Friday, May 23, 2008

A Darker Shade Of Pale: A Backdrop To Bob Dylan - writer Wilfrid Mellers dies

I was saddened to read this week of the death of composer/writer/academic Wilfrid Mellers, latterly Professor Of Music at York University.

The best known of his 20-odd books are celebrations of Bach and Beethoven, but A Darker Shade Of Pale: A Backdrop To Bob Dylan (Faber, 1984, 255pp, long out of print) is the Mellers book with which I’m most familiar.

It’s arranged in two parts. The first is a masterly outline of the range of American musics which inspired Zim; the second is a thoughtful dissection of the first twenty years of Dylan albums. I’ve bought most Dylan books over the years; I missed Mellers’ A Darker Shade Of Pale: big mistake.

Uniquely among the music academics I’ve encountered, Mellers was passionately interested all musics, not just the European art variety. He wrote accessibly - for those beyond, as well as within, the conservatoire. And he contextualised his musician subjects by explaining the times and societies from which they sprang.

May he rest in peace.

Gerry Smith