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Dylan The Biography

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Bob Dylan is a music hero to generations. He’s also an international bestselling artist, a Pulitzer Prize–winning author, and an Oscar winner for “Things Have Changed.” His career is stronger and more influential than ever. How did this happen, given the road to oblivion he seemed to choose more than two decades ago? Dylan’s 72, and this final act of his career is more inte Bob Dylan is a music hero to generations. He’s also an international bestselling artist, a Pulitzer Prize–winning author, and an Oscar winner for “Things Have Changed.” His career is stronger and more influential than ever. How did this happen, given the road to oblivion he seemed to choose more than two decades ago? Dylan’s 72, and this final act of his career is more interesting than ever—yet the classic biographies like Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades (first published 1991, updated 2001) and even his own Chronicles: Volume One (published 2005) came too soon to cover this act. Now this groundbreaking biography digs deep into Bob Dylan lore—including subjects Dylan himself left out of Chronicles: Volume One. Dylan: The Biography moves beyond analysis of lyrics or well-worn biographical facts to focus on why this beloved artist’s American odyssey has touched so many souls—and how both Dylan and his audience have changed along the way. What happened during the past two decades to transform a heroin addict into one of the most astonishing literary and musical icons in American history? Through extensive interviews and connections with Dylan’s friends, family, sidemen, and fans, Los Angeles Times journalist Dennis McDougal builds a new understanding of Dylan, as well as the real story behind the myths. Was his romantic life, especially with Sara Dylan, much more complicated than it appears? Was his motorcycle accident a cover for drug rehab? What really happened to Dylan when his career fell apart, and how did he find his way back? To what does he attribute his astonishing success? McDougal’s interviews and meticulous research offer a revealing new understanding of these older questions—and of the new chapter Dylan is writing in his life and career.


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Bob Dylan is a music hero to generations. He’s also an international bestselling artist, a Pulitzer Prize–winning author, and an Oscar winner for “Things Have Changed.” His career is stronger and more influential than ever. How did this happen, given the road to oblivion he seemed to choose more than two decades ago? Dylan’s 72, and this final act of his career is more inte Bob Dylan is a music hero to generations. He’s also an international bestselling artist, a Pulitzer Prize–winning author, and an Oscar winner for “Things Have Changed.” His career is stronger and more influential than ever. How did this happen, given the road to oblivion he seemed to choose more than two decades ago? Dylan’s 72, and this final act of his career is more interesting than ever—yet the classic biographies like Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades (first published 1991, updated 2001) and even his own Chronicles: Volume One (published 2005) came too soon to cover this act. Now this groundbreaking biography digs deep into Bob Dylan lore—including subjects Dylan himself left out of Chronicles: Volume One. Dylan: The Biography moves beyond analysis of lyrics or well-worn biographical facts to focus on why this beloved artist’s American odyssey has touched so many souls—and how both Dylan and his audience have changed along the way. What happened during the past two decades to transform a heroin addict into one of the most astonishing literary and musical icons in American history? Through extensive interviews and connections with Dylan’s friends, family, sidemen, and fans, Los Angeles Times journalist Dennis McDougal builds a new understanding of Dylan, as well as the real story behind the myths. Was his romantic life, especially with Sara Dylan, much more complicated than it appears? Was his motorcycle accident a cover for drug rehab? What really happened to Dylan when his career fell apart, and how did he find his way back? To what does he attribute his astonishing success? McDougal’s interviews and meticulous research offer a revealing new understanding of these older questions—and of the new chapter Dylan is writing in his life and career.

