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Visions of Johanna / Blonde On Blonde / 1966
Louise, she's all right, she's just near
She's delicate and seems like the mirror
But she just makes it all too concise and too clear
That Johanna's not here
The ghost of 'lectricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place

Johanna Gezina van Gogh

Date: Wed, 2 Aug 1995 13:26:01 GMT From: (Ed Ricardo) Subject: Re: Dylan meeting Lenny Bruce? BabyDodds ( wrote: : Lenny and Lennon have the first four letters in common. Lenn. : Bob has always cryptically transformed names : Joan to Johanna, Sara : Lownes(I don't know her exact maiden name) to Sad Eyed Lady of the : Lowlands. etc. Noznisky Who is Joan? The only Johanna I see is in the song Bob Dylan wrote for Johanna Gezina van Gogh (Bonger), sister-in-law of Vincent van Gogh who moved Dylan greatly by her single- handed transformation of the reputation of an obscure suicide into that of a major artist... [For those readers brand new to Dylan and unfamiliar with the song, the visions of Johanna are the paintings of Johanna's brother-in-law, the literal visions which her brother-in-law had, the visions which kept Mr Dylan up past the dawn, and -- perhaps most importantly -- her vision of what his art could be to a wider public.] And when is Stephen Scobie ( going to honour us with his "consider the implications of Gehenna..." speech? Now would be a good time? Joan Baez does believe she is the subject of that song, though. Lots said on that long ago in and Anthony Scaduto pp. 201-202. A "Joan" Johanna" search should get you there in the digest. is the URL for World Wide Web searches of the digest's archives, which in effect is the archives If you need older things or lost things you could ask The lady we agree is Shirley Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands SA A LOW NDS SAd eyed lAdy of the LOWlaNDS SA [R] A LOW NDS For: Sara Lownds aka: Shirley Noznisky Some say they can hear him sing SAd eaRed lAdy of the LOWlaNDS, but so far no one has sent us the tapes? :-) EDLIS badly needs an art historian, present day student, academic, past student, anything. Mr Dylan's work is crawling with allusions to fine art which I know I largely miss. EDLIS envisages something like our Christianity and Judaism agencies but making use of an enthusiastic art historian, rather than a religious informant, to cover for our lamentable ignorance... Craig -- I can still hear the sounds of those Methodist bells, I'd taken the cure and had just gotten through, Stayin' up for days in the Chelsea Hotel, Writin' "Sad-Eared Lady of the Lowlands" for you...

Date: Wed, 11 Oct 1995 13:17:56 GMT From: (Ed Ricardo) Subject: Re: Who is Johanna? Tim Hilliard ( wrote: : (44f0oo$>, said... : >Can anybody enlighten me on the identity of the woman in Dylan's "Visions : >of Johanna"? : Legend has it that she was Suze Rotolo's sister. Suze was Dylan's : girl friend in about '62. He thought Johanna broke them up and so he : skewered her in a couple of songs. Fascinating! :-) Do people like repostings of old news or should stuff like that below be sent in e-mail?
Newsgroups: From: (Steve Michel) Subject: Homer: Visions of Johanna Radio Show Date: Thu, 16 Sep 1993 21:37:25 GMT Re: Visions of Johanna Radio Show Hits of the 60s BBC Radio 3 Broadcast - 25th May 1993 10.00am Loudon Wainwright III talks about Bob Dylan's Visions Of Johanna from the album Blonde On Blonde, interspersed with clips from the record I heard Dylan maybe in 1961 or 2. I had heard his records, Freewheelin', which was his second record, first, and I kind of didn't like it that much. I remember a friend of mine was very excited about it and I was not enthralled. It sounded like an old, black blues singer. It was somebody impersonating those early records to me. But then I went to the Newport Folk Festival at some point in the early sixties, '62 or '63 and I saw him play and that was a kind of a shattering experience because he was so charismatic and just this kind of scruffy, skinny guy. But Blonde on Blonde was a magical record. The songs are great, the lyrics are amazing. It's still kind of painful to listen to, it's just so good, even though it's a young man probably on drugs and the imagery is sometimes a little silly but its just the power of the performance, the harmonica playing, the singing and the production. Ain't it just like the night To play tricks when you're tryin' to be so quiet? We sit here stranded, though we're all doin' our best to deny it And Louise holds a handful of rain, temptin'you to defy it Lightsflicker from the opposite loft In this room the heat pipes just cough The country music station plays soft But there's nothing, really nothing to turn off:.... We had just finished our first year at University, we were attending a drama school called Carnegie Melon University in Pittsburgh. We'd stayed over that summer to work in a repertory company that went around doing mystery and passion plays, when this record came out and we were staying in the director's basement. I just have an image of my friend George Gerties(?) and I hunched near some speakers, under the influence of some substance or other and trying to figure out what Bob was saying, particularly one sentence - 'The country music station plays soft' or is it Sartre, that's a bad French accent. But we kept going back and forth we couldn't figure which 'No, man, it's soft', 'No, man, it isn't - it's Sartre what's the matter with you, man, listen to it again'. 'Here! [ Sounds of inhalation of the aforementioned substances!!] 