A Bob Dylan Biography in Seven Songs
by Greil Marcus
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Pub Date 11 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 18 Nov 2022
“The most interesting writer on Dylan over the years has been the cultural critic Greil Marcus. . . . No one alive knows the music that fueled Dylan’s imagination better. . . . Folk Music . . . [is an] ingenious book of close listening.”—David Remnick, New Yorker
Named a Best Music Book of 2022 by Rolling Stone
“Further elevates Marcus to what he has always been: a supreme artist-critic.”—Hilton Als
Across seven decades, Bob Dylan has been the first singer of American song. As a writer and performer, he has rewritten the national songbook in a way that comes from his own vision and yet can feel as if it belongs to anyone who might listen.
In Folk Music, Greil Marcus tells Dylan’s story through seven of his most transformative songs. Marcus’s point of departure is Dylan’s ability to “see myself in others.” Like Dylan’s songs, this book is a work of implicit patriotism and creative skepticism. It illuminates Dylan’s continuing presence and relevance through his empathy—his imaginative identification with other people. This is not only a deeply felt telling of the life and times of Bob Dylan but a rich history of American folk songs and the new life they were given as Dylan sat down to write his own.
“Splendid biographical essays on that most elusive of subjects, the shape-shifter once known as Bobby Zimmerman. . . . Marcus delivers yet another essential work of music journalism.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“As always with Marcus, his work is mesmerizing. . . . He creates a rich cultural stew of associations, from the folk revival to Black Lives Matter, from an episode of Homicide to One Night in Miami, and so much else in between as he makes far-flung connections seem inevitable. Just as Dylan allows a song to carry him away, readers will be transported by the sheer poetry of Marcus’ prose.”—June Sawyers, Booklist (starred review)
“Marcus explores what he considers Dylan’s greatest gift—empathy—through seven of the artist’s most important songs, which demonstrate Dylan’s continued relevance to American music and history. . . . Dylan reigns supreme, and Marcus’s sharp, elegant prose tells us why.”—Linda Lenhoff, Diablo Magazine
“This is the good stuff: the stuff you can’t usually get in books. Greil Marcus is already the most important chronicler of Dylan. But here he outdoes himself. This book is rich with deep understanding, with caustically funny commentary, and a psychoanalysis, much needed, of Bob Dylan and of America.”—Rachel Kushner
“Decade after decade, Greil Marcus has proven himself to be not only a brilliant cultural critic about the music, lives, and stories that have helped shape contemporary American consciousness; he has also done much to articulate why our music has always stood at the axis of sound and politics. This book is not only a valuable addition to the canon, it further elevates Marcus to what he has always been: a supreme artist-critic.”—Hilton Als
“Here is Greil Marcus at his most brilliantly insightful, eloquent, persuasive, brimming with information about Bob Dylan and his music, unique in his ability to combine the most candid sort of memoirist prose with truly inspired commentary. As Dylan ‘sees himself’ in his subjects, so Greil Marcus ‘sees himself’ in Dylan, the most original musical genius of our time, the perfect subject for the most original music critic of our time.”—Joyce Carol Oates
“Greil Marcus’s writing on Dylan constitutes one of the great living bodies of work by one mold-breaking creative mind interpreting the art and meaning of another. Dylan’s multitudes ﬁnd their champion in Marcus’s critical exuberance.”—Todd Haynes
“Marcus is unsurpassed in showing how Dylan reflected the cultural moment even as he changed it. This moving, personal, compelling book traces Dylan’s complex relationship to American culture through some of Dylan’s most iconic songs, enabling us to understand these songs in fresh ways while also giving us a profound history of how we understand ourselves.”—Dana Spiotta
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