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Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan Paperback – April 12, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (April 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802138918
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802138910
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,453,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dylan was a pampered Midwestern teen who listened to African-American music on the radio. His father bought him a pink convertible and a Harley in the same year; his high school band appeared on television sporting mom-made cardigans emblazoned with the band name "Jokers." He dropped out of his first year of college to explore the Greenwich Village folk scene and meet his hero, Woody Guthrie, into whose hospital room young Dylan barged. "[H]e instinctively played upon his baby-faced unworldly looks, and his considerable personal charm, to make friends [who] would help him... giving him a place to stay or offering him a few dollars," attests Sounes (Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life) in this exhaustive, up-to-date biography. Though the writing is uneven, Sounes delivers a judicious portrait of Dylan's foibles and virtues. Dylan, he claims, used people variously he mimicked his favorite performers and enjoyed of "the charity of kindhearted women." Much of the book traces his womanizing, from his relationship with Joan Baez to his eight years of marital bliss (before it unraveled) with Sara Lownds. Even his religious conversion was on account of the affections of his back-up singers, one of whom he had a child with and married, a little-known fact. Dylan has burned numerous bridges in his life, though many people remain loyal. Through extensive interviews Sounes aptly captures the contradictory facets of an American folk legend. (Apr.)Forecast: The 125,000-copy printing, bolstered by a $150,000 promotional budget, will sell well among Dylan's myriad fans, who will be celebrating his 60th birthday this year.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Sounes's Down the Highway challenges Clinton Heylin's revised edition of Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades (LJ 10/1/00) for the coveted status of "definitive Dylan biography." British journalist Sounes (Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life, LJ 3/1/99) was particularly successful in persuading a number of previously tight-lipped friends, lovers, and associates to speak candidly about the reticent star. As a result, the reader is treated to the most detailed account yet of Dylan's 1966 motorcycle accident and subsequent withdrawal from the public eye. Sounes also peels away layers of mystery surrounding Dylan's complex romantic life and surprisingly conventional approach to fatherhood. More so than Heylin, Sounes succeeds in portraying Dylan's human side; Heylin, on the other hand, offers far more insightful analysis of Dylan's work. Sounes, too, loses momentum as he goes, with the last couple of chapters seeming slight and poorly realized. Overall, Hey-lin's work is superior, but the two books together provide as complete a portrait of the enigmatic pop icon as there has ever been. [Heylin's Bob Dylan was originally slated for publication last October, but it is only being released this spring.AEd.]ALloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., C.
-ALloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Howard Sounes is known for writing detailed and revelatory biographies of a wide range of extraordinary personalities, including the Californian author Charles Bukowski (Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life), the murderers Fred and Rosemary West (Fred & Rose) and the musicians Bob Dylan (Down the Highway) and Paul McCartney (Fab). His new book is 27 - a study of the 27 Club.

