American comedian James Austin Johnson, who joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2021, has raised the bar for Bob Dylan impersonators after appearing on NBC chat show The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.
Johnson, known for his uncannily accurate impersonations of US President Joe Biden and former US President Donald Trump on SNL, took Fallon through a range of impersonations, starting with his spoken “radio voice” before singing the classic Christmas carol Jingle Bells in a number of different Dylan guises.
First up was a high-pitched “Greenwich Village Bob Dylan”, followed by a smooth “Nashville Skyline Bob Dylan”, an unintelligibly rowdy “Rolling Thunder Bob Dylan”, and it was all topped it off with an impersonation of 90’s Dylan, described by Johnson as “like a Disney vulture, like he’s crawled out of a French crypt.”
The singing section of Johnson’s appearance can be seen in the embedded tweet below, while the full segment is available on YouTube.
Meanwhile, Dylan himself has reacted to the recent furore surrounding his recent book The Philosophy Of Song. Publisher Simon & Schuster apologised and issued refunds to customers who spent $600 on limited edition “personally hand-signed” copies of the book that, it turned out, weren’t actually signed by the singer at all.
In a rare public statement (opens in new tab), Dylan said, “In 2019 I had a bad case of vertigo and it continued into the pandemic years. It takes a crew of five working in close quarters with me to help enable these signing sessions, and we could not find a safe and workable way to complete what I needed to do while the virus was raging.
“So, during the pandemic, it was impossible to sign anything and the vertigo didn’t help. With contractual deadlines looming, the idea of using an auto-pen was suggested to me, along with the assurance that this kind of thing is done ‘all the time’ in the art and literary worlds.
“Using a machine was an error in judgment and I want to rectify it immediately. I’m working with Simon & Schuster and my gallery partners to do just that.”
James Austin Johnson sings “Jingle Bells” as Bob Dylan through the decades. #FallonTonight pic.twitter.com/kuPegi5DhwNovember 29, 2022