Listening to Bob Dylan

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Pub Date 14 Sep 2021 | Archive Date Not set

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Venerated for his lyrics, Bob Dylan in fact is a songwriting musician with a unique mastery of merging his words with music and performance. Larry Starr cuts through pretention and myth to provide a refreshingly holistic appreciation of Dylan's music. Ranging from celebrated classics to less familiar compositions, Starr invites readers to reinvigorate their listening experiences by sharing his own—sometimes approaching a song from a fresh perspective, sometimes reeling in surprise at discoveries found in well-known favorites. Starr breaks down often-overlooked aspects of the works, from Dylan's many vocal styles to his evocative harmonica playing to his choices as a composer. The result is a guide that allows listeners to follow their own passionate love of music into hearing these songs—and personal favorites—in new ways.

Reader-friendly and revealing, Listening to Bob Dylan encourages hardcore fans and Dylan-curious seekers alike to rediscover the music legend.

Venerated for his lyrics, Bob Dylan in fact is a songwriting musician with a unique mastery of merging his words with music and performance. Larry Starr cuts through pretention and myth to provide a...

Advance Praise

“In this fresh and expansive book, Starr invites us to reach beyond the Nobel-winning lyrics and finally hear the brilliance of Dylan's work as a performer, arranger, composer, and vocal stylist. Each chapter is a lively, accessible masterclass that will make you return again to even the most familiar songs with a sense of wonder and surprise.”--Sean Latham, editor of The World of Bob Dylan

“Larry Starr’s Listening to Bob Dylan is a refreshing addition to the ever-growing literature about Bob Dylan. Unlike most books on the subject, which tend toward extensive biography, exhaustive lyrical analysis, or trivia-based one-upmanship, Starr takes a relatively novel tack: he approaches Dylan as a musician. Drawing upon his decades of popular music study and pedagogy, Starr deftly navigates Dylan’s six-decade career in a manner that is both informative and accessible, but most of all it is a pure joy to read.”--Mark A. Davidson, Archives Director, The Bob Dylan Archive

“In this fresh and expansive book, Starr invites us to reach beyond the Nobel-winning lyrics and finally hear the brilliance of Dylan's work as a performer, arranger, composer, and vocal stylist...

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ISBN 9780252086021
PRICE $19.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

I enjoyed reading this a lot, the author really showed the genius of Bob Dylan. I have always been impressed with Dylan's lyrics but this book showed me that Dylan is just as masterful at using the music to tell his stories. The parts on his voice and his use of harmonica were particularly good.

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As a fan who has seen Dylan live in concert 4 times over the last 4 decades, after reading this book I consider myself a novice. So unless you have an already deep appreciation for Dylan, you may struggle to get through this work. For me, I never knew there were so many angles with which to consider Dylan's catalog. When does the harmonica come in? What is it paired with? Is it in response to lyrics? What kind of poetry does Dylan use? What tone - is he crooning or using rhythm to drive home a point? Rhythm in general, back-ground vocals, minor key, song structure? So many ways to analyze Dylan's music and make observation of the changes over the years. The best way to read this book is with a streaming service (or the real thing) at hand to listen about the tune you are reading about and learning from. So go deep, learn new observations and start listening to Bob Dylan. This book is scheduled for a September 14, 2021 release. An advance digital copy was made available in exchange for a review without any obligation of favorable summary.

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In this book, the author reviews the studio albums of Bob Dylan with relevant asides to concerts and published lyrics, etc. The focus is on instrumentation (harmonica and guitar mostly), vocal styles, lyrical content and music theory. The music theory part is accessible to the non-musician fan and illustrative of the development of Dylan's style and song structure. This guided listening surveys the Dylan discography all the way to Rough And Rowdy Ways (2020). We live at a time when anyone can use a streaming service or some digital platform can take in this discography without time-consuming retail searching. For anyone already familiar or looking to explore the Dylan songbook, this is a thorough, enthusiastic, and enlightening framework to approach that impressive body of work.

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I have read numerous books on Bob Dylan. He is an important part of the landscape that is America in the 20th-21st century. For many he is a complete enigma. This book helps the reader (listener) navigate Dylan’s body of work and come out with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for this master’s contributions to the world in which w live.

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Listening to Bob Dylan by Larry Starr Emeritus Professor of Music History Published by University of Illinois Press. Non –fiction. Bob Dylan’s six-decade career is easily in the same Pop-Cultural league as Elvis Presley - in terms of him being universally well known and ridiculously talented. This singer-songwriter, author and visual artist does have one up on Elvis - Bob scored a well deserved Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition". This fantastic new look at Dylan's music is a very clever, but in no way pretentious book. Every moment you read this book is a continuous expansion of interesting Bob musical knowledge and it's quite addictive. One of Dylan's favourite novels is 'Moby Dick' by Herman Melville, interestingly this book is also about a quest to capture a moment with a Titian, but there are no harpoons called for here, only headphones. Professor Starr describes Dylan as a musical shapeshifter, as he explores the singer's many voices and ways of expressing himself through song. Then the reader travels through detailed chapters on the iconic Dylan harmonica, the famous acoustic to electric moment and explorations of his structural compositions in the genres of Folk, Rock and Blues. Bob's lifelong passion for performing live and his clever myriad of growling and eccentric vocal manipulations, which includes silence as a powerful space in his songs, are vibrant reading. This book is not a list of tour dates, birth dates, session times or album titles – it's a book that encourages you to listen to the songs with fresh ears and enjoy these powerful Nobel Prize-worthy and important songs in all their layered glory. Miranda, Y reviewer. 4 stars.

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This is quite an astonishing book. As a teenager in the 1960s, I grew up with a backdrop of Dylan’s early work as part of my musical likes. I bought a few of his albums, I enjoyed his clever lyrics and protests but I didn’t give his work much further thought. I confess surprise to his Nobel award, but this book has given me an insight into a comp,ex works of lyric, rhythm, musical structure and much more that I’d never considered. Some parts for lay reader are quite detailed, but very rewarding. I have half a dozen albums on my iPod and the beauty of this exploration of his work is that it’s regenerated my interest in his songs and I’ve listened to them in a way that I haven’t done before. Ive gained so much and learned a great deal along the way. Larry Starr writes with an engaging energy which draws the reader in to the subject and even some of the more complex ideas are explained well. Overall, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this and I’m revisiting numerous tracks with a totally fresh ear. Who knew that harmonica phrasing could be so crucial! My thanks to the publisher for a review copy via Netgalley.

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Listening to Bob Dylan author: Larry Starr University of Illinois Press Starr shares his love, knowledge, and impressions of Bob Dylan's musical talents in this comprehensive book showcasing Dylan as a vocalist, instrumentalist, songwriter, and composer. Larry Starr, emeritus professor of music history at the University of Washington, has taught courses on the topic of popular music all through his career in academics. The book is detailed, well researched and reflective of Starr's deep connections to Dylan's music. The topic of Bob Dylan's musicianship is the central focus, as Starr delves into the variety and evolvement of his musical styles as a folksinger, bluesman, rocker, and also crooner. Starr's writing is detailed and deep as he covers Dylan's lyrics, musical compositions, arrangements, and performances. He examines his live performances, albums, and musical instruments including interesting and enlightening thoughts on his harmonica playing. Music lovers will appreciate Starr's inclusion on aspects of rhythm, pitch, melody and harmony. Having heard Bob Dylan live in concert twice, I have gained greater insight into his musicianship from Starr's excellent new book. Thank you to Net Galley and University of Illinois Press for the advance reader's copy and opportunity to provide my unbiased review. #ListeningtoBobDylan #NetGalley

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