30 review for Dylan The Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    M. Sarki

    https://msarki.tumblr.com/post/151713... If what Dennis McDougal presents in this biography is in fact true then Bob Dylan is a far different person than the accepted history his celebrity suggests. The tone attached to this appraisal reminds me of a documentary I watched on Hunter S. Thompson some time ago that had him admitting on camera that he lost himself in becoming the person his infamous celebrity had made him. This book as well, almost too eagerly at times, attempts to show how Bob Dylan https://msarki.tumblr.com/post/151713... If what Dennis McDougal presents in this biography is in fact true then Bob Dylan is a far different person than the accepted history his celebrity suggests. The tone attached to this appraisal reminds me of a documentary I watched on Hunter S. Thompson some time ago that had him admitting on camera that he lost himself in becoming the person his infamous celebrity had made him. This book as well, almost too eagerly at times, attempts to show how Bob Dylan and Robert Zimmerman became two different people. And to illustrate this ever-widening gulf between the two personalities in respect to all that has been already extensively written regarding Dylan’s life and music offers a novel opportunity for McDougal to move beyond the incessant analysis of his lyrics and well-worn biographical facts. Though often intuited at times to be a “hit piece” of sorts, the book proved to be an interesting read. And as I neared the last fifth of the book I began to see clearly McDougal’s honest fairness presented and redeemed. The publisher’s opening blurb asks the question, “What happened during the past two decades to transform a heroin addict into one of the most astonishing literary and musical icons in American history?“ I was never aware that Dylan had a heroin addiction, but if true, I am not surprised. And his abusive use of alcohol would explain his erratic behavior both in concert and on the road. I believe I have personally seen him perform to both extremes. But for some reason McDougal seems to have an unhealthy fixation on Dylan’s sex life and his discarding use of women. Though he does try, McDougal eventually fails in his attempt to portray Dylan as a buck in heat during rutting season. There is no doubt Dylan enjoyed many sexual opportunities due to his royal celebrity. He is probably the most famous American icon who has ever lived. My guess was a woman having sex with Bob Dylan was much different than a tumble in the hay with Robert Zimmerman. The one time I did express a bit of wonder over all these women falling for such a reported mess, with his bad teeth and tendency towards flight, my wife explained, “He’s Bob Dylan. Who wouldn’t want to be with Bob Dylan?” There is no doubt the man did learn how to live and thrive in a world in which he constantly remade himself even in routinely risking his possible destruction. His work remains vital in spite of his more than five decades continuing to fan the music’s flames. Unlike other long-suffering artists from the sixties, such as the previously amazing Neil Young, Bob Dylan remains an original. And Dennis McDougal makes good use of interviews and available material in which to prove it. I had no idea Bob Dylan was such a real estate mogul. He has countless properties and businesses while remaining silent behind the scenes. Why the man wants as many homes he has is a bit of a conundrum to me, but most likely it is his investment portfolio that directs the management of his financial empire. Hard to imagine Bob Dylan a thriving businessman, but Dennis McDougal diligently follows his winding trail a long way from its humble beginnings on Macdougal Street.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    (Won in Goodreads giveaway in return for honest review) This biography of the elusive Mr. Dylan reads like a back-handed compliment: Dylan has maintained his privacy so closely ,especially regarding his wives(yes, there was more than one) and children, and now grandchildren (17..good for you, Bob!),not to mention his lovers, that McDougal has precious little direct commentary from Mr. D. himself.He relies, at least intitally in the bio, on the scathing and /or less-than- kind comments of those wh (Won in Goodreads giveaway in return for honest review) This biography of the elusive Mr. Dylan reads like a back-handed compliment: Dylan has maintained his privacy so closely ,especially regarding his wives(yes, there was more than one) and children, and now grandchildren (17..good for you, Bob!),not to mention his lovers, that McDougal has precious little direct commentary from Mr. D. himself.He relies, at least intitally in the bio, on the scathing and /or less-than- kind comments of those whom Dylan has cast away or pissed off over the decades. He "outs" Bob as inventing stories and wild fantasies presented as truth, which may surprise or disillusion some fans (obsessive Dylanophiles and Dylanologists) but which fit with the essence of Dylan, as those who appreciate his music can attest...he's a poet, an interpreter of dreams, a folklorist, a madman,a besotted lover, a boxer with fate,a hard-shelled turtle,a committed father,a burlesque performer and no less than a snake shedding his skin over seven decades.He has morphed, evolved, grown, exceeded, disappointed,disappeared, re-birthed himself countless times.....so at what point do more shallow, less talented voyeurs deserve his personal goods? "Hey, Bob,put your entire dirty laundry on the line,we wanna creep under your skin?" (One of the most pathetic parts of the bio is the depiction of a stalker who literally for years rooted thru Dylan's garbage,dirty diapers and all, and "diagnosed" his life...the moron was proud of "driving him out of Manhattan due to his obsession.) As derogatory as this bio seems,recounting endless petty grievances and accounts of alleged substance abuse and debauchery, even McDougal can't totally smear the man. In fact, as the years pass and Dylan keeps on keeping on, he manages to include more and more of Dylan's own words. The Never ending Tours (sometimes as many as 120 a year) are testimony to how deeply,unstintingly and richly the artist has given of his vision.Dylan is repeatedly quoted as saying," My religion is the music, it's in the song,that's my spiritual belief system." The reason to read this book is not the personal scoops or tragedies;the reason is because you will want to pull out all your Dylan CDs and go on a listening marathon.The music is the message. And BTW, thanks,Bob.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Toni Apicelli

