And here’s an excerpt from a gathering that took place in Mumbai that same year (Deborah Baker speaks on a panel alongside Prabo Parikh, Adil Jussawalla and Jerry Pinto)
A more recent piece of Baker’s also comes highly-recommended – “For The Sake of The Song” (“A tangled tale of Bauls, Beat Poets, Bob Dylan and one woman’s effort to preserve the music and stories of West Bengal’s wandering minstrels”).
Bill Morgan at the end of the Asia Society symposium notes the importance of a later work of Allen’s, his poem, September On Jessore Road, written in 1971, after visiting the war-zone and witnessing first-hand the horror of the refugee camps. In many ways (particularly through a moving rendition/interpretation by Bengali singer Moushumi Bhoumik) the piece has become something of an anthem now (a historicized anthem) for Bangladeshi Liberation.
Deborah Baker here provides “the back-story” (one back-story): “It (I have to say) is a terrible poem. (!) Partly because Allen wrote it (not as a poem but) as song lyrics. I heard a number of renditions on cassettes and even his fellow musicians groaned in frustration at his inability to carry a simple tune. Of course, he was completely unfazed. As to the motivation behind it…His intention was to write a song that would make (Bob) Dylan cry. I don’t think Allen ever recovered from hearing Dylan the first time he returned from India, he realized immediately that he’d been superseded, that the Beat thing, which he was both haunted and sustained by, was over. In the Scorcese Dylan documentary he actually bursts into tears describing the moment, and he was in his seventies then. So I have serious questions about his motives in writing that poem. Since Dylan never showed up at the $7000 recording session, I don’t think he liked it either, or he saw what Allen was up to. Allen’s brother (Eugene) ended up picking up the tab. So that is the backstory” –
Btw, not sure what $7000 session Deb’s referring to, but Dylan did end up playing piano, electric and acoustic guitar on the 1971 Record Plant recording of SoJR. Deb if you’re out there, maybe you can clarify?