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Customer Reviews

It seems like the author tried too hard to get this thing done in time for Dylan's sixtieth birthday.
This is an amazing illustration of a superstar who has tried to keep his personal life to himself, and continue to do his job as a poet and musical performer.
A lot of critics have pointed out that this book is not incredibly detailed, but that is because they are already familiar with the Bob's life.
Patrick Mcgranaghan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Mark Edward Bachmann on October 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I'm 53 years old with three kids, a job, and a life-long obsession with Bob Dylan that isn't going away. To this day, his best songs make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. But who is this guy? And where does such extraordinary music come from? Perhaps recognizing that there are never really answers to questions like these, Howard Sounes largely sidesteps them in this excellent new biography, which doesn't pretend to reveal very much about Dylan's mind or the creative wellspring for his work. What the book does succeed at giving us is a thoroughly professional, well-researched and clearly written account of the man's life. Characteristically, Dylan refused to be interviewed, as did, apparently, his immediate family members. However, Mr. Sounes obtained a wealth of material from an array of other people, including childhood and adult friends, lovers, band members, business associates, observers, hangers-on, and the many famous and non-so-famous musicians and singers who have known and worked with Dylan over the course of four decades. Sounes even took in perspectives from individuals referenced in Dylan's songs, like William Zantzinger - the real-life and still-living villain from The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll - and Carla Rotolo, the stigmatized "parasite sister" from Ballad in Plain D. Because he's made a career of fleeing the constraints of identity, Dylan is a resistant subject for biography. Born into a nurturing middle-class Jewish family in small-town Minnesota, Dylan (then Bob Zimmerman), came of age and, following a short time at college, took to the road, and to disguise his embarrassingly conventional roots, invented outlandish myths about himself as a singing orphan hobo.Read more ›
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Mark K. Mcdonough VINE VOICE on April 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This one is definitely worth buying for anyone with a serious interest in Dylan's life and music. Sounes is clearly an admirer of Dylan's art, but as other reviewers have noted, not an obsessed Dylanologist. I have read all of the Dylan bios, and this one is far and away the best for those who want to know the man and his music, but aren't obsessed with picking apart every line of his songs (or his garbage).
Sounes talked to everyone who would talk (and he must either be the world's nicest guy or the most persistent, because almost everyone talked except Dylan himself and his former wife Sara). He also used documentary evidence to pin down things like marriages, real estate transactions, etc. The portrait of Dylan that emerges is less shrouded in mystery, but no less amazing. We get very clear-headed assessments of controversies like the motorcycle accident and also a good deal of info about how Dylan's music was recorded. Sounes also does a good job of placing the various characters in Dylan's life in perspective, from the members of the Band to the Beat poets to his NYC cronies from the folk scene.
Very nicely done, all of it. I wondered how Sounes would handle Dylan's later years, which have consisted of comebacks and long fallow periods. Basically, he handles it like a real biographer -- he tells the whole tale, up to now. The portrait of Dylan that emerges is not unlike that of many other fanatically driven artists -- eccentric, sometimes quite nasty to friends, family and fellow musicians, but above all dedicated to his art.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Exactly when and where did Bob first drop ...? What did Bob think of Sgt. Pepper when he first heard it? What did Jerry Lee Lewis say to Bob when Bob tried to record a track with him? What was Bob's reaction to John Lennon's murder? When & where did Bob marry his 2nd wife, after she bore him his 6th kid? Did Bob really try to join the Dead as a full-time member after being depressed about his career? Is the cost of Bob's second divorce in the early 90s the real reason for the Never-Ending-Tour? What was the main criteria for the flea-bag motels Bob stayed in during the Never-Ending-Tour? Much, much more in this great new book out by Howard Sounes, who apparently spent years getting people to talk. Sure, if you're a Dylan freak (the kind that used to break into his house in Woodstock in the late 60s... you've read it all before. But this book should appeal to everyone, and I guarantee there are things in here you've never heard before. And it's current through the end of 2000, including the death & funeral of Bob's mother. Check it out.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Gerald Brennan VINE VOICE on January 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
Don't read this book if you want to think Dylan's perfect.

It's a great book, engrossing and thorough, but if you want to read about the perfect mythical Bob, it's not the one you want, babe, it's not the one you need. Check out Martin Scorsese's "No Direction Home" documentary. Or buy any one of the other books by people who were too star-struck or lazy to look behind Dylan's enigmatic masks.

There's certainly enough in Dylan's career, particularly his early years, to justify mindlessly glowing accolades. Musicians usually reach their peak younger than most people, but Dylan's rise was so rapid that even the word "meteoric" doesn't quite do it justice. Like some harmonica-playing Alexander the Great, he had conquered the known world by the age of 25, redefining what was possible, expanding the horizons of all who traveled with him. To his great credit, though, it wasn't all downhill from there; rather, his career richocheted off in a variety of unpredictable directions.

Dylan had a unique talent for zigging when everyone else zagged, and Sounes deftly follows his path through all those twists and turns. When music was ruled by bubble-gum pop, Dylan dared to write about social justice and nuclear holocaust. Folkies then rode his coattails to super-stardom, but by the time they got there, Dylan had moved on again, to introspective and personal songwriting. In the late 60s, when hippies flocked to his neck of the Woodstock for three days of peace and free love, he was a rifle-toting property-owner. In the late 70s, when the music industry found itself awash in cocaine, easy money, and easier women, Dylan became a born-again Christian.
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