    Rather than try to summarize what this thorough and revealing biography covers, I’ll do what Bob Dylan would probably prefer, let him speak for himself. On page 461 of Dylan by Dennis McDougal is the standard stage introduction Bob Dylan had his introducers use on his Never Ending Tour (N.E.T.) “deep into the 21st century.” It was adapted from an article that appeared in the August 9 edition of The Buffalo Tribune. "The poet laureate of rock ‘n’ roll! The voice of the promise of the ‘60s counterc Rather than try to summarize what this thorough and revealing biography covers, I’ll do what Bob Dylan would probably prefer, let him speak for himself. On page 461 of Dylan by Dennis McDougal is the standard stage introduction Bob Dylan had his introducers use on his Never Ending Tour (N.E.T.) “deep into the 21st century.” It was adapted from an article that appeared in the August 9 edition of The Buffalo Tribune. "The poet laureate of rock ‘n’ roll! The voice of the promise of the ‘60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock, who donned makeup in the ‘70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse, who emerged to “find Jesus,” who was written off as a has-been by the end of the ‘80s, and who suddenly shifted gears and released some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late ‘90s. Ladies and gentlemen, Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan!" What is clear from this thoughtful, well-researched biography is that Bob Dylan is a complex man with a complicated life. Even the mega fame he enjoys is complex. Although he has always been revered for the music he created in his 20s, for decades after that, he wasn’t connecting with the fans who so admired his early work. The remarkable thing about Dylan is that even though he wasn’t connecting, he never gave up. He kept performing and making albums, no matter what the public thought of them. If you’re interested in Dylan and the path he’s been on for the past 50 plus years, I recommend this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brad Bell

    I read this book right around the time I started to get back into Bob Dylan and his albums and that really compelled me to read this biography which had just come out at the time. It's a pretty comprehensive overview of his entire life including the not so glamorous aspects of his personality. Covering Bob from the time before he had even donned the name of Bob Dylan back when he was Robert Zimmerman and goes all the way up to his most recent album that came out a few years ago it really has ever I read this book right around the time I started to get back into Bob Dylan and his albums and that really compelled me to read this biography which had just come out at the time. It's a pretty comprehensive overview of his entire life including the not so glamorous aspects of his personality. Covering Bob from the time before he had even donned the name of Bob Dylan back when he was Robert Zimmerman and goes all the way up to his most recent album that came out a few years ago it really has everything you want in the biography. The nitty gritty of his life mixed in with the common misconceptions that go along with the mystique of the man. I especially loved the stuff with his career overlapping with famous bands like The Beatles, who he introduced to weed or The Grateful Dead who he toured with for a little while. The book wanders away from the main narrative line from time to time which is okay once and a while but it happens a bit more near the end when you can tell the author struggled to get more information on Bob after he became a relative shut-in, so the book could have been a little shorter and tighter had he wrapped it up instead of spinning his wheels. Otherwise great book for the Bob Dylan fan, very informative and eye opening to the man, myth and legend.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Diane Fanning

