Sunday, 1 February 2009

Studio A: The Bob Dylan Reader

Edited by Benjamin Hedin

Despite everything that has been written about Dylan, not a great deal is known about him for certain. Heylin's chronology of Dylan's life, for example, is an archly self-canceling document, in that every piece of information points to a larger lack of information. Here are three consecutive entries for the year 1974:

Late April. Dylan attends a concert by Buffy St. Marie at the Bottom Line in New York. He is so impressed he returns the following two nights, and tells her he'd like to record her composition, "Until It's Time for You to Go."

May 6. Dylan runs into Phil Ochs in front of the Chelsea Hotel and they decide to go for a drink together.

May 7. Dylan visits Ochs at his apartment and agrees to perform at the "Friends of Chile" benefit.

What happened during the rest of the first week of May? Where was he going when he ran into Phil Ochs? Dylan's life story sometimes feels as if it has been pieced together from centuries-old manuscripts that were charred in a monastery fire. "Between January and June 1972 there is no evidence that he was in New York at all," Heylin writes in his attempt at a full-scale biography, Dylan: Behind the Shades. Heylin, a skeptical Englishman who is known for a history of American punk, is at least willing to admit what he doesn't know, and his book is the most readable and reliable of four biographies.

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