Bob Dylan Illustrated His Most Famous Songs—With New Lyrics—for a London Gallery Show

"Mondo Scripto" is a sneak preview of a massive global touring exhibition organized by Halcyon gallery, set for next year.

Bob Dylan. Image courtesy Halcyon Gallery.

For a new exhibition titled “Mondo Scripto” at Halcyon Gallery in London, Bob Dylan has handwritten lyrics to 60 of his most famous songs—and sometimes made changes that update the original words for today.

The lyric sheets, on view at the gallery until November 30, are accompanied by an all-new set of Dylan’s pencil drawings that offer additional explorations of their themes. Dylan says the new images “come straight from the songs.”

Over the course of his career, the songwriter-turned-artist has made a practice of continually reworking his lyrics. “Mondo Scripto” puts that process on full display.

Thus, Dylan has almost completely redrafted 1975’s “Tangled Up in Blue.” Now, the protagonist no longer “used a little too much force.” Instead, he “let the law take its course.”

Bob Dylan, drawing for Tangled Up In Blue courtesy Halcyon Gallery.

In “Gotta Serve Somebody” (1979), Dylan has added a new set of warnings possibly evoking the Opioid crisis, writing, “Maybe you’re a mystic, they may call you Mr Soul / Might be on the wagon, you might be on a roll / You may be on painkillers, you might be medicated / You might be simple-minded, it might be unrelated…”

Other songs that have seen significant changes include “If You See Her, Say Hello” (1975), and “When I Paint My Masterpiece” (1971).

Bob Dylan, drawing for The Times They Are a Changin courtesy Halcyon Gallery.

Dylan’s drawings shine fresh light on some of the songs, too. The drawing for “The Times They Are a Changin’,” which became a de facto anthem of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, repurposes the famous protest song. Now, the image is presented from the point of view of a person (who looks more like Jimmy Carter than Donald Trump) gazing out at angry protesters from the Oval Office.

The show also features an installation that illustrates “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” (1973) line by line. The gallery’s president, Paul Green, says the show marks the first time Dylan has “fused together his artistic disciplines.” 

“Mondo Scripto” is a sneak preview of a massive global touring exhibition organized by the gallery, launching in 2019 in Asia, visiting China and Japan and eventually making its way to the US.

As a songwriter, Dylan was the first ever musician to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, recognized for forging new poetic expressions within the tradition of the great American song. As a visual artist, he has a slightly less celebrated history: When paintings supposedly depicting his travels to Asia were shown at Gagosian Gallery in 2011, he was accused of plagiarizing the images from photographs by the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Léon Busy.

The exhibition will fill Halcyon Gallery’s 144-146 New Bond Street location until the end of November. A series of signed, limited edition prints will concurrently go on display across the street at the gallery’s 29 New Bond Street site. 

See some more of Dylan’s illustrations below.

Bob Dylan, drawing for When I Paint My Masterpiece courtesy Halcyon Gallery.

Bob Dylan, drawing for Maggie’s Farm courtesy Halcyon Gallery.

Bob Dylan, drawing for It’s All Over, Now Baby Blue courtesy Halcyon Gallery.

Bob Dylan, drawing for Hurricane courtesy Halcyon Gallery.

Bob Dylan, drawing for Forever Young courtesy Halcyon Gallery.

Bob Dylan, drawing for All I Really Want To Do courtesy Halcyon Gallery.

Bob Dylan, handwritten lyrics for The Times They Are a Changin courtesy Halcyon Gallery.

Bob Dylan, “Mondo Scripto” is on at Halcyon Gallery, London, through November 30.

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