Tag Archives: music

Rob Fraboni interviewed by Eric Francis

Dear Friend and Reader:

Today I have a special edition of Planet Waves FM for you — an interview with Rob Fraboni. You may not have heard his name, but you’ve heard his work. It’s an odd coincidence that Rob produced the Bob Dylan album Planet Waves. Here is how the Wikipedia editors describe him —

Planet Waves
Sound engineer Rob Fraboni. Photo: Wikimedia.

“Rob is well-known for his work with Bob Dylan, The Band, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Tim Hardin, The Beach Boys, Joe Cocker, and Bonnie Raitt, and as Vice President at Island Records where he remastered the entire Bob Marley catalog.

“He produced the soundtrack on Martin Scorsese’s groundbreaking concert movie, The Last Waltz, which included an all-star cast of famous rock and roll performers. He built and designed the legendary Shangri-La studios in Malibu to the specification of Bob Dylan and the Band. Referred to as a ‘genius’ by Keith Richards in his bestselling autobiography Life, he is considered one of the most influential recording producers in rock and roll history.”

Rob and I talk about the history of some of this music, including never-before told stories about The Basement Tapes, The Red Room Tapes and most notably, The Last Waltz. We straighten out the rumor that the whole film was overdubbed. Rob would know — he mastered the soundtrack and solved a big problem with the transitions in the film.

We also hear from Rob about his views on digital music, MP3s, and how to get the best sound with the simplest possible setup. If you know any fans of Dylan, The Band, the Rolling Stones or anyone who would aspire to either record, or be in the business, please send them this link.

Rob will see this page, so you’re free to leave comments and messages to him in the comment area. Special thanks to Special Rider Music for permission to use two of Bob’s songs, which were re-mastered by Fraboni — “I Don’t Believe You” and “Forever Young,” both from The Last Waltz soundtrack.

Here is your recording in the Old Player, which includes a downloadable archive. It should update automatically when you launch iTunes, at least in a short while.


Eric Francis

Clarence Clemons: Centaur of the Saxophone

From the churches to the jails, tonight all is silence in the world
As we take our stand, down in jungleland

Dear Friend and Reader:

As you may have heard, Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist for the E Street Band, died in Florida on Saturday. One of the most beloved figures in all of rock music, Clemons played beside Bruce Springsteen for four decades, providing an impassioned, soulful presence and giving the band much of its atmosphere. But the sax does much more than create a mood. It provides a voice without words, speaking in a language of feeling that goes beyond the intellect. Springsteen has always sought to explain what cannot be explained, peering behind the veil of human experience. To the extent that he succeeded, Clemons had a profound role.

In addition to his musical contribution, he also provided a kind of spiritual foundation for Springsteen, a connection to something deeper. When Springsteen referred to him as the “Master of the World,” he may have been showing his respect for a friend, but he was also referring to something that he sensed in Clemons, and depended upon. Their relationship is illustrated in many photos — of them playing head to head, and even kissing onstage — but none so memorable as the cover of Born to Run, where Bruce is depicted leaning on someone’s back. When you open the LP cover, you can see that it’s Clemons.

Though he was most associated with the E Street Band, he played with many other performers, from the Grateful Dead to Lady Gaga. He was 69 years old and died from complications of a stroke he suffered on June 12. For many years he had struggled with his health, for example having both knees and both hips replaced, and was wheelchair bound for some years. When he could, he continued to perform, despite the pain he was in. He is survived by several of his past wives, who by his request will, together, scatter his ashes in a particular spot in Hawaii. He’s also survived by four grown children.

“Clarence lived a wonderful life,” Springsteen said in a statement this week. “He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage. His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly forty years. He was my great friend, my partner and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.”

At Clemons’ funeral on Tuesday, Springsteen gave a eulogy, then played a solo version of “10th Avenue Freeze Out,” which commemorates Clemons’ joining the band. My friend Michael commented, “I have no idea how he got through it.”

To glimpse inside the role that Clemons had among his friends on a social level, think of him as the guy without whom everyone else would have been eating Chef Boyardee. Michaelene Contino, who was Danny Federici’s girlfriend during the Asbury Park days in 1973 and 1974, remembers Clemons as the guy who loved to cook, therefore, everyone else got to eat. He was always the one making sure there were groceries in the house and something on the stove.

Cover of Born to Run, photographed by Eric Meola, shows Springsteen leaning on his musical soulmate Clarence Clemons.

“My impression was of a genuine, loving, kind, centered person; a strong personality, a very big guy, and just a delight,” Contino recalled in a conversation this week. “Always a smile, and he and Danny were very close.” Federici, the organist for the E Street Band, died in 2008.

Clarence Clemons was born in 1942 with the Sun in introverted Capricorn and Mercury in expressive Aquarius. He seemed to express both the inwardly-looking and the gregarious sides of his nature in perfect balance. His chart draws equally on all of the elements, but it’s difficult to miss his Scorpio Moon. Highly sexed, passionate and an unabashed lover of women, that Scorpio Moon is the sensation you felt when Clemons played: soulful, dark, intentional and with a lot of Mars power behind it. The sax can have a lonely or introspective feeling, and that is reflected in his Moon square Pluto.

While it’s fair to say he was not as technically proficient as a trained jazz sax player might have been, nobody else would have played with the same evocative tone or raw power, and of course he wrote his own parts. In the extremely disciplined, even regimented world of Springsteen’s creative process, Clemons was given the most leeway to do what he wanted — and that meant pour out feeling. The background of the world that Springsteen illustrated, from the back streets of Asbury Park to the badlands of Nevada, was painted in the colors of that Scorpio Moon saxophone playing.

Then his voice would step forward from the shadows to tell the story a different way, in a more intuitive and feminine way. Think of the sax solos on “Thunder Road,” “Rosalita” or “Jungleland” (If you’ve never heard this or need a refresher, here is a sample).

