The Bergamot Station Arts Center is one of the largest collections of galleries in the nation. (File photo)

“SOMEDAY EVERYTHING’S GONNA SOUND LIKE A RHAPSODY, when I paint my masterpiece.” “Dreamer of pictures, I run in the night.” “When I first saw your gallery, I liked the ones of ladies.”

And you’re surprised that musicians paint? (Some of them, quite well.)

Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell (lyrics quoted above, respectively) are three of the most acclaimed singer-songwriters of their generation, and half a century later all three are still performing and creating music.

Mitchell has a new ballet but no longer tours. Bob: take a hint. Hang up the travellin’ shoes. You’re at least five years overdue.

Of the legends who survived this long, those three are gold. Here’s the interesting note (if you will): all are accomplished painters.

And how about this? (Drum roll. Rod Serling voice over.) All three had openings of their painting exhibitions right here in Santa Monica, at Bergamot – within three days of each other.

Okay, Mitchell’s was just a little bit over the border, at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, mere minutes away. Close enough.

A number of top musicians score pretty decently as painters. John Lennon had books of his poetry and drawings. Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, was taken really seriously by the art world, perhaps the only rocker who was. Tony Bennett is considered exceptional. Remember the early album covers of Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam)? (He wanted to be a cartoonist.)

Bowie. Banhart. Miles. Mellencamp. Marilyn Manson. Sinatra. Joplin. Johnny Cash. Ron Wood. Grace Slick. And of course, Yoko Ono. (Just kidding. Not a musician.)

You probably knew about Mitchell because she has long described herself as “a painter first and a musician second,” and a bunch of her album covers feature her paintings. Dylan has been lifelong but sporadic, not as prolific and a bit stealth. Young just took up watercolor for this project, a book called “Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life & Cars,” for which he painted a series of photographs of cars he has owned, a task made more challenging by the fact that he’s color blind.

His show at the Robert Berman Gallery (through Nov. 29) is his first ever. He appeared briefly at the opening Monday, Nov. 3 which I’m still miffed about. (Tell you why in a minute.) I read the announcement in one of our local papers, run … on Tuesday. Thanks a lot.

The Berman is an interesting gallery, with their current 35th Anniversary Show featuring Dali, Twitchell, Dennis Hopper, Haring, Man Ray, William Burroughs, Pettibon, Herb Alpert, Robbie Conal and many others. The Neil Young work doesn’t take long to take in, unless you’re as much into cars as he is. But you can take one home for a lot less than a Dylan.

Dylan’s paintings are a revelation. There are three large originals and the rest are giclees, sort of lithos by inkjet. Several have never been seen before. Based on this show, I would pray Bob gives up the road and devotes that time to painting. Write, sketch, record, paint, get busy, Bob. You’re not forever young.

Dylan’s paintings (“The Drawn Blank Print Series,” at the Andrew Weiss Gallery through Jan. 3, 2015) would reward extra time and thought, I believe, so I’m going back. They also have some beautiful Picasso ceramics, Chagall, Dali and Miro. Opened in Santa Monica only in June, the Andrew Weiss is a treasure. Dylan or no, go.

Mitchell’s gig at the Hammer was a one-night affair. People started lining up at 8:30 a.m. to get the few tickets for the screening of her ballet, “The Fiddle and the Drum,” introduced by her and her choreographer, Jean Grand-Maitre of the Alberta Ballet Company. It was fascinating to hear them go on about the evolution and creative process of it. Later in the packed Hammer courtyard, Mitchell sat, cigarette in hand, for a long Q&A covering all sorts of artistic issues. There were projections of her paintings everywhere.

The ballet was fantastic. All danced to Mitchell songs like “Fiddle,” the dancers’ movements seemed more precise to the music than in some traditional ballets. Themes of ecology and war.

I was able to get very close to the stage in the courtyard, but was unsuccessful in my attempt to get a word with her, face to face. I had a reason. I wanted to test her memory. And my charisma from the old days. And maybe get another date.

And now, just like the old movie serials like Flash Gordon, you have to wait until next week to get the rest of that story. I’m not trying to be precious. It was a choice between covering three separate shows with just the bare minimum of commentary, or doing even less than that and finishing the story.

And I wouldn’t have had space to tell you about why I was miffed about Neil Young. Personal mission #2: I have a Polaroid photo I took of him and David Crosby in the early ’70s, backstage at a CSNY show in Albuquerque. Great photo, as you can imagine. All skinny and leather jackets.

Four years ago my daughter was chosen for the backup chorus at an arts program benefit Crosby did at Samohi. They had several rehearsals, and each time she brought along that photo, determined to get Crosby’s autograph, and each time the opportunity vanished, along with her hutzpah.

Finally she and a friend snuck into the dressing room, and when he was finally alone she asked for that signature. He laughed at the photo and obliged, and they were kicked out (graciously, and not by him) the next moment. All her choir mates knew of her quest, and when she emerged she thrust it into the air- “I got it!!” – to loud cheers

So now, of course, we need Neil Young’s scribble to make it complete. This would have been the perfect opportunity. He was mingling with the crowd that Monday, and I’m pretty certain he too would have smiled at that old image and the story behind it. Two golden, missed opportunities within three days, right in my backyard – will I ever? Anyone got Neil or Joni’s phone number?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible, is music.” – Aldous Huxley

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at

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