Favorite Dylan Biography?

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Favorite Dylan Biography?

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1DCBlack
Out 6, 2011, 1:56pm

As a start to a series of threads about favorite Dylan related books, I figured I would start with biographies. I have read No Direction Home by Robert Shelton, Behind the Shades by Clinton Heylin, Dylan: a Biography by Bob Spitz, Performing Artist: The Early Years and Performing Artist: The Middle Years by Paul Williams. Of these, the only one I dislike and would recommend avoiding is the Spitz biography, with it's tabloid-style, warts-and-all portrayal. The others all have strengths and weaknesses, but are worthwhile and enjoyable reads. I don't think of any of them as a definitive, stand-alone work, but together they give a good overall view of Dylan's life through the early 1990's, from various perspectives.

The Shelton book is stronger on Dylan's early career, with lots of interesting behind the scenes anecdotes from the rock critic who was a early Dylan fan and supporter. Great coverage of Dylan's early coffee-house days, performing at Gerdes Folk City and The Gaslight, through the now-legendary 1966 Tour with The Hawks. This is the biography I find myself referring back to when I have a question about Dylan's 1960's era career. This book is weaker in it's coverage of the 70's and 80's.

The performing artist books are valuable for fans of live Dylan music whether through attending concerts or collecting bootlegs. They are written from the (slightly over-worshipful, IMO) perspective of an unmitigated Dylan fan. I read these when I was in the process of collecting Dylan bootlegs, and enjoyed comparing Williams' reaction to Dylan's performance at different concerts to my own. Since the release of the Performing Artist books, much of the music discussed has been released on the various volumes of The Bootleg Series, and is therefore much more accessible even to those who don't collect bootlegs.

The Heylin book is a good overall biography of Dylan through the beginning of the never-ending tour in the late 80's, with balanced coverage of all three decades of his career to that point. I have not read the recent updated edition of this biography, which probably fills in much of Dylan's career in the past two decades.

So what Dylan biographies have others read? Can anyone recommend more recent biographies that do a good job of covering his entire career so far?

2Doublee
Out 7, 2011, 9:58am

Nice thread DC. I like the Heylin books a good mix of details of the life and work that isn't bogged down in seriousness. gossip or worship but has a little of all of those. I too enjoyed the Willliam's books when I was collecting bootlegs but found the writing quality/style awful.
I am enjoying the recent crop of books but I am behind in my reading!

3DCBlack
Out 8, 2011, 8:24am

I agree about Williams' writing style. His books definitely could have benefited from a good editor.

I know there have been a plethora of books about Dylan released in the past few years (i.e. Sounes, Christopher Ricks, etc). I haven't picked any of them up.... yet. I do need to catch up on the past two decades of Dylan's career.

4geneg
Out 15, 2011, 2:50pm

What do you think of his autobiography?

5Doublee
Nov 5, 2011, 1:29am

Not really a autobiography but great all the same. I liked the writing, the tine, the mix of impressions and fact and probably some half truths. Looking forward to Chronicles II.