Sample of the natal chart of Clarence Clemons (noon chart, no time available) showing two of his centaur conjunctions. Pholus, in light green, is conjunct the sun directly overhead. Nessus, in light blue, is conjunct Mars, on the left. The centaurs give an edgy quality, blending animal and human qualities, speaking of sexual power and a quest for healing. View complete chart here.

Clemons did something else in those performances, which was hold a space for Springsteen to go a little wild, or more than a little wild. Clemons has the first three centaur planets — Chiron, Pholus and Nessus, the ones represented by half-man/half-horse beings — prominent in his chart. This makes him a guardian of the edge, and a facilitator of change. Chiron, the best known of the centaurs, is in a square aspect to his Moon, bursting with sexual and transformative energy, focused through his stage presence (Chiron and Pluto in Leo). Moon-Chiron aspects can give the sensation that a person is on fire, burning with personal charisma. That, in turn, helps fill a special need for attention, though he used this to everyone’s advantage.

Next, he has the Sun conjunct Pholus, which adds the sensation of something coming out that cannot go back in. With Pholus you can get excess, alcohol and partying (for all of which Clemons was famous), but you also get the small cause and the big effect. You get that subtle tone quality that completes the scene and makes it real. With that horn going, a song is no longer ‘about’ something — suddenly you’re there.

His Sun and Pholus are in earthy Capricorn. This helped him set limits, and gave him a tap into the distant, even ancestral past. They are talking directly to an equally explosive conjunction — Saturn (the container) and Uranus (pure energy) in Taurus. It’s as if he played his instrument with every cell in his body — a total identification. The sax is a wind instrument, but in Clemons’ case it’s more like an earth instrument. The sound seems to rise up out of the ground and linger in the air.

As for one last centaur: he had bad-boy Nessus conjunct his Mars, immersing his desire nature in the dark side, but emphasizing healing. Clemons was himself a centaur, half-man, half-beast, who gave Springsteen permission to contact his animal side, essential to rock music. He held space for Springsteen to open up and express his power, like a cosmic bodyguard. He was blind in one eye, which can be taken symbolically as one with second sight, who can see into both worlds.

Clarence Clemons playing his “Born to Run” solo on April 24, 2009 with the house lights up at the Hartford Civic Center. Photo used under Creative Commons/Share Alike license from Wikipedia.

In a way, Clemons’ whole life seemed to turn on this quality of holding space for the people around him. He had Vesta, the keeper of the flame, in Sagittarius. Positioned on the Great Attractor (a galactic point that concentrates a lot of energy), Vesta rises above the landscape of his chart like the flame burning high above an oil refinery. It’s also square the lunar nodes (at a point I’ve just learned about recently, called the north bend), meaning that space-holding is an essential evolutionary factor; a focal point of both his personal growth and his chosen service role. In a sense, his life turns on this role.

Centaurs are planets from the borderlands. This is an interesting way to think of the saxophone as well. The instrument was invented as an orchestral instrument, meant to crossover and fill in between the woodwinds and the brass section. Patented by Belgian clarinetist Adolphe Sax in 1846, it has the articulate, emotional quality of the woodwinds (think of the clarinet) and the projection power of a brass instrument (think of the trumpet). It’s an unusual mix of male and female energy, which is why everyone wants to listen, and why it does so well standing on its own. And of course its ‘crossover’ status evokes the role of the centaurs (whose orbits always cross those of other planets).

Like Clemons’ own chart, the chart for the saxophone’s patent has a full-strength Sun-Pholus aspect — an opposition. It’s as if there is something under pressure inside the thing all the time, pushing its way out into the wider environment, where it seems to keep expanding. That the charts of Clemons and the sax both have Sun-Pholus aspects involving Capricorn gives the feeling that he was born to play that thing, but we know that without astrology.

Adolphe Sax, inventor of the sax. He saw the need for an instrument halfway between the woodwind section and the brass section.

The chart for the saxophone has the Sun in Cancer (opposing Pholus in Cap), suggesting that it’s inherently emotional, human and a bit salty. If the sax is seductive, that’s because it’s nourishing. You come back because you feel emotionally fed, not because it leaves you hungry.

The saxophone has come to epitomize jazz, especially in rock bands. There’s a tradition going back to the beginning of rock and roll of having a saxophone player in the band. At a certain point it started to seem quaint and was left out; Springsteen and Clemons revived the tradition in style. The sax is a contact point to the roots of rock music, the saucy, smoky, backroom feeling of jazz. That is the world of Black, a tap into something that has been denatured about humanity in European culture and that rock music expresses so well.

The instrument was brought over from jazz into rock and roll, something that is often credited to Louis Jordan, one of the most successful musicians and songwriters of the 20th century. Jordan’s chart has the Sun and three planets in Cancer — all of them square Pholus. So this emotive power of the sax, always with a strong water-sign, seems to have a Sun-Pholus signature. Even John Coltrane, perhaps the best-known saxophonist in history, has Sun square Pholus in his natal chart.

So the saxophone itself, and three of the most significant sax players, all have Sun and Pholus in similar aspects. Three of these charts involve a strong Cancer-Capricorn chart picture. In the relatively new field of centaur astrology, we have something certifiably interesting here. (If you’re an astrology student and want to see all four charts side by side, here is a link).

But who cares about astrology? Clarence Clemons was a force of nature in his own right, though one with his feet on the ground. He was the guy who liked to cook and who was really, really into chicks — he worked that more than any other member of E Street. He was married five times and there were a lot of special ladies in his life.

One of my personal contact points to the early days of the E Street Band is someone named Jenny Singer, who saw them play many times before they became superstars. She just sent me the following in an email:

“Perhaps I’m just waxing nostalgic, but looking back it seems like we were living in simpler and in many ways better times. In the 1970s, teenagers did not have their noses pressed up against the computer reading the status reports of their virtual Facebook friends, because there was no such thing as a home computer. Teenagers did not have Nintendos, or PlayStations or X-Boxes. My playmates were college boys who went to Monmouth County College, one of whom procured me my very first fake ID, enabling me to gain entrance into Asbury Park hotspots like the famous Fast Lane and The Stone Pony.

