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The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia Hardcover – June 15, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 755 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic; Har/Cdr edition (June 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826469337
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826469335
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 2 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #449,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Fans of Bob Dylan have a multitude of choices when it comes to biographies and retrospectives, but author Michael Gray (Song & Dance Man #3: The Art of Bob Dylan) outdistances them all with this voluminous collection of all things Dylan. Over the course of 823 pages Gray considers everything from railroad imagery in Dylan's songs to his use of nursery rhymes, covering the topics thoughtfully and thoroughly. An entry on Rubin "Hurricane" Carter details the plight of the wrongfully jailed boxer immortalized in Dylan's song "Hurricane," including not only a biography of the fighter, but details of the song's recording and live performance. Even the briefest of encounters merits an entry, such as when Neil Diamond challenged Dylan to top him as he came offstage. Dylan's reply: "Waddaya want me to do-go onstage and fall asleep?" Gray's knowledge of his subject is seemingly boundless, yet he manages to maintain a critical eye and keep Dylan's work in perspective. "Unbelievable," a song off Dylan's Under the Red Sky album, is called "a hopeless piece of rockist sludge picked from the obscurity of the album and issued as a single. Almost any other track would have fared better ." While Gray is certainly a fan, it's this impartiality that fuels the book and gives it weight. Insightful and entertaining, Gray's tome will broaden appreciation of the artist, his influences and his legacy. 100 b&w illustrations.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Rock 'n' roll historian and Bob Dylan authority Gray offers a detailed volume featuring entries related to Dylan's life, artists who influenced him and were influenced by him, musical styles he created, and background stories of specific Dylan songs and recordings. Gray states in his preface that this work was prompted by friends and readers of his books (Song & Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan, 1972, and its 900-page revised edition, 2000) who suggested that he present some of that material in a more "reference-based" way.

Most of the entries are sketches of musicians, although Gray includes actors, authors, and other nonmusicians. These entries provide brief biographies and then explain how the people are connected to Dylan: how they worked with him, influenced or were influenced by him, and which of his songs they performed or recorded. The 3-page entry for Johnny Cash, for example, tells of Cash's defense of Dylan when Columbia Records wanted to drop him, their first meeting at the Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village, and their duo performances and recordings.

Gray's opinions and editorializing are prevalent throughout. This makes for unique entries, such as Interviews and the myth of their rarity (in which he claims Dylan actually averaged one interview per month over 40 years) and Dylan being "bored" by his acoustic material 1965-66, the myth of. In fact, the entire book is written in a refreshingly relaxed manner, as befits a music critic and fan.

The volume comes with more than 100 black-and-white illustrations and an accompanying CD-ROM with a searchable PDF version of the text. Although there is another published Dylan reference work, Oliver Trager's Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (Billboard, 2004), the current volume is a valuable addition to academic and large public library collections, primarily because of Gray's knowledge and reputation as a Dylan expert. Steven York
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


More About the Author

MICHAEL GRAY IS A WRITER recognised as a world authority on the work of Bob Dylan and as an expert on rock'n'roll and blues history. He also writes on travel.

HE ALSO gives audio-visually rich illustrated talks at arts festivals, theaters, colleges etc. AND IS NOW ACCEPTING BOOKINGS TO SPEAK IN THE US AND CANADA IN SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER 2013. Contact him through his website...

...HIS WEBSITE is http://www.michaelgray.net and this gives news, upcoming live appearances, a shop page where you can buy signed copies of his books, and much more.

HIS BOOK "THE Bob Dylan Encyclopedia", a massive hardback, was published in New York and London in 2006, and the updated paperback is on sale now.

HIS BIOGRAPHY of Georgia's greatest blues singer, Blind Willie McTell, titled "Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell", was published by Bloomsbury in the UK and by Chicago Review Press in the US in hardback in late 2009.

HIS CAREER BEGAN AT YORK University (UK), where he studied under the brilliant, controversial critic F. R. Leavis, and as a student journalist interviewed the distinguished historian A. J. P. Taylor and the now-legendary American guitarist Jimi Hendrix.

HIS PIONEERING STUDY OF BOB Dylan's work, "Song & Dance Man", first published in the early 1970s in Britain, America and Japan, was the first critical study of this crucial contemporary cultural figure, and is a classic in its field.

THE MASSIVE THIRD EDITION OF his Bob Dylan study, "Song & Dance Man III: The Art of Bob Dylan" was published in London in 1999 and in the US by Continuum in 2000. This remained in print for eleven years and is now highly collectable. You can still buy a signed copy from Michael's website (www.michaelgray.net).

MICHAEL ALSO CO-AUTHORED "The Elvis Atlas: A Journey Through Elvis Presley's America", published by Chartwell Books (US) in 2011.

MICHAEL GRAY HAS given talks at the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland OH; Stanford University; the Institute for Folklore Studies in Great Britain & Canada; Goldsmiths College, London; the New School in NYC; & the University of Texas at Austin. In 2007 he gave the closing address at the University of Minnesota's 3-day symposium on Dylan's work, at which other speakers included Christopher Ricks and Greil Marcus. In 2011 he was a keynote speaker at Dylan conferences at the University of Vienna in Austra and the University of Bristol UK.