    Ever since I first listened to the Freewheelin' CD, I have said that I LOVE Bob Dylan. After reading this book, I saw that what I loved was Bob Dylan, the artist; not Bob Dylan the person. He's not someone I could even imagine sitting down with for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine--that just wouldn't be a realistic scenario under any bizarre twist of fate. I loved this book and enjoyed learning more about the man behind the music. The writing is stellar with a casual inclusion of phraseology t Ever since I first listened to the Freewheelin' CD, I have said that I LOVE Bob Dylan. After reading this book, I saw that what I loved was Bob Dylan, the artist; not Bob Dylan the person. He's not someone I could even imagine sitting down with for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine--that just wouldn't be a realistic scenario under any bizarre twist of fate. I loved this book and enjoyed learning more about the man behind the music. The writing is stellar with a casual inclusion of phraseology that was classic Dylan. Kudos to McDougal for a job well done. (Full disclosure: Dennis is a friend and he included a mention of me in the acknowledgements. Honestly, though, if I didn't think this was a fabulous book, I would not have posted any review at all. From me, you'll get four-star or five-star or nothing at all.)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Suni Jo

    Dennis McDougal writes in Dylan The Biography that Dylan uses his influence to intimidate those close to him to ensure the most intimate details of his life will remain a mystery. Perhaps, McDougal speculates, the public will only have access to the those details of his life until after he has died and those people feel safe to speak. Despite this and Dylan's own reticence McDougal has written a thorough and humanizing portrait of the self described song and dance man. Unlike Martin Scorsese’s N Dennis McDougal writes in Dylan The Biography that Dylan uses his influence to intimidate those close to him to ensure the most intimate details of his life will remain a mystery. Perhaps, McDougal speculates, the public will only have access to the those details of his life until after he has died and those people feel safe to speak. Despite this and Dylan's own reticence McDougal has written a thorough and humanizing portrait of the self described song and dance man. Unlike Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home and D.A. Pennebaker's Don’t Look Back which focus on the decade Bob Dylan experienced the height of his popularity in the 1960’s this biography focuses on the entirety of Dylan's career spanning five decades.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    As a long time Bob Dylan fan it was great to read the uncorrected proof copy from Dennis McDougal.Reading about the highs and lows,and the many changes throughout Bob's career was very interesting and also comical.I loved the book and have now passed it over for my wife