Clarence Clemons stands in with the Grateful Dead at Shoreline Amphitheater, on June 26, 1989, shown here with Jerry Garcia. Image from music video posted to YouTube.

“I remember my hand shaking with fear and excitement as I handed my fake ID to the man guarding the door at The Stone Pony for the very first time. I think he noticed my young, barely-covered breasts more than the shaking of my hands. An older man could lust after young girls without having to register on the National Sex Offenders Registry, and plenty lusted after me. I began to hang out at The Stone Pony and the Fast Lane with one of the roadies who worked for another local band, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. He was a great kisser who kissed the breath from me in between each and every set. My nickname at the clubs became Jailbait. In that moment, Bruce, Clarence and the E Street Band were just on the precipice of the big time. Born to Run would be released a year later, so they could still mix with the crowds, showing up at local clubs to party and at other times to play an unannounced guest appearance.

“There were whispers one night at the Fast Lane that Clarence was in the house. Always one to chase adventure, I set off into the crowd to find and hopefully get a glimpse of this man everyone was so excited about. As I charged ahead, rudely shoving people aside, anxious to find him, I ran right into what seemed like a big hard wall but really was a big large solid black man. I looked up. Way up. It was Clarence Clemons. He really was The Big Man and he looked down at me in amusement with a gentle kindness in his eyes as I clumsily apologized.”

Clarence, we love you, and you know it.


With additional contributions from Michael Ackerman, David Arner, Steve Bergstein, Gary Caton, Virginia Sprance, Jeanne Treadway and Len Walick. Photo research by Sarah Bissonnette-Adler.


Lunar occultation (exact conjunction) of Venus. This aspect occurs again next week. Photo by Anthony Ayiomamitis.

2011 Midyear Report by Eric Francis

Dear Friend and Reader:

I’ve just finished the 2011 Planet Waves Midyear Report. This offers you 12 signs of astrology, which you can listen to for your own Sun sign, plus your rising sign and your Moon. You can also peer into the astrology of your loved ones. All 12 signs are included for one low price of just $19.95. The report is based on the chart for the partial lunar eclipse of Friday, July 1. The readings are about 30+ minutes each; there are two introductory audio segments to open up the material.

We have all been through a heck of a year. Our current moment is a turning point, and a moment of reflection. And there is a lot of potential in the planets right now, as Jupiter, the God of Fortune, makes aspects to many different planets — especially Chiron and Pluto. I’ve created these readings to have both depth and practical use, speaking directly to you like a close friend who happens to know about astrology and how it plays out in the human world.

I recently published three reports in the birthday series, and we got some feedback that I would like to share with you.

Vicky in Brooklyn wrote: “I just want to pass along a huge thank you to Eric. My reading was just transformational. It has given me so much hope — and clarity. I have never experienced a reading that was so truthful, compassionate and exciting. AMAZING. One more reason to love Planet Waves.”

Maria in Australia declared her reading as “very well rounded,” adding that it was “perfect timing really; it all fell gently into place for me.”

Holly, a practicing Buddhist in Washington State, wrote: “Hey Eric — Man in My Head, Heartfelt thanks for a great and soulful reading. At my age, to still derive benefit and confidence from your insight is, if I do say so myself, a high complement and deserving of acknowledgement.”

You can purchase this product for yourself, or as a gift for someone you care about. Planet Waves products are guaranteed, so buying one is risk-free and high on the scale of benefits.

To purchase the 2011 Midyear Report from Planet Waves, please go to this link. If you have questions or prefer to order by phone, you can contact Chelsea at (877) 453-8265 during East Coast business hours.

Thanks for doing your metaphysical shopping at Planet Waves.




Weekly Horoscope for Friday, June 24, 2011, #865 – BY ERIC FRANCIS

Revised and Updated! Click for Eric’s Zodiac Sign Descriptions

Aries (March 20-April 19) — Talk less and write more. Write less on Facebook and more in essay format. This will help you focus your ideas, and get a return on the mental energy you exert. You may not be a patient writer; you think it’s supposed to happen fast. Nearly all good writing is based on an editing or rewriting process, which is really a rethinking process. Part of that rethinking involves seeing around your own point of view and being aware of both opposite viewpoints and those which surround the topic you’re considering. Therefore, rewrite and rethink. Take the time to understand the implications of what you’re saying. Let conversations develop over time. And remember to allow your natural instincts to be just that — not something you try to rationalize out of existence with rigid concepts, including the all-too-human drive to be right. At this point you can afford to be circumspect, and you can afford to test your integrity rather than trying to prove it.

Click here to order your 2011 Aries Audio Birthday Report.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — You might find yourself entering the mental loop or psychic hall of mirrors. If that happens — that is, if you find yourself thinking the same thing over and over again — I suggest you go to another level. That other level will call on you to let go of your rational belief systems and slip into something that is not exactly irrational, but which is based on a higher kind of logic. How will you know you’re there? Well, you will get feedback in the hall of mirrors (this by the way is illustrated by Venus and Mars transiting through Gemini). If you like who you see in your reflection — any and all reflections count — then you’re working with that ‘higher kind of logic’, which is basically a creative healing impulse and corresponding flow of energy/information. If you find yourself in competitive states of mind, then you’re probably not quite there. When the creative flow starts, competition melts.

Click here to order your 2011 Taurus Audio Birthday Report.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — There is only so hard you can push before you have to do something like listen, feel or consider all of your options. It will also help to know what you want before you make any demands on others, particularly those in close relationships. If you find close partners acting rebellious, the chances are that you’re uncertain what you desire. If you find others willing to assist, it’s most likely because you’re clear what you want. Jealousy is not an option — or rather, not a viable one, and it can be unusually damaging if you let that genie out of the bottle. The remedy for jealousy is the recognition that the people in your life are free, and you are free. It’s true that freedom is controversial and the attempts at human bondage are commonplace, but that’s an invitation onto the level ground where we can see one another eye to eye.

