Talent isn’t everything. It helps to have connections.
This summer Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue (RTR) documentary created a flourish of buzz in many circles with its June 12 release on Netflix (coinciding with a smattering of theater showings.) RTR was the second four tours for Dylan in the 70s, each of a very different character.
The first was a high profile comeback reunion with The Band after near eight years of semi-reclusivity, 40 shows in nearly as many days at the beginning of 1974. RTR was a wild ride of 57 shows from the end of 1975 till May ’76, produced by and featuring a variety of talent and showcasing the tracks from Desire and Scarlet Rivera’s mesmerizing violin.
In 1978, the ragtag carnival troupe was reconfigured into a wholly different tour, under the direction of producer Jerry Weintraub, a worldwide tour with 114 concerts that sold 2 million tickets and generated 20 million dollars. It was during this tour that Bob Dylan came home with a brand new way of thinking and a brand new set of rules. He had become a follower of Jesus.
The sequel to this would be his Gospel Tour of 1979–1980, 79 shows through May 1980.
It was while reading up on Dylan’s World Tour that I came across the Jerry Weintraub thread that connects John Denver, Neil Diamond and Bob Dylan. I’d always associated Weintraub with Hollywood, as a film producer and ,more recently, series television for HBO. But Weintraub began his ascent in the music business, encouraging Elvis to do his first tour in 1970 and literally putting the name John Denver in lights.
Just as Brian Epstein helped craft The Beatles, so Weintraub became the vehicle for John Denver to become a household name through a dozen television specials and other career machinations. And interestingly enough, it was a Las Vegas show that Weintraub created for Neil Diamond that led Bob Dylan to hire Weintraub to orchestrate that 1978 World Tour.
The Common Denominators
All three men were gifted songwriters. Neil Diamond sold more than 100 million records of his own songs. John Denver wrote over 300 songs for himself and others, and sold more than 33 million records. Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature and wrote more than 600 songs and untold more for others or unreleased.
You may have noticed, they all three have two syllable last names beginning with the letter D.
Inasmuch as most of us know Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman, and John Denver was born Henry John Deutschendorf, you might have suspected that Diamond was also a stage name, as I did. Turns out Neil was born Neil Leslie Diamond, so this (re-naming) is not a common denominator.
The third common denominator is the role Jerry Weintraub played in each of their careers. Each had considerable talent to begin with, but Weintraub assisted in elevating each to a broader audience and thereby greater success.
The late Jerry Weintraub’s achievements included helping people whose names began with other letters of the alphabet as well, including the letter L (Liberace), S (Sinatra) and E (Elvis). But those stories have to wait for another day. It’s time to move along.
Originally published at https://pioneerproductions.blogspot.com.