'It's soft, I know it's soft', 'No it's Sartre' In this room the heat plpes just cough The country music station plays soft But there 's nothing, really nothing to tun off ... The heat pipe coughs - I think that's the word that rhymes with soft or Sartre cough - and heat pipes really do cough in New York. George and I never tried to come up with 'What is this song about?' We revelled in it's mystery, really. The big overall meaning didn't matter that much. I mean he used to goof on people, if you look at Don't Look Back, that great documentary of his tour, actually, here in England in the mid-sixties probably before this record and people would say - 'What do the songs mean?', 'They mean whatever you want them to mean, man, you know.' [Wainwright impersonates Dylan.] He enjoyed the fact that people didn't know what the hell they meant and I don't think that he really did either. I mean obviously he was inspired by - there probably was somebody that was called Johanna but maybe not, you know. The ghost of 'lectricity howls in the bones of her face Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place... He was nasty and cool and rebellious and everything a young man aspires to, sarcastic, snotty, mean - not in the stingy sense, he was unpleasant to all authority figures and anybody who had short hair. In the third verse he says - 'Now, little boy lost he takes himself so seriously' I mean that's, again if you're a young man of 19, that's you. Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously And when bringing her name up He speaks of a farewell kiss to me He's sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all Muttering small talk at wall while I'm in the hall The album's a real speedy feel to it. Has a cocaine feel to it, to be honest. It feels that kind of brittle - it's not flowers and strawberry fields and yellow submarines and diamonds in the sky it's, you know, gritty and dirty streets and clanking heat pipes and up for five days. I mean whether you drag drugs into it or not, I mean again I think it doesn't have to have any meaning it is just truckloads of images and atmosphere. Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial Voices echo this is what salvation might be like after a while But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues You can see by the way she smiles... 'But Mona Lisa must have had the highway blues, you can tell the way she smiles.' It's just a great observation. He's commenting on it in a way that nobody had done and yet was very contemporary - the highway blues, you know. He came out of that tradition of Woody Guthrie and Jack Kerouac - the road, hitch-hiking, that long line of male guitar slingers, hitch-hiking with guitars over their back and that was related to the hobo tradition. You knew what the highway blues were but your parents didn't because you'd read 'On The Road' and they were reading James Michener's 'Hawaii.' The peddler now speaks to the countess who's pretending to care for him.............. He was a middle class white guy like me and yet he was poetic and mysterious and charismatic and exciting to watch that it seemed like a pretty interesting idea to try to be a songwriter. And Madonna, she still has not showed We see this empty cage now corrode Where her cape of the stage once had flowed The fiddler, he now steps to the road He writes ev'rything's been returned which was owed On the back of the fish truck that loads while my conscience explodes The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain.
Newsgroups: Subject: Re: Thin Wild Mercury Music CD (???) Date: 16 Aug 1994 07:26:37 -0500 X-Sender: Re: Thin Wild Mercury Music CD (???) >In the same way SPANK have listed the 'nightengales code' >version of 'Just Like a Women' as 'Freeze Out' this is >almost certainly the *correct* title for this version. I >say WELL DONE SPANK. Maybe the bootleggers behind SPANK are >really DYLAN fans? Oh. This is new to me, my copy has Freeze Out in two versions as the expected Freeze Out/Visions of Johanna/Mother Revisited (Co. 88581) ["he examines the nightingale's code, still left on the fish truck that loads..."] (7:33) [2/122.1]; [faster version: he examines the nightingale's code, still written on the fish truck that loads, my conscience explodes...] (8:28) [2/124]. I am thinking of the song Bob Dylan wrote for Johanna Gezina van Gogh (Bonger), sister-in-law of Vincent van Gogh who moved Dylan greatly by her single- handed transformation of the reputation of an obscure suicide into that of a major artist... [For those readers brand new to Dylan and unfamiliar with the song, the visions of Johanna are the paintings of Johanna's brother-in-law, the literal visions which her brother-in-law had, the visions which kept Mr Dylan up past the dawn, and -- perhaps most importantly -- her vision of what his art could be to a wider public. (Johanna would have told Vincent to go to Woodstock, indeed to go to both Woodstocks, and she would have told him also to ask Bob Dylan to recommend a good firm of accountants... :-)) ] Just Like A Woman is the song for Edie Sedgwick, no? Telegraph #5 in 1992? If Les wishes we be more pedantic Mr Dylan specifically requested we call the song Mother Revisited at the Festival Hall, Melbourne, Australia, on 19 April 1966. So it only had the title Visions Of Johanna for a few months... "She's delicate and seems like the mirror..." in Co. 88581 is "She's steady seems like Vermeer, but she just makes it all too clear, that Johanna's not here, the ghost of 'lectricity Howells in the bones of her face..." That's what I hear anyway. :-) -- Then he picked up his paints and his easel And he went out to paint some crows They found him face down in a corn field Shot right between two rows Now, where did Vincent Van Gogh...?