Click here to order your 2011 Gemini Audio Birthday Report.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — This is a miraculous time to feel your purpose, though this is not a passive thing: the sensation of knowing why you’re here is a call to action. Let’s take those developments in order, starting with the sensation of awareness of your purpose. This is likely to come in a series of revelations over the next week or so, which will open one inner door after the next. I suggest you keep track of what is happening rather than nonchalantly going through the aspects and the bursts of awakening they represent. The more conscious you are the better. That will ease the flow such that awareness will blend into the knowledge of what to do next. You may have the feeling of rediscovering something you knew all along; you may have the feeling that your soul is bare and others can look right through you. Those are signs that you’ve caught the scent of truth.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Cancer, please go to this link.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — This time of year you’re blessed with insight into yourself, as well as the emotional needs of others. There will be moments when you wonder whether you exist, or whether your existence is significant, and the answer to both is yes. Now, while I can say that, you will have the pleasure of discovering it. This particular solstice you’re blessed with an unusually deep flow of understanding, indeed, one that is likely to change your perspective on life. There is something here about resolving the paradox between your needs and the needs of others; there is something here about both commitment and emotional balance, and getting that formula right as an intuitive thing that brings you into alignment with your environment and the people in it. It’s vital that you not overcommit, and equally vital that you make sure you’re fully participating in everything to which you are committed. This may require some friendly negotiation, give-and-take and tangible adjustment.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Leo, please go to this link.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — One disadvantage to Pluto’s movement through Capricorn — your 5th solar house, which addresses creativity, pleasure and risks — is that the progress you’re making may seem at times to be self-indulgent. That goes against your nature, and it’s also a development that would qualify as ‘right on time’ in the sense that you’ve spent your whole life so oriented on service. Lately, though, you’re seeing that you’re the missing piece in the puzzle of your life. The risk here is guilt; it’s an old story. There is a solution illustrated in the planets, which involves Jupiter in Taurus trine Pluto in Capricorn. The process you’re in is far beyond self-indulgent (or that term is applicable in the best possible sense). Whatever you are focusing on, or rather, whatever you want to focus on, is your growth point. The key is emphasizing your personal preference — not a sense of responsibility or obligation.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Virgo, please go to this link.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — This is a profound time of reorientation for you; you might say it’s a moment for setting goals, or perhaps for deciding what is the most important to you. Here’s how I would phrase it as a question: what is the relationship between what you want and who you are? They are influencing one another; there is a place where there’s 100% overlap between the two. Let’s call it ‘the spot’. It’s the place I suggest you find and that you work from. As an eclipse of the Sun approaches during the next week, you may have the feeling that your goals are defining your personhood. I would say that your personhood is providing a container for your goals. Therefore it would help immensely if you knew what they were, and if you maintained the container. That could be any one of several life circumstances within which you feel held. That is the distinguishing characteristic of the spot.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Libra, please go to this link.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — There are definitely two sides to every story, or rather, at least two sides to everyone who tells every story. You may not be able to determine precisely where another person is coming from, or what about their own opinion they are leaving out of any discussion. And you likely have your doubts. But you can surely know all of your inner viewpoints intimately. For example, be aware when you have two ideas about something but only express one of them. Be mindful of when you don’t tell the whole story, or when you give one person one version and someone else another version. Now for the rub: see if you can figure out why you would do this; what would motivate you? I am not taking a wild guess when I ask you, what are you rebelling against? Or rather, whom?

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Scorpio, please go to this link.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — To be effective, healing must reach the levels within ourselves that we’re not conscious of. Said another way, healing is a process of raising awareness. There is something deep about your past that you’re beginning to notice, and this something influences so many aspects of your existence it would be challenging to name them all. But first among them is whether you feel safe in the world, in your home and in your own feelings. Or perhaps I got the order of those three things backwards, because your sense of belonging starts within you, extends to your home environment and reaches out much further. I will say this, however: you are close to homing in on a past influence that has, at times, seriously jeopardized your sense of safety and belonging within your own existence. This factor was denied or obscured in your early environment, but it was there, and it goes back a lot further than one generation.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Sagittarius, please go to this link.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — You are approaching a goal from an unusual angle, perhaps in an effort to see something from the point of view of someone you care about. I suggest you take their viewpoint under advisement, but take your own approach to the goal as you define it. Be aware that you may have decided this is a problem that cannot be solved, or that could only have been solved in the past. Let me offer you another idea, if you would. During that past episode, you were pushed or compelled to take a certain approach that was based on a crisis, and which in turn was based on several other challenging situations. Now you’re in a position to assess this issue with things being more or less equal. You can take your own approach. Yes, others are involved and how you think of things, and what action you apply, matter — but your judgment is sound, and is likely to work for the people around you. But that doesn’t matter.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Capricorn, please go to this link.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — You cannot outsmart yourself. If you think you can, then you’re deceiving yourself and you might want to look at that. The only way to get motivated is to make a decision; there really is no trick involved. The challenge you may face, though, is seeing two roughly equivalent possibilities that might have vastly different consequences. It’s just that you don’t know what those might be, and this sensation of choosing is truly ominous for some reason you cannot put your finger on. You may be inclined to hold yourself to a high standard of integrity, feeling that you may have lapsed in the past. That would only work for as long as it didn’t become a mental block, and it could well do so. In truth, you want what you want, and I suggest you don’t let some sense of past injury or having to be a ‘better person’ get in the way of admitting that to yourself.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Aquarius, please go to this link.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — It’s time to carefully consider what you think of as possible, and how you define that term; then get busy putting that definition to work. Two points on that: One, you have rather incredible creative power and mental leverage at the moment. The challenges you face are like being within a latticework that is pretty easy to scale from the inside — even if you cannot see the scenery changing outside the structure. Second, remember to do what you can to feel good. The Sun is now in a water sign, and there’s an eclipse on the way — these are pattern-setting events for you, and the patterns involve the emotional tone of the next few months. Rise to the challenges and leave behind the feeling of struggle. Emphasize creativity over effort as best you can. Remember that love and passion are your best points of contact with the world.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Pisces, please go to this link.

