Dylan has been the subject of innumerable books. In
this (the fifth) full-scale biography, British reporter
Howard Sounes tracked down people previously unknown and
apparently spent a lot of time in courthouses researching
lawsuits, birth certificates, marriage licenses, real
estate transactions, and holding companies.
internationally, this book has gained enormous publicity
from its major revelation: Dylans secret (second)
marriage toand divorce from(former) backup
singer Carolyn Dennis, and their (now 15-year-old) child.
seems consumed by Dylans finances. A millionaire
since 1965, there is no doubt Dylan is wealthy. But his
records have never sold that well, and while he's always
touring, its been 20 years since hes undertaken
the large-scale arena tours that generate astounding profits
for other musicians.
book is documented with a 67-page list of source notes,
referring to interviews, other books, articles, and web
sites. Despite this attention to detail, easy-to-check
facts are wrong and other claims are dubious.
instance when Sounes is blatantly wrong is when he calls
the liner note poems for The Times They Are A-Changin
"Four Outlined Epitaphs," when its "Eleven Outlined
Epitaphs." Come on, all Sounes had to do was look at the
also has Dylans 1982 induction into the Songwriters
Hall of Fame taking place at the Hilton Hotel in New York
City. I was there; it was the Americana. Minor as this
is, it makes every other fact questionable.
1963, when Joan Baez introduced Dylan as a surprise guest
at her concerts, Sounes claims Dylan's manager Albert
Grossman negotiated a higher fee for Dylan than Baez,
probably confusing this with their joint tour of early
65. He also tosses off the unsupported claim that
Dylans second album Freewheelin was
selling 10,000 copies a week in the summer of 1963.
applies quotes from interviews and lines from songs to
situations that took place at another time. In discussing
Dylan getting a haircut for an early 60s gig, he
borrows a quote from a 1966 Playboy interview that
was an obvious put-on.
is also a new account of the 1966 motorcycle crash from
Grossmans widow, Sally, yet the crashthe definitive
turning point in Dylans careerremains a mystery.
to previous Dylan biographies, the writing is straightforward
but ultimately dull. Despite digging up sensationalistic
dirt, Sounes does not have the Albert Goldman-esque attack
of Bob Spitzs Dylan, the sanctimonious negativity
of Clinton Heylins Behind the Shades, or
the fawning of Robert Sheltons No Direction Home.
the Highway continually attempts to build to a big bang
that never happens. Uncovering more background information
(than any previous writer) about Dylans first wife
Sara Lownds, we still really dont know who she is.
While a great deal is revealed about Grossman screwing
Dylan financially, we learn little about their relationship.
Others such as Bob Neuwirth (ever present in Don't
Look Back) and Allen Ginsberg are dismissed in a couple
young to have been there, Sounes misses the drama of several
major events with perplexing results. For example, the
tumultuous world tour of 1965-1966 climaxes not at a concert
but in a hotel room when Grossman interrupts Dylans
lawyer while he is explaining an important publishing
contract. Although this contract would affect Dylans
life for the next 20 years, the drama of that tour was
happening on stage. Dylans 1974 return to the stage
is glossed over, and the 75 Rolling Thunder tour
is used as an example of Dylans inaccessibility
when all other evidence is to the contrary.
all his research, Sounes dismisses Dylans mid-80s
return to Judaism "as playing a part" by wearing a yarmulke
at his son Jesses bar mitzvah in Israel. A photograph
of this event shows Dylan wearing tefillin, which is only
worn by the most religiously observant Jews. Dylans
many appearances at Chabad telethons would also support
claims of his involvement in Judaism as more than casual.
Sounes refrains from interpreting Dylans lyrics,
and the few depictions of recording sessions somehow miss
the action. Attempting to link Dylans last album
Time Out of Mind to the Anthology of American
Folk Music, he misses the one major connection, that
the song "Tryin To Get To Heaven" is composed of
lines from old folk songs.
Dylan that finally emerges is a sad, lone, and complicated
eccentric who has simultaneous relationships with various
women and is paralyzed by fame while wanting to remain
in the spotlight.
definitive Bob Dylan biography has yet to be written