Tracy Chapman, Patti Smith To Salute Bob Dylan

Event sponsored by The New Yorker will explore singer's cultural significance over past four decades.

NEW YORK — Last weekend he received an Academy Award, his first, for the song "Things Have Changed," and now another longtime bastion of high culture, The New Yorker magazine, is set to honor Bob Dylan at Town Hall on May 19.

At the event, titled "The Work of Bob Dylan," a passel of singer/songwriters and writers will explore Dylan's cultural significance over the past 40 years, a spokesperson for the organizers said.

The lineup will include folk-rocker Tracy Chapman, onetime Dylan sideman and Counting Crows producer T-Bone Burnett, new-wave rocker Graham Parker, and the Esquires, a trio that comprises neo-dustbowl songstress Gillian Welch, guitarist David Rawlings and drummer David Steele.

Of particular note is the appearance of punk-rock priestess Patti Smith and her onetime paramour playwright Sam Shepard. All of the above will perform as-yet-undetermined Dylan songs; Shepherd will be collaborating with Burnett for the performance of one tune.

Poet Ann Waldman, who appeared in "Renaldo & Clara," the bizarre 1978 film depicting Dylan's 1976 Rolling Thunder Revue, will appear as well. Additionally, novelists Rick Moody, Bobbie Ann Mason, and Boston University professor and author Christopher Ricks will likely read Dylan's lyrics as spoken verse. New Yorker editor David Remnick will moderate the event.

Dylan, who will turn 60 on May 24, has been notified of the event, but organizers have not heard back from his representatives as to whether he will attend. Calls to Dylan's spokespeople were not returned by press time. He did show up for 1992's massive concert at Madison Square Garden celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of his first album, 1962's Bob Dylan.

"The Work of Bob Dylan" will benefit PEN, an international fellowship of writers, poets, editors and playwrights, and is part of the second annual The New Yorker Festival. Other events include a party hosted by "High Fidelity" scribe Nick Hornby on the same evening, followed the next day by a pair of talks with Chuck D., at the Director's Guild Theatre, and Rickie Lee Jones, at the midtown Manhattan club Float.