Forever Young

Dear Friend and Reader:

If I could write one thing to Bob Dylan, it would be a thank you note. Bob turns 70 on May 24, so this seems like a perfect moment. Of course, it’s hard to imagine him being 70 years old, but I’m sure he’s saying the same thing.

Planet Waves
Photo by Ken Regan. This photo and others by Ken will be shown at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in SoHo. The show opens May 20.

If I could thank Dylan for one thing, it would be for setting an example that it’s okay to be relevant. A rock critic once wrote that he saved the world from “terminal, irrelevant schlock,” taking up real subject matter in every song. He did so (most of the time, anyway) without conveying the feeling of what some call statement songs. Many of his older songs definitely were, though the poetic strength of his writing made that either less obvious or more exciting. In writing, it’s always better to show rather than to tell, and Bob has shown us American life in its many shades, often dark ones.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to teach a university class called Rock Music as Journalism, and I think of Dylan as being the innovator of this genre. This has some resemblance to how he perceived himself, and how he actually created those songs.

“He said he was never a spokesman for a generation,” said Rob Fraboni, who produced Dylan’s 1974 Planet Waves album. “He was just writing about what he felt was pertinent at the time.” Dylan, he said, would spend time in the New York Public Library keeping up with world events. As a writer, he paid attention to injustice, on many different scales. The basic facts in one of his most moving early songs, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” come straight out of a news clipping, though with some poetic embellishment. Int ruth, the real events of that song were a lot worse than he described.

So here, we have an artist who is not afraid to get his hands dirty with ink from newspapers. He was never above politics, or detached from it. He got Robbie Robertson to do the same thing, and from that, we get songs like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” — which was written by a Canadian who did some research. “Whether he wants to be a spokesman for a generation or not,” Fraboni added, “he has definitely brought a lot of things into the forefront.”

Planet Waves
Bob Dylan with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Greenwood, Mississippi, 1963. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

“The other thing to consider historically is that music was about dancing before Bob Dylan. The parents of the generation born in the 1940s were into the dance bands. Then along comes Bob Dylan and he changes the whole framework. Suddenly these songs mean something. There is a message, whether you want to call it that or not.”

To me, that message is a chronicle of the half-century he’s been writing music, at least as told through the eyes of an American. Many times he has seemed to be sounding a warning. In 1962 he described “guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children,” ominously describing the Vietnam War that would engulf the United States two years later. In 1983, he lamented that all his clothes were made for slave wages in places like Singapore, in the same song warning, “I can see a day coming when even your home garden is gonna be against the law.”

As the trade deficit grows and most American companies pay pennies for labor in Asia, he called one of the biggest issues of the generation ahead. And as Europe and the United States ban herbs, and the US tries to ban farmers’ markets (regulating small, local farms being the approximate equivalent of outlawing gardening), we had better listen. (If you’re wondering about the potential farmers’ market situation, Google “Food Safety Modernization Act.”)

Dylan also redefined the genre of folk music. There were obviously folk songs before Dylan; it’s just that very few people dared to write new ones, and certainly not on a regular basis. Folk music was a somewhat stodgy tradition — and he opened it up to new contributors and new ideas.

“In truth there are no modern singer-songwriters writing in any sort of American roots or folk idiom who don’t owe a debt to Dylan,” Rosanne Cash said in an email correspondence last week. “We can all trace our work — how it’s structured, where we draw inspiration, and the self-reference (which hopefully doesn’t tip over into self-absorption) back to Dylan. In the same way that there is no modern country music without the Carter Family, there are no modern singer-songwriters without Bob Dylan.”

Planet Waves
Dylan playing in Minneapolis, 1986, with Tom Petty to the right side of the photo. Photo by Robbi Cohn, Dead Images.

He even influenced the Beatles, but he did more than turn them on to pot. He encouraged them to do something meaningful with their platform, and they did. Of the four, John Lennon took that message closest to heart.

For many, Dylan’s message was a bit too much. As David Bowie said, he “brought a few more people on and put the fear in a whole lot more.”

There was the episode when Dylan walked off the set of The Ed Sullivan Show when network censors would not let him play “Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues,” which mocks the communist threat that was taken so seriously at the time, and is now known to be about the paranoia he was pointing out. A couple of years later, he and his band were attacked — even physically — by his fans at a concert in Forest Hills because he came out with an electric guitar.

Lest you think he was ever controversial for its own sake, that is, if his body of work is not convincing enough, let’s look at his astrology. His birth data is rated as AA — the highest rating, which means birth record in hand. We can be confident of his Sagittarius ascendant: he was born with a broad and far-reaching vision. The Galactic Center (literally, the black hole at the core of our galaxy, which is located in late Sagittarius) is rising when he is born; people with a prominent GC can have a cosmic quality, and an influence that seems to lurk behind everything.

Even many people with no interest in astrology know that Dylan is a Gemini. He embodies the concept perfectly: the messenger-trickster, who is witty and articulate in a way that is distinct to that sign.

Just for emphasis, he has Mercury — the ruling planet of Gemini — gleaming right on the western horizon, where everyone can see it. When something is on the western horizon, it can work like a mirror; the chart’s native can see himself there, and he himself can also function like a mirror, closely identifying with the public and vice versa. In part owing to that Mercury, my friend astrologer Gary Caton describes Dylan as “Hermes personified.”