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    I have listened to Bob Dylan's music since I was in high school in the mid sixties. Mr. McDougal's biography allowed me to learn a bit more about the stories, legends, and lies that have circulated over the past fifty years of Dylan's public life. When I read a biography of a musician, I like to listen to their music as I read their story. Dylan: The Biography let me read and listen in an orderly fashion. Sometimes I had to stop reading and just sit there and listen to one of my favorite Dylan al I have listened to Bob Dylan's music since I was in high school in the mid sixties. Mr. McDougal's biography allowed me to learn a bit more about the stories, legends, and lies that have circulated over the past fifty years of Dylan's public life. When I read a biography of a musician, I like to listen to their music as I read their story. Dylan: The Biography let me read and listen in an orderly fashion. Sometimes I had to stop reading and just sit there and listen to one of my favorite Dylan albums. But sometimes the album was so weak that I just skipped it. Many of his lesser albums have a good song or two, but not all of them. Mr. McDougal tells the story behind each album. He lets you put the music in perspective. You follow the path that Dylan went down. He tells some interesting tales. He examines how Bob Dylan and Robert Zimmerman became two different people, how Dylan and his people fashioned a public persona and kept control of what was known about his private life. They controlled the media. If an interviewer broached a subject that Dylan didn't want to talk about, he got the look and if he continued along that line, then Dylan would just get up and leave. The interview was over, and most likely the interviewer would never get another chance. So this brings up the question, how much of this book is fact? Has this biography been shaped by Dylan and his people? Much of this book draws on other references, but since they may be suspect, who can ever really know. So this book was a moderately interesting story, maybe fiction mixed in with the fact. It gives a new way of looking at all the Dylan books out there, and throws them all under suspicion. But it still was a fun read for a Dylan fan. It will open up your eyes and make you reexamine what you thought that you knew about Bob Dylan. I give this book 4 Stars out of 5. It was well written and an interesting biography of a famous musician of our time. It shows that Bob Dylan is a poet and a joker, a Jew and a Born-Again Christian, a master story teller and a songwriter, ... but who is Robert Zimmerman? I received this Digital Review Copy for free from edelweiss.com.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    A good single-volume introduction, but with some occasionally clunky writing. I didn't see any footnotes for some of the more explosive assertions, like repeated insinuations about heroin. While the gospel period isn't treated with outright disdain, I would have liked a deeper and more respectful examination (hey man, Slow Train Coming is an amazing record!) I can't imagine McDougal taking on a project of this magnitude without really liking Bob's music, but there's a tendency to describe post-1 A good single-volume introduction, but with some occasionally clunky writing. I didn't see any footnotes for some of the more explosive assertions, like repeated insinuations about heroin. While the gospel period isn't treated with outright disdain, I would have liked a deeper and more respectful examination (hey man, Slow Train Coming is an amazing record!) I can't imagine McDougal taking on a project of this magnitude without really liking Bob's music, but there's a tendency to describe post-1966 work in such a way that you're not really sure if he finds any merit in it. Later on, he kind of trashes everything except for Blood on the Tracks, but at the end of the book it's unclear if Bob is a genius who's wasted his talent or if the last 40 years of work has any merit. Also, the treatment of Rolling Thunder and the Never Ending Tour, along with several later albums, is just plain weird. There's very little about how the music was reconceptualized, you know, like, how it sounded? Why that may be important? What people took away from it? The stuff on Bob's Hibbing days, and continuing connection to the place, is very interesting. I wish it was more clear from the text where information was coming from. Howard Sounes's book was better. Chronicles is dope, of course, but who knows when we'll get Volume 2. This one needs some work.

  10. 4 out of 5

    James

    Imagine a book about Ted Williams written by me, a guy who doesn't know much about baseball. That's what McDougal's biography is like. It's fine, I guess, but there's no there there. He barely talks about the songs and spends more time trying to paint his subject in some kind of edgy dark light--but even that gets old since facts about Bob are about as easy to confirm as facts about the Clintons. And when he does talk about the songs, he does so sparingly. (I can't resist noting that McDougal sa Imagine a book about Ted Williams written by me, a guy who doesn't know much about baseball. That's what McDougal's biography is like. It's fine, I guess, but there's no there there. He barely talks about the songs and spends more time trying to paint his subject in some kind of edgy dark light--but even that gets old since facts about Bob are about as easy to confirm as facts about the Clintons. And when he does talk about the songs, he does so sparingly. (I can't resist noting that McDougal says this in his passage on Time Out of Mind: "A plea like 'To Make You Feel My Love' summoned sentiment as profoundly as any love song he'd ever written." Really? Is he kidding?) Someone told me that he judges any Bob biography this way: read the passages on the God trilogy and see how he tackles it. McDougal does fine with this, but, like so much else, it's milquetoast. Better to read (or reread) Ian Bell's 2-volume biography, which I can't imagine being surpassed and features one perfect sentence after another. I couldn't wait to pick those up every day. This one I finished just to finish.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mike Zinn

    First of all I have to say that I received an ARC of this book for free from Wiley. That being said, I really enjoyed this book, and it was a good thing to read because it took me out of my fiction 'comfort zone'. This is the first biography I've read in years and since I've been a fan of Bob Dylan, particularly his earlier work, since I was a teen, this shed a lot of light on his entire history. Some folks might find this biography a bit off-putting as there are many footnotes (almost 500), but First of all I have to say that I received an ARC of this book for free from Wiley. That being said, I really enjoyed this book, and it was a good thing to read because it took me out of my fiction 'comfort zone'. This is the first biography I've read in years and since I've been a fan of Bob Dylan, particularly his earlier work, since I was a teen, this shed a lot of light on his entire history. Some folks might find this biography a bit off-putting as there are many footnotes (almost 500), but they are right there on the page with the reference so they work pretty seamlessly with the narrative. The sources for pretty much the whole book are previous biographies, but it seems to me that the author did his homework, and at least from my point of view provided an enjoyable read the covered Dylan's life in an enjoyable way. I know I enjoyed it, and I think that most any Dylan fan would as well.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sue Russell