Newsgroups: From: uh749@freenet.Victoria.BC.CA (Stephen Scobie) Subject: Re: dylan Date: Sun, 18 Sep 1994 17:22:47 GMT In a previous article, (guest) says: > Anyway, here is my question: Has our Mr. Dylan ever made any >remarks about Joan Baez being the subject for any of his songs? >Obviously she is( to my romantic nature only, perhaps?), but I was just >wondering. Someone posted something implying that "Visions of Johanna" >was not, but I always rather secretly hoped it was. Also, on her >Diamonds and Rust album in the song "Winds of the Old Days", she sings"So >get you down to the harbor now/most of the sour grapes are gone from the >bow/Ghost of Johanna will visit you there/And the winds of the old days >will blow through your hair". Any info is appreciated. Our Mr Dylan very seldom makes remarks of that kind. However, our Ms Baez does sometimes talk about it. In the interview she gave to Anthony Scaduto for his 1971 biography of Dylan, she recalls: "He'd just written 'Visions of Johanna' which sounded very suspicious to me, as though it had images of me in it. I mean, I can't ever say that publicly [ho ho ho; what does she think she's doing as she says this??]. But he'd been talking to [Allen] Ginsberg about it. First of all he had never performed it before, and Neuwirth told him I was there that night and he performed it. And that was very odd. I was listening to the song and sort of inwardly wanting to feel flattered, but wondering whether -- you know, I mean, everybody in the world think Bobby's written songs about them, and I consider myself in the same bag. But I would never claim a song. But certain images in there did sound very strange. Then Ginsberg came up at one point and said, 'What do you think "Visions of Johanna" is about?' And I said, 'I don't know, Ginsberg, your guess is as good as mine.' He said, 'No, no, what do you think it's about? Bobby says... ' and then he reeled off this pile of crap that had nothing to do with anything. And I said, 'Did Bobby say that or did you make that up, Allen?' I had the feeling the two of them were in sort of cahoots to make sure I never thought the song had anything to do with me. I had that feeling a lot. And I wouldn't give any.... I mean Ginsberg was trying to get me to say I thought the song was written about me, and I would never say that about any of Bobby's songs." (Scaduto, pp. 201-202.) Now, this strikes me as both funny and pathetic. The more Baez claims *not* to think the song is about her, the more it is clear that that's exactly what she does think. The more she tells Scaduto that she doesn't want to claim it, the more she in fact claims it. (Personally, I would much rather hear the "pile of crap that had nothing to do with anything" which Ginsberg advanced as his interpretation of the song!) The affair between Dylan and Baez was basically over some six months before the song was written (which could of course explain why "Johanna's not here"!). But the time of writing and first performing it were also the time of the marriage to Sara: indeed, the first public performance of "Visions of Johanna" was in the same week as the wedding. Even for someone with Mr Dylan's notorious insensitivity to other people's feelings, it is perhaps stretching it a little to suppose that he would commemorate his marriage to Sara by writing a major song about Baez.... But, over and above all these considerations, the basic question is: what does it add to your understanding of the song to suppose that Johanna "is" Joan Baez? I can see no way in which the resonances of the actual Joan Baez add to or illuminate the portrayal of Johanna. (Indeed, for me they just distract.) On the other hand, given the heavily aspirated H in Dylan's pronunciation of Johanna, consider the implications of Gehenna.... But that's another story. -- ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Stephen Scobie "It was either her or the straight man who introduced me..." ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ The story Stephen never tells on the net, buy another 100 copies of his book and maybe he'll give us a precis? :-)
Date: Sat, 30 Sep 1995 20:33:18 GMT From: Stephen Scobie/Maureen Scobie (sscobie1@SOL.UVIC.CA) Subject: Re: Who is Johanna? (Fred Vachss) wrote: > "Johanna" is Joan Baez (mentioned in Scaduto's bio of Dylan). Well, not quite. Scaduto's biography includes an interview with Baez, in which Baez makes it perfectly clear that *she* thinks Joanna is her. Scaduto seems to go along with this. But that still isn't incontrovertible evidence. I discuss this point at length in my pamphlet on "Visions of Johanna" (still, I think, available through Rolling Tomes). To summarise: (1) All available evidence suggests that "Visions of Johanna" was written, and first performed, at least 6 months after Bob and Joan had split up (even if it took a bit longer for Joan to accept that), and almost exactly at the time of Bob's marriage to Sara. Even given Bob's notorious insensitivity to other people's feelings, is it likely that he celebrated his marriage to Sara by writing a song to Joan? (2) Even if Joanna "is" Joan Baez, what does this add to the song? In my view, nothing at all. (3) It is much more interesting to hear in the name the echo of the name "Gehenna," meaning Hell, Prison, Torture. In fact, no matter how often I hear the song, and no matter how often I read the printed lyrics as "Johanna," what I *hear* is still "Gehenna." Stephen -- Stephen Scobie Maureen Scobie