Planet Waves
The extraordinary Taurus-Gemini cluster in Dylan’s natal chart. Mercury in Gemini is the highest planet, the green thing on the top right side. Below that, in order, are Venus and the Sun in Gemini; then, in order downward, Jupiter, Uranus, the Moon and Saturn in Taurus. Not mentioned in the article are Black Moon Lilith and Nessus, also in Taurus. These kinds of concentrations can bestow a person with unusual creative power. How they use it is another question, and there are no guarantees.

Dylan’s Mercury has another special distinction — it’s connected to these odd points called lunar nodes, which bind a person to public karma. And he also has Venus in Gemini, granting him a status known even to his fans as a triple Gemini. Basically, that means there are six, 12 or 24 of him; multiple planets in Gemini tend to multiply.

But that’s not the part of his chart that I find the most interesting. To me the really interesting part has always been that he also has four planets in Taurus. Gemini can have an airy quality and, by itself, can want for substance. This is where Taurus comes in. He is working from a foundation of solid values, and this is what he expresses in his music. Let’s consider how this works in his chart.

Speaking in very broad terms, there are basically two kinds of planets: the kind that move fast, and the kind that move slow. Fast movers include Mercury, Venus and the Sun, which he has grouped in Gemini. These are usually about style and personality.

Then there are the ones that move slowly. These tell the story of a generation and of society itself. Three of the slow-movers have collected for a rare conjunction in Taurus. This grouping will be present, in one form or another, in the chart of everyone born between 1939 and 1941. How the energy of a planetary alignment expresses itself varies from day to day, and person to person — and is highly dependent on the time of the chart. In Dylan’s case, that Mercury is floating like that on the horizon for a matter of minutes before it sets, changing the astrology dramatically. This is one of those clear cases where had he been born 15 minutes later, he would not be the same person.

Hobby historians: does that 1939 to 1941 date range ring a bell? The world was on the brink of many changes — especially World War II — that were propelled by the same astrology under which Dylan was born. The concentration we’ve been living through this year is similar to that (though the slow movers are different), and we are at an equally wrenching, dangerous, and potentially potent time of history.

Taurus is often mistaken for a reserved, stable earth sign. It’s earthy like a volcano, or the place where two tectonic plates meet. There can be constant tension, even if it’s deep under the ground. People with strong Taurus in their charts have a lovely presentation, but they are on fire inside. Their need to constantly reinvent themselves is belied by that smooth exterior. But Dylan has the advantage of all that Gemini. He can reinvent himself externally, as an ongoing experiment.

Planet Waves
Dylan playing in High Gate, Vermont, 1995. Photo by Robbi Cohn, Dead Images.

His strong Gemini gives him a stomach for something that’s abhorrent to most Taureans — inconsistency. On his 1976 album Desire, there is his famous tribute to Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, who was falsely accused of a 1966 triple murder in New Jersey. Had Dylan not put that song on the album, then done a benefit concert for him at Madison Square Garden, Carter might still be in jail. He was freed from prison in 1985 after his two convictions were thrown out.

On the same album, Dylan has a tribute to Joey Gallo, a New York mobster suspected of involvement in the 1971 murder of Joe Colombo, a major New York godfather. “Joey” manages to be a combination of a dirge, an obituary and a protest song. The tribute to Gallo is every bit as sympathetic as the one to Carter. Is Dylan telling us he can see both sides of the story? Or that everyone deserves fair treatment? Is he admitting that humanity is made of sinners and saints? If you think about it, it’s a curious mix of themes, though most people don’t notice because the songs are both so compelling.

From the “two sides of the coin” files, in one biography I read the story of both the Gallo gang and members of the NYPD organized crime unit being invited to watch the the final mix of the song “Joey.” Both cars pulled up outside the recording studio at the same time and seeing the other, both left. This was attributed to Dylan’s wry sense of humor.

You need a little of that if you want to be relevant. From one journalist to another, I would like to thank Bob Dylan for giving many people permission to say something that means something, and to take an unpopular side of the issue when that’s the right thing to do. Who would have thought, at the time Dylan emerged, that the world would become one giant advertisement, selling mostly packaging, usually paid for on a credit card.

Thanks to Bob, strewn along the foggy ruins of time, we will find not only relics of what happened before us, but seeds of how to look at the world and see it clearly.

Yours & truly,

Eric Francis

Readers may discuss this article, and ask questions about it, at this link on the Planet Waves blog. Special thanks to Ken Regan and Robbi Cohn for their generous permission to use photos of Bob Dylan.


Moments in Time: A Few Transits in Dylan’s Chart

Bob Dylan left his home in Hibbing, Minnesota, in 1960 at age 19. We know the road: Highway 61. We know he headed for Chicago, where he failed an audition for a folk festival, and Madison, WI, where he first saw Pete Seeger perform. We even know the day: Dec. 21, 1960.

What was going on in his charts that day? Let’s use a chart cast at his time of birth on the day that he left home.

Planet Waves
Astrology can plot events as well as birth charts. This is the chart for the day that Bob Dylan left home at age 19, set for his time of birth (called a diurnal chart). There are many striking things about this chart. The first is that Uranus is rising, suggesting a radical change, revelation or development of some kind. Then we see Chiron on the 7th house, which among other things represents the ability to speak to many people in a language they understand. And the Sun is at solstice, square the Aries Point, showing his connection to the public and attunement to world events.

Here is his natal chart, which will open in a separate window, for reference. The chart to the left is the chart for the day he went on the road, inspired (as he has told us) by Jack Kerouac’s novel by the same name.

To cast this chart, I’ve used a technique I haven’t mentioned here before, called a diurnal chart. That’s the chart for any given day, set for the place the native is, and set for the time of birth. It’s a way to look at the quality of any particular day, using the consistent reference point of the birth time.

The first thing you might notice is that he left on the very day of the winter solstice. The Sun entered Capricorn that afternoon. It may have been in the last moments of Sagittarius, which has that flavor of a long adventure of some kind. You can see the Sun represented as the yellow circle, on the lower right side of the chart; the double zeros tell you that the Sun is at solstice, in the first degree of the new sign.

