Decoding Dylan: Making Sense of the Songs That Changed Modern Culture Kindle Edition
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From the Back Cover
- ASIN : B07KQFDV1Q
- Publisher : McFarland (April 11, 2019)
- Publication date : April 11, 2019
- Language : English
- File size : 3869 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 178 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 1476678456
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,359,601 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Some more time with an editor would have helped. These problems really detract from the enjoyment of reading the book. In fact I nearly just gave up on it.
He cleared up a few questions I have had about Dylan lyrics for decades. For example, the line from "Desolation Row" about everybody making love "or else expecting rain" always struck me as simply absurd. Dylan has lots of seemingly absurd or just plain strange metaphors and similes. Example: "the wind howls like a hammer" or "crying like a fire in the sun." But Curtis explains Dylan's mention of rain as a reference to fertility, which matches with the human lovemaking.
He also helped me to understand "Visions of Johanna," a great song that I always felt must have some meaning beneath the surface that I was missing. As he notes, it is not Dylan's use of specific symbols, but his general references to myths and subconscious ideas and emotions that give this and other songs such power. Louise and her lover represent the concrete, everyday reality of life, whereas Johanna is a somewhat mysterious and mythical goddess or earth mother. So the song (poem) represents the division between the sacred and profane, the spiritual and the prosaic or put another way, the spiritual and the material. Unfortunately, he doesn't address the "ghost of electricity" that howls in the "bones of her face." But he does go into the conflict between the new world of technology as opposed to the old world of spoken and written words. He cites Marshall McLuhan on this and it quite interesting. Electricity already had a big role in the world of 1965-66, mostly in terms of television and radio, but its role today is much more important. It is "all too concise and too clear" that we are in a world now dominated by technology like computers and the internet that have diminished the role of words and lifted up the role of the image. Dylan bridges these worlds by using words to create fascinating images. Perhaps Mr. Curtis would like to examine that in a future book..
Another thing I found very interesting was the author's analysis of the rhyme patterns and the length of lines in Dylan songs. While Dylan does have some simple songs that are like the folk songs upon which he modeled them, he has some songs with very different rhyme patterns that somehow work without being all that noticeable to someone just listening and enjoying the song. I won't try to explain that here, you'll have to read it to get the full treatment on that.
The only complaint I can mention, and it is fairly small, is that every now and then Curtis makes a mistake in his description of events and people. For example, he mentions Dylan being booed by fans at Newport in August, 1965, when he sang and played electric guitar, "backed by the Hawks.". Actually, he was backed by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The Hawks later went on the road with Dylan and were so often referred to as "the band" that they took that as their new name. But this bit of trivia is certainly not important to the central themes of the book, which will interest other Dylan maniacs like me as well as students of literature.
We know Dylan was a chronicler of social issues in the 1960s. This book provides readers with a series of contexts. It begins with a look at a film that depicts Dylan's concert tour in England in 1965 and transports us back to his childhood and up through his 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition" and goes on to mention his work in sculpting iron.
I might start this review by explaining that my early childhood memories were not of Bob Dylan. Rather, I grew up listening to my dad pick and sing Hank Williams's songs while my mom played Elvis Presley's album, 'His Hand in Mine', over and over.
This book does detail both of these men being influential in Dylan's life and analyzes his song, 'Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again'.
I recall many years ago listening to an interview where Dylan said there would be no music without the words and this stuck with me as the first time I heard 'Blowin' In The Wind' was when Peter, Paul, and Mary sang it. And this would have never been possible without Dylan's lyrics.
If you'd ask my husband his favorite Bob Dylan song he would definitely state, 'All Along the Watchtower'. And when asked why, he would surely state because Jimi Hendrix saw Dylan's brilliance and electrified it.
Perhaps those of us who listen to Bob Dylan are drawn to his reclusiveness much as we are lured to writers like Hemingway or perhaps we recognize Dylan being a keen observer to the world around him- a world we are all a part of.
Either way, Jim Curtis does an outstanding job of taking readers back in time to characters and scenes that provide the atmosphere. You learn some of the obstacles Dylan faced and recognize he survived when many other entertainers didn't.
If one were to sit down with Bob Dylan one might think of a zillion possible questions to ask about him about his creative methods and love of ballads and blues. But I rather think we would just like to listen...listen to him speak or listen to him to sing another song that changed modern culture.
I received this book through the generosity of Jim Curtis' publisher McFarland (McFarlandBooks.com)