    Music and lyrics long loved, illusions about the man behind them now shattered. Shattered by the fine reporting of Dennis MacDougal. This book reveals that much in Dylan's own book "Chronicles" was as richly imagined as his songs. This book doesn't change my love of early Dylan - and even middle years Dylan - but it is an eye-opener. (Disclosure: the author is a friend, but I have no compunction about recommending this biography because I loved it despite its disturbing revelations about Dylan t Music and lyrics long loved, illusions about the man behind them now shattered. Shattered by the fine reporting of Dennis MacDougal. This book reveals that much in Dylan's own book "Chronicles" was as richly imagined as his songs. This book doesn't change my love of early Dylan - and even middle years Dylan - but it is an eye-opener. (Disclosure: the author is a friend, but I have no compunction about recommending this biography because I loved it despite its disturbing revelations about Dylan the man, and it's a must for fans.)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katrina Knittle

    Goodreads win. Will read and review once recieved. This is definitely a book any Bob Dylan fan would like. Even though I entered this to be a gift for a friend I couldn't resist but reading it. I loved this book. This is one of the first non ficiton books I've read in quite a while. This book definitely shed some light on his entire history which I found to be good. The author did a great job with putting this book together. I was a very satisfied reader.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    One of my daughters is a big Bob Dylan fan and after hearing her talk about him for decades, I decided to read this book about his life and found it more interesting than I expected. I want to thank Dennis McDougal, that author, Goodreads First Reads Giveaway and my daughter that won Dylan ~ The Biography in the Goodreads Giveaway.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jon Kapp

    This is a good addition to the canon of Dylan literature. McDougal provides a more balanced view of Dylan as a public and private man - including a candid view of his personal affairs and addictions, which had impact on his art. Overall, a solid read for those interested in a deeper dive into Bob Dylan history.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I am not really a big fan of Dylan. I found the writing style hard to follow. I fealt it read like a history book rather than a biography about Bob Dylan. The author wrote more about the events surrounding BoB Dylans life (political events, other musical acts, etc,) than actually writing about Bob Dylans life.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rich Goldblatt

    Good insight into the most influential rock politico of all time in the biography called Dylan. Dennis McDougal doesn't pull any punches when he discloses Mr Dylan's proclivity for dames, drugs, purloining and obfuscation. Good information and well written. Dylan fans add a star. Love his use of big words, too!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stacie

    This is a good intro book on Dylan. It has a lot of information and stories from Dylan's era and life that the author uses to try and explain the rock star. I won this book as a Goodreads Giveaway and I am glad I did as I don't usually read many bios.

  19. 5 out of 5

    John Smaron

    I thought this was a great read my only disappointment was it really didn't delve into his later years was hoping for more backstory on his recordings and there really wasn't any but that being said it does delve into what makes him so quirky

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

    Reads quick despite being 500+ pages.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Beth Olson shultz

    As it says on the back cover, this is the ultimate bio of Bob Dylan. A really good book about a legend. Won this book from goodreads.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jaiagc

    An interesting look at a music legend and voice of a generation.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Four pages into this book - no, make that the first page and a half - and I knew the book Was written as a hit piece.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    Can't count the times the author used the term "rutting" to describe Dylan's sexual liasons.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I received this book for free as part of a Goodreads giveaway. So glad to find out I won this book, and can't wait to start reading! I'll update this with a review once I finish.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jim Murray

  27. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  28. 4 out of 5

    Owen Goldin

  29. 5 out of 5

    Annette Boehm

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ams

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