We have an Aries Point chart — that is, a chart with something prominent in the first degree of one of the cardinal signs. As you may recall from many prior articles, that’s the point that reminds us of the connection between the personal and the political — a principle, invented in the Sixties, that Dylan would come to embody and indeed innovate. (I happened to post the Planet Waves website on the winter solstice in 1998, and we’ve embodied the personal is political as an astrological concept.)

The really fun thing about this chart is the ascendant. Even if you can’t read a chart, take a look — it’s the dark, horizontal line to the left side. The degree of the ascendant in a diurnal chart changes at the rate of one degree per day. When a planet passes the ascendant (which every planet does annually), the person can embody that energy, and on this day, the planet Uranus is rising. Fittingly, this day we see him embodying the Uranian principle: sudden change, reinvention, liberation, boldness, revolution. In terms of how a human personality might experience this, it would be a restless sense of urgency and the need to bust free.

Planet Waves
Bob Dylan’s birth chart, rated as AA by Astrodatabank (birth record on file). Dylan is famously a Gemini (with three planets in Gemini, the Sun, Mercury and Venus). But this alone would not get him quite as far, if he didn’t have a fuel source coming from Taurus. Gemini grants expressive gifts, but then it needs something to express, often drawn from another area of the chart. The planets and points shown in Taurus, from top to bottom, are: Jupiter Uranus, Moon, Saturn, Black Moon Lilith, and Nessus. He is Sagittarius rising. On the day he left home, Mercury in Sagittarius had crossed his ascendant.

To the other side of the diurnal chart, we see the sky loaded with Aquarius. Counting Chiron and some of the minor planets I cast into every chart, there are seven points in Aquarius, a sign connected to ideas, groups, social movements, intellectual movements, inventions and equanimity. These points include the Moon — the Aquarius Moon, which is intellectually restless and may be the most socially conscious Moon placement.

Now, these events stand alone in the diurnal chart for the day he left. Let’s consider a few transits — that is, contact between real-time planets (in the diurnal) and the ones that are standing still in his natal chart.

Here is a fun one: In the prior article, we described how prominent Mercury is in Dylan’s chart — it shows up on his descendent, or western horizon. It was also prominent as a transit on the day he left: Mercury in Sagittarius was crossing his ascendant the day he left, as if it came to pick him up. This is another image in Dylan’s life of embodying or fully taking on the energy of Mercury-Hermes.

One last: with a character like Dylan, Chiron is going to be instructive. Chiron is in late Aquarius in the chart for his heading on the road. Chiron in Aquarius is the essence of the Beat Generation of writers, and the related youth movement. I think the Beat Generation kicks off when Allen Ginsberg organizes a series of readings in a garage-gallery in autumn 1955, in San Francisco, the very month that Chiron entered Aquarius for that cycle. This included reading part of his poem Howl, which would soon be considered one of the great works of American poetry.

Fast-forward five years and Bob Dylan is leaving home at the end of this transit — just as Chiron makes a series of squares to all those late Taurus planets in his natal chart. He was really, really feeling that quest for freedom. He was being provoked by his astrology, or you could say, the time was right. The last aspect Chiron makes, and the one he’s under at the time, is a square to his natal Jupiter in Taurus. Chiron square Jupiter is about a quest of some kind, a social crusade or fighting for the underdog. Indeed.


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Planet Waves

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Planet Waves

Weekly Horoscope for Friday, May 20, 2011, #860 – BY ERIC FRANCIS

Eric’s Zodiac Sign Descriptions

Aries (March 20-April 19)

Aries (March 20-April 19) — With Mars (the main Aries planet) making a long trip through Taurus, you may be feeling especially lusty, indeed, driven to passion. The question is, what are you going to do with it all? Do you have the opportunity to express even half of what you’ve got going on inside? I suggest you do two things. One is, do your best to create some opportunities to share that energy, with others or by indulging yourself. The second is, while you’re doing that, notice what gets in the way. Is it your circumstances? Are there people you feel you would offend or betray? Is it your own psychology? What is the relationship between the two? The question to ask yourself is, are you in a situation where you can really be yourself, and if not, what adjustments can you make?

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Aries, please go to this link.

Taurus (April 19- May 20)

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — As planets collect in your sign, previously hidden material is coming to light. That includes everything from fears to unacknowledged desires; from conflict to passion; from a sense of potential to a sense of loss. The effect is like awareness gradually rising, revealing a diversity of emotions that you may not feel, in total, amount to a good thing. I don’t think you’ll have that perception for long. With feelings, it’s necessary to embrace the full spectrum, in order to be able to draw the power from the battery and put it to creative use. There’s a message behind all the seemingly diverse information you’re getting; that involves what it means to be a whole person rather than living with the sensation that you’re made of many fragments. There are aspects of your psyche that will benefit from hearing one another’s point of view, and that is what you will access as the Sun enters Gemini this weekend.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Taurus, please go to this link.

Gemini (May 20- June 21)

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — It seems like every day that goes by, you know a little less. This is the result of being a consciously curious person who is aware of the functioning of your own mind. Curiosity is your friend right now; this is a sensation of being aware of not knowing, but enjoying the feeling as you sleuth out the elements of a situation. The situation in question is you, and it’s almost always healthy to turn your curiosity on yourself. I assure you the world would be a lot better place if we all invested more energy doing this, and fortunately you’re not shy about it. The key now is to go deeper than you usually do. What tends to repel you from that depth is that the deeper you go into yourself, the more you encounter density and stark tension rather than the fleet-footed mental process that you like so much. But just like the most valuable minerals are kept underground, so too are the most vital aspects of who you are.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Gemini, please go to this link.

