The Ballad of Bob Dylan | A Portrait, by Daniel Mark Epstein

» Started reading » The Ballad of Bob Dylan (.. for those times when I get tired of reading about Javascript). So good. Like you're there .. at a Dylan concert .. when he was just emerging. Impressive the way the author (an accomplished poet himself) is able to take you there.

The Ballad of Bob DylanDylan has been called our "greatest living songwriter" .. an artist who has "transformed generations".

Even judges quote him from the bench. ( "You dont need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." ) Our judiciary's most-quoted songwriter.

This book takes you back to the days and places where he got that reputation.

The book, which I picked off the 'New' shelf at our local library, starts thusly .. at the Lisner Auditorium, Georgetown Unviversity, in our nation's capital:

December 14, 1963

The frail-looking young man with tousled hair entered the auditorium from stage left, strumming his guitar while people were still getting settled in their seats.

A triple row of folding chairs had been hastily arranged in a semi-circle upstage behind the performer's spot to handle the last-minute overflow. Now these latecomers were sitting down, applauding as he passed them. He wore a pale blue work shirt, blue jeans, and boots.

It was as if he had come from some distance and had been singing all the while to himself and whatever group he could gather on street corners and in storefronts, his entrance was so casual and unheralded.

He moved toward his spot center stage next to the waist-high wooden stool. On the round seat was a clutter of shiny Marine Band harmonicas.

Scarcely acknowledging the applause, mildly embarrassed by it, he lurched toward his place onstage wearing a steel harmonica holder around his neck that made him look like a wild creature in harness, blinking at the floodlights, hunching to adjust the strap that held the Gibson Special acoustic high on his slender body.

Recall that JFK had just been assassinated only weeks prior (.. on November 22nd). The nation was in turmoil & grieving. MLK was still alive, but not for long. RFK would follow two months later.

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Epstein makes it clear, early on, that he can be objective, that he is even willing to criticize Dylan (.. something I could never do. I love Dylan .. early Dylan, anyway. Many of his songs speak to me on a deep level, as tho he brings to conscious awareness things I already knew deep inside. Or that he gives voice to things I am unable to express myself.)

The greatest skill of a writer (.. for me) is the ability to transport the reader .. to another time & place (.. either real or imagined). Take me to another world. Show me things I've never seen. Tell me tales that make my hair stand on end. This ability is why some authors are popular bestsellers even tho their traditional literary skills may be lacking, or criticized by critics.

Here Epstein kicks butt. Reading hs book gave me a sense of what it must've been like to be there in the auditorium (5th row, center) when Dylan walked in and began to play. ■

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This page contains a single entry by Rad published on July 9, 2011 7:09 AM.

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