Dylan : a biography /

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Main Author: Spitz, Bob.
Format: Book
Language:English
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Review by Choice Review

Lamenting the impenetrable mythology that surrounds singer/songwriter Bob Dylan (much of it due to Dylan's own efforts), Spitz accomplishes his demystification through a sometimes fanciful reconstruction of Dylan's life, replete with sordid examples of his reputedly capricious personality. Although the relevance of such treatment is questionable and his often lurid prose will be objectionable to some, Spitz gives a fascinating portrayal of one of the most influential and complex figures in popular music. The most complete Dylan biography to date, largely free of the partisanship that impairs accounts such as Robert Shelton's No Direction Home (CH, Jan '87). Spitz relies entirely on secondary sources and interviews with acquaintances, however, whereas Shelton had access to Dylan himself; the two works should hence be used together. Those wishing more satisfying textual and contextual analyses of Dylan's work should consult Betsy Bowden's Performed Literature (1982) and Wilfred Mellers's A Darker Shade of Pale (CH, Dec '85). A thorough discography (by Jeff Friedman) is appended, which includes guest appearances, private recordings, and a list of public performances. Although sources are cited scrupulously, a general bibliography is wanting. A celebrity biography in popular style, this book is most appropriate for general libraries, but it is also important for students of American music and popular culture and hence appropriate for academic libraries from community college onward with collections in these areas. -M. Forry, University of California, Los Angeles

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This overlong biography of Dylan (ne Robert Zimmerman) leads up to a thin, 25-page section on his life following his conversion to Christianity in 1979. Preceding are some 526 cliche-ridden pages on his youth in Minnesota, early stardom as a folksinger, 1965 metamorphosis with Highway 61 Revisited and the Newport Folk Festival, relationships, marriages, children, drink and drugs, ill-conceived tours and lazy recording-studio habits, bitter friendships and unabashed opportunism. There's lots of gossip, some sophomoric analysis and a whole mess of preposterous descriptions (``the guys in the Band were frisky little devils''). Spitz ( Barefoot in Babylon ) covers no new ground here, and writes in a mean-spirited manner, as elements of racism (``those big black mothers''; ``the ill-tempered greaseball'') and sexism (``the object of Dylan's affections was as devoted to him as a cocker spaniel in heat'') mingle freely with potshots at critics, the folk-music community, record buyers, John Lennon, David Bowie, Joan Baez, etc., along with Dylan himself. Photos not seen by PW . (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A massive biography of the folk/rock-star by Spitz, former manager of Bruce Springsteen and Elton John and author of Barefoot in Bablylon (1979). Spitz presents a warts-and-all Dylan that should stun devotees who looked toward Dylan as a purveyor of ethical humanism in an age of fragmentation, militarism, and moral decay. Dylan appears as a single-minded egotist, willing to disown his hard-working parents (thus his name-change from Zimmerman), lie about his past (dreaming up a fictitious persona of a rail-running vagrant), walk over his Greenwich Village peers to advance his career (recording Dave Van Ronk's ""House of the Rising Sun"" before he even asked the writer's permission), giving free rein to his sticky fingers (stealing record albums from friends), and two-timing and toying cruelly with women (refusing to let Joan Baez sing on stage during an English tour despite the fact that she, his lover, had ""introduced"" Dylan to her national following during her own concerts). Spitz's account, however, suffers from two flaws: he refuses to resort to solid prose when a profanity will do, and his treatment of Dylan is sparse in the wrong places for a book purporting to be a detailed biography. Chronicling Dylan's high-school rock-'n'-roll ventures, for instance, Spitz expends a lot of time on ""The Golden Chords,"" one of Dylan's groups, and mentions not a word about the Shadow Blasters or Elston Gunn. And if an aficionado is interested in learning the genesis of some of Dylan's songs (the crux, after all, of his charisma), one can learn more by reading Dylan's own notes from his Biograph collection. Finally, in this 656-page book, Spitz compresses the last nine years of Dylan's life to date (one-third of his public career) into about 20 pages. Even though this is a more revealing and satisfying work than, say, the garbage-sifting of A.J. Weberman or the patronizing plaudits of Robert Shelton (No Direction Home, 1986), Spitz still leaves a lot of the answers to Dylan blowin' in the wind. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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