WHEN NOT TRAVELING MICHAEL GRAY lives in France with his wife (food-writer Sarah Beattie).


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Masked and Anonymous on June 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Michael Gray's Dylan encyclopedia is enormously impressive as a piece of research, but this is not simply an academic tome by any means. Gray's amusingly opinionated observations about songs, concerts, band members, etc. permeate each of the entries, making for an interesting read. One of the best parts of the book is that persons who have their own entries are listed in CAPS, so you can read one entry at random, find a reference to another Dylan-related figure or event that catches your eye, and skip right to the corresponding entry. Gray also includes entries for other Dylan biographers/scholars, including relatively obscure folks who've done interesting work and the legendary super-fan/scholar Olof of internet fame.

What really makes the book is that despite Gray's obviously obsessive interest in Dylan, he doesn't treat Dylan as a god or waste time defending in the indefensible among Dylan's enormous output as an artist. If anything, his judgments (such as his putdown of the 1983 album Infidels) strike me as excessively harsh, although he also takes pleasure in calling attention to his appreciation of records that he likes more than most, like Under the Red Sky.

In any case, this is a highly entertaining Dylan book. It'll be of much greater value of course to those who've read at least one of the standard biographies and are familiar with Dylan's career in some detail. But I would rank this book, and also the Cott book of Dylan interviews just out, in the VERY top shelf of Dylan-related books (and God knows there are a lot of those....)
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Bornintime VINE VOICE on July 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are very few people who could (or should) create something of this scope on Bob Dylan. Michael Gray has an obsessive knowledge of Dylan. Not only is the information here well researched, but you can tell that Gray has lived and breathed this stuff for the last 30 odd years. Gray ably walks the line between other Dylan fanatics like Paul Williams (who gushes about everything) and Clinton Heylin (an amazing writer who may complain too much). Michael Gray obviously has a love for Dylan's work but it doesn't stop him from criticizing when necessary. He has a writing style that is often humorous. What's great about this book is that it is user friendly. You can read a quick couple paragraphs on a particular Dylan album or musician who worked with Bob, or, if you're looking for something a little deeper, a 4 page essay perhaps on Dylan's use of nursery rhymes or the Blues. There's so much in here you'll be reading for months at least.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Phil the Hypothetical on September 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A little surprised to be given this for my birthday a few weeks ago (I'm not the world's most devoted Dylan fan, although I do find him fascinating), it took me several days before I even opened the book. Fully expecting it to be a dry compendium of facts and short biographies. It turns out this is, instead, a great mix of opinion, information, and critical judgment - not all of it polite, but always nicely written. The author, Michael Gray, takes on all-comers, and is often amusingly "politically incorrect" in his views on figures like Bono, Pete Seeger, Eric Clapton, and Dave Stewart. Gray is also generous in his praise for many, many others including Elvis, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, and dozens of old blues singers - so the book ends up painting a vivid picture of decades of American music and culture in general. My only complaint (so far) would be that the entries on Dylan songs and albums are uneven - but if you can cope with that, and with an author who has strong opinions, you'll find a great deal to love (and probably something to hate!) in this genuinely unusual and thoughtful book.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Natalie Caper on June 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm a collector. So when I'm a fan of someone, in this instance Bob Dylan, I like to have a comprehensive collection of their work and works about them. But there have been a LOT of books written about the Bob, an insane number, really, so I suppose it makes sense that most of them aren't worth the cost of the ugly paper they were printed on. Take for instance the other Bob Dylan "Encyclopedia", Keys to the Rain or whatever it's called: awful. A truly unforgivably poorly put together piece of work. I pre-ordered it, just like I did with Mr. Gray's Encyclopedia, and returned it two days later in disgust.

Not so with Mr. Gray's masterpiece, which by far exceeds any of the (rather high) expectations I had given the quality of his previous work on Dylan, Song & Dance Man. This Encyclopedia is crazy! But in the best way. It's so much fun to read that I've actually laughed out loud a few times. Mr. Gray has a lot of opinions about a lot of people and as complimentary as he can be if it's a favorable one, it's really even better when it's a bad one, because that's when his dry, irreverent sense of humor really shines.

I haven't read the whole thing yet (it's gigantic), but I can already tell this is a contender for my favorite Dylan book of all time. It's that good. It's also really beautifully packaged, which doesn't hurt!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Zola on July 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The previous review is obviously just a deliberate spoiler: it's just plain untrue that Michael Gray's marvellously wide-ranging book doesn't give "Dylan's connections/interactions with artists that influenced him, or background on the scores of former members of Dylan's band." That's EXACTLY what it does - with every single member of all Dylan's bands, whether they were with him in 1965 or on the Never-Ending Tour. Not just that, but there are entries detailing the Dylan connections with dozens and dozens of people who've played on his records or even just turned up and played at a concert encore one night. Everyone from bass player Kenny Aaronson thru to Warren Zevon. And there's tons more kinds of entries here too - Robert Browning to Robert Johnson, the record producers of the key Dylan albums, Bob's films . . . it's a huge book, and not just informative but funny, witty, quirky, surprising - a delight.
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