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No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan

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Robert Shelton wrote the rave review of Bob Dylan in the New York Times that is generally credited with being the piece that "discovered" him in 1961. Twenty-five years later, Shelton, who had followed Dylan's career faithfully, published No Direction Home . Here is the "empathetic and rather magnificent" ( Washington Post Book World ) story of Dylan, musician and phenomenon.


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Robert Shelton wrote the rave review of Bob Dylan in the New York Times that is generally credited with being the piece that "discovered" him in 1961. Twenty-five years later, Shelton, who had followed Dylan's career faithfully, published No Direction Home . Here is the "empathetic and rather magnificent" ( Washington Post Book World ) story of Dylan, musician and phenomenon.

30 review for No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan

  1. 5 out of 5

    Geoff

    "Not since Rimbaud said ‘I is another’ had an artist been so obsessed with escaping identity… Dylan as an identifiable persona has been disappearing into his songs, which is what he wants. This terrifies his audiences…” ~~ Shelton’s book is a Citizen Kane-style kaleidoscope, a fragmented searching-out and recollection of shards from multiple perspectives, forming a bewilderingly contradictory portrait of America’s most enigmatic bard- and to be sure, any successful portrait of Dylan should aspire to be npersona "Not since Rimbaud said ‘I is another’ had an artist been so obsessed with escaping identity… Dylan as an identifiable persona has been disappearing into his songs, which is what he wants. This terrifies his audiences…” ~~ Shelton’s book is a Citizen Kane-style kaleidoscope, a fragmented searching-out and recollection of shards from multiple perspectives, forming a bewilderingly contradictory portrait of America’s most enigmatic bard- and to be sure, any successful portrait of Dylan should aspire to be no less than a puzzle, a bewildering one, for what public figure is more intentionally protean, what pop star has ever lived as complexly masked and anonymously as Robert Zimmerman? However, Shelton is an especially privileged mosaic maker, as he was close to Dylan from the start of his career in New York. (Shelton wrote the 1961 New York Times piece that “discovered” Dylan, was his friend, critic, and media ambassador throughout the decades that followed, and even accompanied Dylan and the Band on the famous 1966 world tour- this is almost an “authorized” biography…) From early glimmerings of Dylan’s youth in Hibbing and Duluth, a chubby-cheeked kid aping Brando and James Dean, roaming the desolate streets of a hometown losing its vitality as the mining industry waned, through all of those wrecked and rugged mythic backroads of Middle America that led Bob circuitously to New York City and fame and the world beyond, the book’s pace mirrors its subject's phases of development- the early chapters loping through Dylan’s opaque early days as well as the history of American folk and Black music, the music that Dylan would come to incorporate, subsume, and transform throughout his career, the excrescence of Depression-era America still making those railroad tracks hum from coast to coast, vibrating like a plucked guitar string or a church bell in a little impoverished Minnesota town on the wrong side of the Mississippi, or echoing like the shadowy plains out of which Dylan emerged to be unwillingly christened folk music’s new protest messiah- an honor which he immediately rejected and violently shed. This chrysalis was strange, and was not to be owned by any community- for Dylan was ever and always aggressively individual, radically apart. Those left in his wake, so many interviewed by Shelton here, are as often bitter chewing over their memories of Dylan as they are gentle. This was a young man struck with genius who knew exactly where he was going, exactly what he wanted to do, conformed to no one’s expectations, and tried terribly to leave no moral debts behind- failing as often as he succeeded, picking himself up and nursing bruises and scrapes and walking on after each fall. “Don’t look back” is his true credo. No Direction Home picks up intensity as Dylan’s life accelerates into absurd heights of fame and public expectations in the early and mid-60’s, as Dylan’s art mutated from Guthrie-esque acoustic social realist Leftist anthems and interpretations of traditional songs to the serpentine, wriggling, blues and R&B-infused surrealist nightmare grotesqueries of the three classic records produced from 1965 to 1966, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde- probably the greatest rock records ever recorded, though at the time and during the tour that followed, Dylan was villainized, demonized, rejected, and torn to shreds for the new direction his art was taking. The book crescendos to its maximum, a 15-page transcription of an exhaustion- and chemically-fueled monologue by Dylan, taking place on a jet plane in the early hours of a March morning in 1966- Shelton’s tape recorder left running while Dylan, then at the height of both his fame and his infamy, preparing to depart on the now infamously disastrous world tour- talks manically in run on sentences about his position, his place, his tides of troubles and antagonisms, where he came from, where he’s going, where he is within the spinning chaos of worlds that are his lives at that moment… a surreal, disturbing, scattered polemic, in quickly moving lines of free association… which turns out to be a kind of strange obsessive summary of that vanishing era before the motorcycle accident that, like a lightning twist of fate, sent him out of the public eye, into a self-imposed exile, and radically changed his musical and personal paths. I have written at length elsewhere about my relationship to Dylan's music and words, no need to reiterate here. Pretty much everyone involved closely with Dylan’s rise and career in the 60’s is given a voice in Shelton’s book, and No Direction Home has to be the definitive compilation and detailed retelling about Dylan and his world during that decade. After the motorcycle accident in the summer of 1966 and Dylan’s withdrawal from public life and transformation that led to the re-emergence of the tranquil, the bucolic Americana in Dylan’s songs, especially on those records produced in the late 60’s and very early 70’s, John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, and New Morning, the book dwindles and sputters out. (There are 400+ pages on the early years and the 60’s, a mere 100 pages devoted to the next decade and a half.) This is not a fault in Shelton’s book if you look to it as a resource on Dylan for that particular time period. It is a meticulously recounted document, through a shifting, shimmering multitude of perspectives, of the most important years in the development of the 20th century's most beguiling popular artist.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Funny old book this one. Shelton made a deal with Dylan. He could quote any of the lyrics if he refrained from discussing Sara. That didn't stop Shelton mistakenly identifying Sara Lowndes as the ex-wife of Victor Lowndes, Playboy executive. Oops. Shelton lugged this book around for 20 years before he finally got it published, and it's a ragbag - very detailed on the early years, and everything after 1966 written off in a couple of pages. He also tries his hand at song analysis, and that ain't g Funny old book this one. Shelton made a deal with Dylan. He could quote any of the lyrics if he refrained from discussing Sara. That didn't stop Shelton mistakenly identifying Sara Lowndes as the ex-wife of Victor Lowndes, Playboy executive. Oops. Shelton lugged this book around for 20 years before he finally got it published, and it's a ragbag - very detailed on the early years, and everything after 1966 written off in a couple of pages. He also tries his hand at song analysis, and that ain't good at all. Dylan has not been well served by his biographers - Clinton Heylin is the most reliable but he can't write; Bob Spitz turns the whole thing into a comedy with awful results; Scaduto - very good actually, I'd forgotten about him. Shelton is really just more source material on the 1960s.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ronn

