2014 Book Goal: 52 (mostly non-fiction)
2014 Books Read: 45 (91% non-fiction)
Sean Wilentz’s, Bob Dylan in America, was not what I expected. I expected some history on Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) and some rah-rah about what a great songwriter he was. Sure, the book included that, but it also had some rather strange stuff.
Wilentz is a noted historian and grew up in Greenwich Village, New York when Dylan was coming up. Surely, he is qualified to write this book. And yes, he does a great job of the storytelling. Where he failed is in trying to make too big of a deal out of Dylan.
I’m sure the Dylan devotees are up in arms about that comment, but hey – he wasn’t all that revolutionary to me. He was a master marketer who rode a wave of musical style and political commentary to the bank. In later years, he changed his tune (literally) and rode other waves in an attempt to cash in, albeit less successfully.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some song by Dylan that I love. The Hurricane (the story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter‘s imprisonment for murder) is my favorite but despite many attempts before and after, he never captured that same feel, I still listen to that song regularly. I am just not a fanboy.
Wilentz also goes off into strange places with French artists and Dylan’s search for “art” in what felt like more marketing. He was a decent songwriter, a decent singer, a below average performer with a totally unique sound. He was not the greatest living embodiment of art and truth, which is the undertone I felt reading this book.
If you love Bob Dylan, you will love this book. If you, like me, like parts of Bob Dylan’s story and discography, you will like parts of this book.