Date: Tue, 3 Oct 1995 11:40:31 -0500 From: "Mark L. Kelly" (mlk@LOYOLA.EDU) Subject: johanna I've been following the Johanna thread with some interest, because it is among the most interesting of Dylan's songs, and I wanted to throw in a couple of comments. First, I think the "shocking" painting of a pregnant bride was Jan Van Eyck's "Arnolfini Wedding" (1434), not anything by Vermeer, who tended to paint scenes from everyday life. Also, art historians believe that Arnolfini's bride was not actually pregnant, but that her dress bustle was the fashion in the 15th century. If you haven't seen this painting, check it out-the Arnolfinis were one ugly couple, but there are details in Van Eyck's painting that foreshadow MC Escher and other Dutch realists. Second, I have heard that Johanna is about Van Gogh's sister-in-law, but I've yet to get a confirmation about it. I think the person who said something about Rimbaud's sister could help out by throwing a little more detail our way. Personally, I think that the key to the song is figuring out the relationship between Johanna and Louise. Once that's done, the exquisite imagery and almost hypnotic effect of this tonal poem will become clear. I myself have little interest in reaching a quick answer to its mysteries; like most of Dylan's work, I find the rewards come from the slow unfolding of meaning over time.
From: tricia.j@AARDVARK.APANA.ORG.AU (Patricia Jungwirth) Date: 97-07-15 23:34:30 EDT
"go down Ol' Hanna, don't you rise no more, no more risin' till the Judgement Day" (No More Cane On The Brazos)
any connection between Ol' Hanna and Johanna? just a stray thought which keeps recurring when I hear that song Tricia
Subject: Re: Who is Ol' Hanna? From: Peter Stone Brown ( Date: Thu, 17 Jul 1997 13:58:15 -0400 Patricia Jungwirth wrote: > > "go down Ol' Hanna, don't you rise no more, > no more risin' till the Judgement Day" > (No More Cane On The Brazos) > > any connection between Ol' Hanna and Johanna? > > just a stray thought which keeps recurring when I hear that song > > Tricia No connection. Ol Hanna is the sun. There's another traditional field holler called "Go Down Ol Hanna." --PSB
Subject: Re: Who is Ol' Hanna? From: SLOTH9318 ( Date: 17 Jul 1997 16:56:36 GMT Well, maybe....BUT: I recall reading somewhere that Ol Hanna was the sun. The prisoners worked (as did sharecroppers) from what Mance Lipscomb called "cain't to cain't"---from the time you can't see just before dawn to the time you can't see just after sunset. So, if the sun didn't rise, no one would have had to work.
Subject: Re: Who is Ol' Hanna? From: catherine yronwode ( Date: Fri, 25 Jul 1997 01:34:31 -0800 Harvey Bojarsky wrote: > While we're here anyway, it's interesting to compare gender > personification of things in different cultures. In Native > American philosophy, the sun is generally Father, and the moon is > Mother. In Black work songs the sun is female (as are many > things, including a whip (Black Betty). Anyone have any > thoughts about this? Examples from other cultures? In Hebrew, the sun is female, the moon, male, and ditto in Japan. In most European cultures, the opposite applies. In ancient Sumer, Inanna (Johanna, ol' Hannah?) was Venus, a female, but in ancient Israel, the Morning Star, Venus, was Lucifer, a male. catherine yronwode
Subject: Re: Who is Ol' Hanna? From: Malandra Date: 24 Jul 1997 00:34:44 GMT Patricia Jungwirth wrote: > The three most common 'theories' concerning the word 'Johanna' in the Dylan > song seem to be: > a) It refers to Joan Baez > b) It relates to 'Gehenna', the Hebrew word for the 'afterworld' > c) Van Gogh's sister (or was it sister-in-law?) > d) it refers to someone or something that only Dylan knows It would appear that Joan Baez thought that 'Johanna' referred to her. In her song 'Winds of the Old Days', which (in my opinion, anyway...) is about her somewhat uncertain relationship towards Dylan in the 1970s, she includes the lyrics: 'And get you down to the harbour now, Most of the sour grapes have gone from the bough. Ghosts of Johanna will visit you there, And the winds of the old days will blow through your hair'. Love, Avis

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