Birthday songs for Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

A group of Tauranga’s top musicians have formed a special “supergroup” for a concert to celebrate Bob Dylan’s seventy seventh birthday.

Popular local band Kokomo are joining forces with singers Marion Arts and John Michaelz, as well as multi-instrumentalist Robbie Laven, for a concert at Tauranga Boys’ College’s Graham Young Youth Theatre on 24 May, Bob Dylan’s birthday.

The concert is the brainchild of Kokomo frontman Derek Jacombs, a Bob Dylan fan since he first sneaked out of school in 1978 to see Dylan in concert in London. The magical spell woven at that concert has never faded and in 2008 Kokomo became the first New Zealand band to release a full album of Bob Dylan songs, their acclaimed collection, In The Well.

“I’ve wanted to play a Bob birthday concert for years,” says Derek, “but since I’m hopeless at remembering anyone’s birthday, even my own, I’m always too late. But this year we got in on time and have a dream line-up to present these great songs.”


Marion and Robbie first came to prominence on the New Zealand music scene in the 1970 with the ground-breaking band Red Hot Peppers. Even then Bob Dylan was a big influence.

For the birthday concert Marion will be reworking two songs that she used to sing with the Peppers. She finds Dylan’s songs exert a continuing fascination: “His composing is so good that you can keep revisiting the songs, making something quite different out of them each time.”

Robbie says that when he first heard Dylan’s music in 1964 his “whole world turned upside down.” That influence has lasted: “Even now I get inspiration and immense musical satisfaction out of playing Bob Dylan’s songs” he says.


Meanwhile, Tui-nominated singer John Michaelz discovered Dylan at an early age: “I first saw Bob when I was fourteen,” he says, “and he blew me away. It was a special concert too, the only time he ever sang ’Blowing in The Wind’ twice on the same show.”

Together the ensemble are promising a multitude of Bob Dylan songs, from the 1960s to the present day. “It’s really a matter of how much you can fit in,” says Derek. “We’re hoping for at least a couple of dozen songs, but with Dylan that’s juts scratching the surface. Still, we have songs from 15 different albums, so we’re covering a fair amount of ground...”

The Songs of Bob Dylan concert takes place on Thursday 24 May at Tauranga Boys’ College. Being at a school it will be an alcohol free concert, though there will be soft drinks available. Tickets are $24.95, currently selling fast on Eventfinda.

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