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Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown

David Yaffe
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Bob Dylan
    Book Description:

    Bob Dylan is an iconic figure in American musical and cultural history, lauded byTimemagazine as one of the hundred most important people of the twentieth century. For nearly fifty years the singer-songwriter has crafted his unique brand of music, from his 1962 self-titled debut album to 2009's #1 hitTogether Through Life, appealing to everyone from baby boomers to the twenty-somethings who storm the stage at his concerts.

    InBob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown, literary scholar and music critic David Yaffe considers Dylan from four perspectives: his complicated relationship to blackness (including his involvement in the civil rights movement and a secret marriage with a black backup singer), the underrated influence of his singing style, his fascinating image in films, and his controversial songwriting methods that have led to charges of plagiarism. Each chapter travels from the 1960s to the present, offering a historical perspective on the many facets of Dylan's life and career, exploring the mystery that surrounds the enigmatic singer and revealing the complete unknown Dylan.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17166-2
    Subjects: History, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Another Side
    (pp. xv-xx)

    In 2007, Bob Dylan, for the first time, was ready to be remixed. In the world of rock and roll, it was as if Leonardo da Vinci were giving his blessing for Marcel Duchamp to draw his Mona Lisa moustache. At the turntables, and arranging the ska horns, was Mark Ronson, who had worked with Macy Gray, Amy Winehouse, and Lily Allen, among others. The producer was, in other words, a millennial hipster, and he retranslated a 1966 track fromBlonde on Blonde, “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine),” into a revamped language, augmented by a...

  5. ONE The Cawing, Derisive Voice
    (pp. 1-30)

    “I am just as good a singer as Caruso. Have you ever heard me sing? I happen to be just as good as him. A good singer. You have to listen closely. But I hit all those notes and I can hold my breath three times as long if I want to.” This is sheer bravado from the twenty-three-year-old Dylan ofDont Look Back, but he also has a point. It’s true that he could never match, note for note, the bombastic and virtuosic thrill of hearing Enrico Caruso. Nor—need it be added?—did he have the technique. What...

  6. TWO Screen Test: The Many Dylans of the New Millennium
    (pp. 31-58)

    In the summer of 1965, Bob Dylan paid a visit to Andy Warhol’s Factory to sit reluctantly for one of Warhol’s Screen Tests. This was already something of a ritual for the well known, a silent hazing, a consensual violation by celluloid. Between 1964 and 1966, Warhol would act as an amateur Cecil B. DeMille, testing out various figures not for an actual film but for a life in images, to be scrutinized sometimes violently, unfairly, in the worst of faith. But it was only a test. All the stars had to do was to sit down and do nothing,...

  7. THREE Not Dark Yet: How Bob Dylan Got His Groove Back
    (pp. 59-92)

    June 7, 2004, was not just another gig for Bob Dylan. Sandwiched between one-nighters in Atlantic City and Delaware, Dylan went uptown to play the Apollo Theater, the legendary venue where Ella Fitzgerald passed the audition for the Chick Webb orchestra and where, on a 1962 live album, James Brown made a gig in Harlem a chart-topping soundtrack for the world. In black America, “Showtime at the Apollo” could make or break a career. It has traditionally been the venue where African American discourse is taken to the people, and the response is either up or down. If you’re a...

  8. FOUR Don’t Steal, Don’t Lift: Appropriation, Artifice, Originality
    (pp. 93-124)

    “Bob is not authentic at all. He’s a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception. We are like night and day, he and I.” These words were spoken by Joni Mitchell in 2010, and, after they were published in theLos Angeles Times, they invoked impassioned defenses that reverberated throughout the blogosphere, an entity that Dylan couldn’t have fathomed when he stole his first batch of 78s. The most prominent apologia was by the estimable historian Sean Wilentz, who, writing inThe Daily Beast, defended Dylan on the grounds that everything the man...

  9. Afterword: “Now You Can Seal Up the Book and Not Write Anymore”
    (pp. 125-128)

    At some point, Bob Dylan will play his final concert. He will also record his final track, or his final album. And on those final performances, he will still inspire deep feelings of fulfillment, or disappointment, or, though this is less likely, another wave of shock. After this book has closed, the book on Dylan will still be out, although this late in the game, it is increasingly unlikely that he will be decanonized. Even after “Wiggle Wiggle” or “Handy Dandy” (maybe partlybecauseof the latter), he will still be welcome at the poet’s corner. More awards are likely...

  10. Appendix: PLAYLIST, O PLAYLIST
    (pp. 129-136)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 137-140)
  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 141-144)
  13. Credits
    (pp. 145-152)
  14. Index
    (pp. 153-171)