    I've read a lot of books about Bob Dylan. I'm glad I read the others first, because if I had read this one first, I'd never have read another. This was HUGELY disappointing, especially considering how close the author was to the subject. But with all the obvious if minor factual errors [i.e. "Shake, Rattle, & Roll" was an Ivory Joe Hunter song rather than a Big Joe Turner song?], combined with all the failures of editing and proofreading [someone responded in 1962 to an article published in I've read a lot of books about Bob Dylan. I'm glad I read the others first, because if I had read this one first, I'd never have read another. This was HUGELY disappointing, especially considering how close the author was to the subject. But with all the obvious if minor factual errors [i.e. "Shake, Rattle, & Roll" was an Ivory Joe Hunter song rather than a Big Joe Turner song?], combined with all the failures of editing and proofreading [someone responded in 1962 to an article published in 1965; 'PREsuaded' rather than 'PERsuaded'], there is sufficient reason to doubt more important claims of fact. The edition I read was the original one published in 1986, and hopefully some of these glitches have been fixed in subsequent versions. Regardless, I think I'll wait until Chronicle Volume II before I read another book about Bob Dylan.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Susan Wolf

    This was an absolutely fascinating look into the life of one of the last living legends of Modern Music. Did I say Modern Music? Well, Bob began his career delving into the archives of Negro , Appalachian, Hillbilly, very early American folk songs. Coming full circle as a folk star, a disappointment to those folkies, reinventing himself time and time again, Mr. Dylan is one of the most intriguing "celebrities" of our time. Robert Shelton was the first to review a gig Bob preformed at Gerties pub This was an absolutely fascinating look into the life of one of the last living legends of Modern Music. Did I say Modern Music? Well, Bob began his career delving into the archives of Negro , Appalachian, Hillbilly, very early American folk songs. Coming full circle as a folk star, a disappointment to those folkies, reinventing himself time and time again, Mr. Dylan is one of the most intriguing "celebrities" of our time. Robert Shelton was the first to review a gig Bob preformed at Gerties pub, NYC... Having seen Bob Dylan perform live twice this year, I have gained a new outlook and respect for the man and his music. Enjoy this book if you enjoy reading about the music that has shaped America!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Charity

