Cover Image: The Double Life of Bob Dylan

The Double Life of Bob Dylan

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Member Reviews

Thank you Netgalley for supplying me an ARC of this book.

As a rather weird 12 or 13 year old, I read Anthony Scaduto's biography of Bob Dylan. When I was that young, I was shocked and dismayed that Dylan, who I was a nonfanatical fan of, lifted records from his friends and told tall tales.

Now as a 58 year old, I'm not even the slightest bit horrified of the antics of the young Dylan, and Mr. Heylin has found more of them for me to be nonplussed about. This book adds much richer details to Scaduto's outline. There are also new discussions of the drugs and women that Dylan used.

Why don't I care about young Dylan's antics anymore? I'm old, Dylan was young. Young people do strange stuff. Young people who become famous will succumb to those extreme pressures and act out even more. All this stuff happened over 50 years ago.

This book is an extremely comprehensive outline of Dylan's early ventures into fame. This will be one of the top books that scholars will refer to in 100 years if scholars are still studying Dylan.
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My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Little, Brown and Company for an advanced copy of this musical biography. 

At the end of this musical encomium you will know more about the musician Bob Dylan up to the age of 25 than you will ever know about your family, crushes, exes and even your pets. Clinton Heylin, the Dylan scholar/obsessive has after ten or more books on the songwriter, has written in The Double Life of Bob Dylan: A Restless, Hungry Feeling, 1941-1966 the most complete and best biography yet on the man. Using new sources, mostly from the George Kaiser Foundation in Tulsa, who purchased Bob Dylan's personal archive, Mr. Heylin was given a chance to go through the collection to see what exactly was purchased. The author dug deep finding out more about the enigma that was once called Robert Zimmerman.

Bob Dylan is a constant fabulist about his life, his, past, his art, and his loves. He deflected when the truth was easier, and lied to make a good story better, and to make him look even better. He was a womanizer who stepped out constantly, and he seemed to have no problem with young girls, not woman on a few occasions. Dylan in this book comes across as very unpleasant man. Mr. Heylin tries to explain the charisma, but to me and the stories told by people who wer once close, and who found themselves cut out, I don't see the attraction. Dylan seemed a lot of a jerk. 

Mr. Heylin can be rude, to other biographers, other musicians, basically anybody. However he is meticulous and the book though long, never seems to drag. Another great song is coming, another milestone in his life is around the corner. In such a small period of time, Dylan accomplished and hurt a lot of people. It is a sham that Dylan just doesn't seem to deserve all the work and time spent on him. The music yes, without a doubt. The man not so much. That said I eagerly await Volume 2 in this sprawling masterwork.
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I’ve read several Dylan biographies including Chronicles Volume 1 but I couldn’t even finish this book. The author spent more time dissing other people’s work and Dylan himself than he did writing about his subject. The style was just too much for me. Not recommended
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Clinton Heylin knows his Dylan. With access granted by the Dylan Archives at the University of Tulsa, this meticulously researched biography gives a fresh look into his voice, his craft and the dimensions of Dylan the man and the artist. From the early days of a young Bob Zimmerman to Greenwich Village folkie and leaping into an electric 1966 World Tour, Heylin digs deep into his changing persona, writing styles and poetic messaging that would one day lead him to Nobel laureate. 
No stone is left unturned as the author taps into Dylan’s relationship with friends, family, fans, lovers, fellow musicians and his battles with the press. He also takes his own swipes at other biographers of Dylan that were less than reliable. In the same light though, Dylan’s stories changed from time to time as he reinvented himself and his history.
Volume I will take the reader from 1941 to 1966, prior to the motorcycle accident that would change this artists trajectory.
This is a well recommended and  wonderful addition to Dylan’s legacy and perfectly timed with his 80th year.Dylan devotees will devour this read and eagerly await Volume II.
Thanks to NetGalley, the author and Little, Brown and Company for an ARC in exchange for an honest book review.
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This book is for Dylan completists  only. The author only delves into Dylan's formative years, and is meticulous about details and his own personal feels about people and songs. There are many factoids (how many people were in a car; Dylan's opinion of individual Guthrie tunes) and interviews from the mother of Suze Rotolo and as many early associates he could gather. And, in the end, Bob Dylan remains an enigma. Which is how he wants it.
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One of the first LP record albums I purchased as a teen was Bob Dylan‘s Greatest Hits. The included poster hung in my bedroom. I also had the 45s of Mr. Tambourine Man and Rainy Day Women 12 & 35, now in my jukebox.


I knew a few facts about Bob Dylan. Very few. Clinton Heylin’s biography The Double Life of Bob Dylan: A Restless, Hungry Feeling 1942-1966 was a madcap, twisted, crazy funhouse ride of a story. I hated Dylan and he broke my heart.

Dylan’s determination to succeed was relentless. He was a poser. A user. A dissembler. Adept at reinventing himself.

He was a huge sponge soaking up everything and constantly writing, typing away on his typewriter, oblivious to all around him, locked into his own world as he wrote. He wrote more than he could remember.

Heylin’s depth of knowledge of all things Dylan enables him to sniff out the fake from the factual, shaking out truth from fiction. Dylan himself was a master magician at covering up his past. Other people who were ‘there’ tell conflicting stories.

Dylan arrived in New York to be embraced by the folk music scene, paying homage to Woody Guthrie in his hospital bed, and finding good souls to give him a couch or a place on the floor to crash. Leading lights of the folk music world championed him. He wrote iconic protest music that became the background music of the time. Blowing’ in the Wind. The Times They Are A Changin’.

Well, you know, it seems to be what the people like to hear.~Bob Dylan

quoted in The Double Life of Bob Dylan by Clinton Heylin
Was it genuine, arising from Dylan’s soul? He later said it was what was ‘in’. And when he was over it, he did his own thing, scandalously adopting the next big thing in music. He went electric. The audiences wanted the ‘old Bob Dylan,’ booing him across the world. In response, he turned up the volume.

Then there is the issue of talent. He arrived in New York a mediocre talent on the guitar and harmonica, with that gravely singing voice. As Bobby Zimmerman, a Minnesota Jew with a Sears Silvertone guitar given to him by his mother (the same guitar my mom bought me in 1966), he played a good rock and roll piano and admired Hank Williams. Then he heard the Kingston Trio recording of Tom Dooley. (Oh, yeah, I sure remember that one, and I have my aunt’s 45 on my juke box.) It was his first reinvention. Now, he was doing the folk thing because it was ‘in.’

He had a lot going against him but he also had a lot going for him. Self confidence, for one. The ruthlessness artists need to succeed. And something else, a charisma that grew on listeners and brought them under his thrall. Leaving protest folk, his lyrics represented a personal iconography that we can’t always translate into logical language, filled with images and references that elude us while invoking an emotional response. In other words–poetry.

The book ends in 1966, Dylan a mere twenty-five and already burned out by the cage of fame, living on the edge, fueled by alcohol, drugs, physically and psychologically worn to a skeleton from an overindulgence of the senses, at a breaking point. And another chance to reinvent his life.

Details of his career are unrolled, the recordings, the record deals, the shows. The entire culture is laid out, the shifting alliances, the sharing and stealing of songs, the late night poker games and alcohol and drugs. And of course, the women he loved and the women who loved him, the hearts he broke.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
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