Cancer (June 21- July 22)

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — As the Sun enters the sign Gemini, I want to share an observation that I’ve cultivated over many moons as an astrologer: your sign embodies the notion of the twins just as much as the actual sign of the twins, or any of the other supposedly dualistic signs. Yet for you this happens in a way that is hidden, and that also tells us something about most of the human race. We see division in the world without necessarily understanding that it has a counterpart within us. In the weeks ahead, you can go a long way toward healing the inner splits that often cause you so much struggle. Finding inner accord is not so much about ‘middle ground’ as it is about common ground. Your different pursuits in life are not as different as you think. As time goes on, you’re likely to see that they all support one another. You can make relationship choices that are designed to facilitate your inner harmony.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Cancer, please go to this link.

Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — This is an important time to articulate your goals to yourself. You have them; you merely need to put them into some tangible form, such as on a white board or a computer file (both of which have writing in common). This is also a time to purge old goals from your repertoire, the ones you know you no longer wish to pursue, the ones you have decided are not rewarding. When you do that, you’ll notice a bunch of things that you were doing in support of those old objectives that you can now call off, and collect your energy around what you actually want. I suggest you do this sooner rather than later, since the opportunity to make some excellent progress is on its way. You will be able to make more of it if you’re better prepared, which translates to knowing what you want and having some energy available.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Leo, please go to this link.

Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Your solar chart is set up for a dual career kind of life (so is everyone who has Virgo rising or Gemini on the 10th house cusp). That is to say, there are two distinct sides to your true career, or you have two distinct careers, each of which needs love and attention. What is interesting about the present moment is the way you seem to be integrating them. If you’re not actively doing this, then you have an invitation that will be opening up over the next few weeks. The solution set may be embarking on a project of some kind that utilizes all of your skills, talents and desires in a new way. When you consider them now, these different aspects of who you are may seem totally unrelated. But they have you in common — and there is something you can do or create that draws on all of who you are at once. It may be thrust on you suddenly; know what you want, and be ready to leap.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Virgo, please go to this link.

Libra (Sep. 22 - Oct. 23)

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — An eclipse is approaching in the angle of your chart that describes your relationship to what some call the ‘higher self’. That same angle of your chart also brings in the themes of ethics, your sense of justice and — oddly enough — your mother’s hidden psychological legacy. Was she of two minds about something important? Did she try to split her character, being decent folk in one part of her life, and less than friendly in another? Or did she live two lives in some other way? The split has carried itself into your life, though it may not be obvious how. If you find yourself in some kind of ethical or spiritual crisis during the next few weeks, you might want to look to her life as a map, or as a source of information. If you happen to have an aunt, she would be the place to go for some useful information.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Libra, please go to this link.

Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — Planets are lining up in your opposite sign Taurus, including ever-important Venus and Mars. This leads me to some curiosity about the nature of a relationship in your life. To what extent is it really happening, and to what extent is it the product of your imagination? The answer is probably a mix of both, though this is a good time for a reality check. I suggest you make a timeline of the history of the relationship. With that, I suggest you make a map of all the people you’re attracted to, and those who you suspect are attracted to you. Not a list, a map. Who are they? How do they relate to one another? Look for patterns — and see if you notice what they say about you. For example, what aspects of yourself do each of these people represent? This should be pretty interesting.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Scorpio, please go to this link.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 - Dec. 22)

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — I know I’ve told the story of our old web designer Jordan, who created the astrological sign Sagittaurus. True, it was a typo (plastered all over the 2003 annual edition and later removed) but it was a good one — and over the next couple of weeks, it comes true. Your ruling planet Jupiter arrives in Taurus for more than a year, uninterrupted. This is about your wellbeing, in particular, it’s an invitation to take better care of yourself and invest more of your resources into pleasure. There’s a clue that your ideas are worth more than your labor. I will admit, this is a challenging notion for most people, who are accustomed to punching a clock. So if you’ve ever had a scheme or concept whereby you make a living from your creative work product rather than your time or your effort, now is the time to get it going. Many other factors are stacked in your favor, but you have to make the moves.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Sagittarius, please go to this link.

Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — You need some diversity. If you have some other way you express yourself, that’s the thing to do now. The other side of your brain needs attention. If you usually use words, switch to pictures. If you use pictures, maybe switch to music or movement. If you speak another language, find someone else who does. In fact, if you have some particular specialized jargon you love (fashion, photography, tropical fish, the Grateful Dead), look up your best friend who also speaks that language. You will find these things entertaining as well as liberating. Part of what you’ll get is balance, and part of what you’ll experience is the sensation of not being alone, which will come as a relief. It’s not that you are alone, but if your astrology lately has you feeling like the only pea in a pod, there will at least be two.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Capricorn, please go to this link.

Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Get ready to start making improvements to your living space, or finding a new, better, brighter one. Clear out old stuff; clean your windows; drill into corners and closets and bring the physical remnants of the past to light, so you can move through it. This is about Jupiter moving into Taurus, your solar 4th house — your physical environment, which translates to your emotional environment. While that doesn’t happen till the first week of June, I suggest you start early, while Jupiter is in a fire sign, and your house of ideas. Speaking of which: if you have been a little late in the game of initiating your ideas, go for it. Even making a small move now could lead to something significant materializing. The first step is the most meaningful one and in truth you are never too late.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Aquarius, please go to this link.

Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — I suggest you take a low-key approach to improving your financial situation, mainly by using trusted methods of making income rather than new ones. Think of this as a time when you can collect on old or established investments or ventures rather than having to invent some. That will happen soon enough, as you convey your older methods into newer ones, which you may be considering in their formative stages. You have an excellent chart setup for turning concepts into income, but that takes three things: clear ideas, the ability to stick to them, and trust. Of the three, trust is the most important element, which is why I am suggesting you get the ball rolling on what you already have faith in, rather than what will likely challenge your sense of your own credibility. Once you taste success, you will recognize the feeling that it’s associated with.

To order Light Bridge, your full-length 2011 reading including written and audio segments for Pisces, please go to this link.