    Interesting details are given, Shelton has a strong voice, but the slant and bowing to Dylan takes away from the biography, he needed to be more objective. Dylan was fully aware of this biography, did an interview for it where he looked to shape what Shelton wrote about (times, people, music) and whom he should talk to about what. The interviews that Shelton excerpts, not only his with Dylan but others as well, are hysterical. Dylan was the master at masks and constructing his entertainer identi Interesting details are given, Shelton has a strong voice, but the slant and bowing to Dylan takes away from the biography, he needed to be more objective. Dylan was fully aware of this biography, did an interview for it where he looked to shape what Shelton wrote about (times, people, music) and whom he should talk to about what. The interviews that Shelton excerpts, not only his with Dylan but others as well, are hysterical. Dylan was the master at masks and constructing his entertainer identity. The desire of Shelton to be included in the entourage of Dylan and his inability to look at Dylan as something other than a God really takes away from the effectiveness of the text.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tim Weakley

    I think this was my favourite read this year so far. The Greenwich Village time period makes the book. Shelton wrote the review that got Dylan "discovered" and had access to the artist that few had after he was burnt by the media of the time. The inside look at where Dylan was at during the recording of the various albums, along with the review ( in some cases song by song ) of the albums in question make the book a very real delight for any Dylan fan. Also an interesting insight for anyone inte I think this was my favourite read this year so far. The Greenwich Village time period makes the book. Shelton wrote the review that got Dylan "discovered" and had access to the artist that few had after he was burnt by the media of the time. The inside look at where Dylan was at during the recording of the various albums, along with the review ( in some cases song by song ) of the albums in question make the book a very real delight for any Dylan fan. Also an interesting insight for anyone interested in the Village folk revival of the early sixties.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Reilly

    I put this on my "didn't finish" list, not because I didn''t like it but because I finished the project I needed it for, and it was due back at the library (where I just successfully got $73 dollars worth of fines in Russian Books dismissed))). I want to read more of this someday, because it is well written, and I like reading about Bob.

  8. 5 out of 5

    David Bjorlin

    Whether it was the writing, my interest level, of Robert Shelton's lack of interaction with Dylan later in his career, the last 200 pages lose a considerable amount of steam.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    When I was 18 I landed my first real radio gig at a station that played "oldies" 50s/60s/70s classics. This was 1993. Now when I hear certain tracks from those decades I'm back in that studio - that time was incredibly influential - it gave me a lifelong career and a lifelong obsession with music. It was an education through listening - hours spent in the studio hearing the greatest hits of those decades. It was the first time I really heard anything from Dylan except maybe "Like A Rolling Stone When I was 18 I landed my first real radio gig at a station that played "oldies" 50s/60s/70s classics. This was 1993. Now when I hear certain tracks from those decades I'm back in that studio - that time was incredibly influential - it gave me a lifelong career and a lifelong obsession with music. It was an education through listening - hours spent in the studio hearing the greatest hits of those decades. It was the first time I really heard anything from Dylan except maybe "Like A Rolling Stone". My conservative Christian upbringing had limited me to top 40 radio or the acceptable U2 for anything "secular". Now I find myself studying, discovering and focusing on the 60s/70s musical history of the West as one of the high creative moments of our society. The events of those decades, the social climate, the culmination and reaction to developments in music, politics and the throwing off of conventions were the reasons for the creativity of course and this all leads to some amazingly insightful writing and artists to study. Dylan happened to be born as a genius in the middle of all this and had the advantage of timing among many other gifts. He's one of the few artists you could study for a lifetime and continue to gain new insights from the pathways of influences he drew from. Anyone who questions his Nobel award from 2016 hasn't really looked into his words. There's only one other American musical genius of the 20th century who comes close in my mind - Miles Davis - he from the strictly musical side and Dylan from his words. Columbia has even treated their catalogues in a similar manner with the many "bootleg series" releases that have been necessary to accommodate their unparalleled output. With so much to cover from the influences, the output, the times, the impact, the enigma and the words themselves It's not entirely out of place that a quality bio of Dylan could take 20 years to complete.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Perry Whitford

