", Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107).

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