    Robert Shelton was a New York Times journalist who was a friend of Dylan in Greenwich Village throughout the 1960's. He wrote the singer's first positive review and pretty much had authorization from the man himself to write this biography, which was eventually published in the mid 1980's. As you would expect from Shelton's proximity to Dylan throughout the 60's, he he is very strong on those early years, having the kind of access that could never be repeated as Dylan's wariness with the p Robert Shelton was a New York Times journalist who was a friend of Dylan in Greenwich Village throughout the 1960's. He wrote the singer's first positive review and pretty much had authorization from the man himself to write this biography, which was eventually published in the mid 1980's. As you would expect from Shelton's proximity to Dylan throughout the 60's, he he is very strong on those early years, having the kind of access that could never be repeated as Dylan's wariness with the press grew after a series of drubbings and disclosures. There is a vivid account of Dylan's own 'On the Road' journey across America in early 64 with a few friends, taking in a visit to the poet Carl Sandberg and the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Also memorable is an interview from the 66' tour on a flight from Nebraska to Denver with Dylan on an amphetamine come-down, discussing the book that Shelton was then writing. "It takes a lot of medicine to keep up this pace" admits Bob, which is as close as he ever came to revealing the source of his extraordinary trajectory during those years. I also love the extended focus given over to Dylan's initial attempts to subvert the traditional celebrity / media relationship in 1965, where he gave ridiculous, dadaist answers to interviewers that were often very funny (e.g. Q:As a little boy did you want to write songs and be a singer? A:No, I wanted to be a movie usher. It's been my lifelong ambition to be a movie usher, and I have failed, as far as I am concerned. / Q:Miscellaneous likes? A:Trucks with no wheels. French telephones, anything with a stewed prune in the middle.) Shelton gives due consideration to the music, with each song from his greatest albums receiving at least a few lines each, but strangely for a music reviewer this is not his strong point. He is much surer when examining Dylan's cultural impact, his commitment (or otherwise) to social causes and his attitude towards politics. Dylan actually detests politics, and was always thinking outside the contemporary moment. He never sought the role of spokesman, which Shelton makes plain again and again via interview and anecdote. Shelton wrote this biography as Dylan's career was unfurling, whereas the rest of biographers (excepting Anthony Scutaro, who produced the very first to be published, in the early 70's) have been written after the flood so to speak, not before, so No Direction Home is invaluable if you want to understand Dylan's true motives, as opposed to the many revisionist myths. It completely runs out of steam when it comes out the 80's though, like Shelton was just going through the motions due to an obligation to his publishers. Mind you, I guess you could say the same about Dylan's own work at that time...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jarvo

    Relatively early into this book I was musing that it was possible to virtually all contemporary music without really hearing the influence of Mr Zimmerman, at least not in the way you would have even 20 years ago when any young man with a guitar was in danger of being dubbed 'the new Dylan'. What does it matter, I thought to myself, given that Dylan is probably the greatest poet in English since Yeats, who cares whether some half baked 20 something is trying to imitate him? Reading this adm Relatively early into this book I was musing that it was possible to virtually all contemporary music without really hearing the influence of Mr Zimmerman, at least not in the way you would have even 20 years ago when any young man with a guitar was in danger of being dubbed 'the new Dylan'. What does it matter, I thought to myself, given that Dylan is probably the greatest poet in English since Yeats, who cares whether some half baked 20 something is trying to imitate him? Reading this admirable and deeply enjoyable biography I realised I was looking for influence in all the wrong places. It is clear that Dylan was behind two shifts of tectonic importance. Firstly he prompted the first attempts to write about contemporary popular music as though it is of great cultural and intellectual importance. If you read someone writing with great seriousness on this subject it is in part a reflection on Dylan's success. Secondly, and at great personal cost, he brought together the folk tradition, with its rich lyrical tradition, with black influenced electric guitar based music. So everything with decent lyrics no longer had to sound like a dirge. Shelton was one of the first journalists to recognise Dylan's potential, and has something of an insider's track even whilst keeping a necessary distance. He is good on the restless searching that marks the first decade and a bit of his career. And you realise that there is something profoundly natural in all of this. Your identity hasn't clearly emerged when you are in your twenties, nor is it unusual for successful men in their twenties to wear their faults rather on their sleeve. Jung - a big influence on Dylan - would have recognised this. What is more unusual is for someone to have released 2 decent, 2 very good and 3 toweringly great albums before they are 26. And that took a lot of living up to.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    I think Dylan is a genius, and enjoyed reading this book. He is a very reclusive man, which probably saved him, as many tried to cast him in a role as a prophet or savior. He only wanted to make music and write poetry. In that, he has done well. The book is written by Robert Shelton, obviously a trusted friend. Dylan does not say much about his family, except that he married an unknown model named Sara Louwnds, and not too many people in the press got to know any more about her. He adopted her d I think Dylan is a genius, and enjoyed reading this book. He is a very reclusive man, which probably saved him, as many tried to cast him in a role as a prophet or savior. He only wanted to make music and write poetry. In that, he has done well. The book is written by Robert Shelton, obviously a trusted friend. Dylan does not say much about his family, except that he married an unknown model named Sara Louwnds, and not too many people in the press got to know any more about her. He adopted her daughter, and they had 4 children themselves, brought up in the Jewish faith. The book follows Dylan from when he left Hibbing, MN in his first semester of college, and ends in the 1980's. I found it interesting, though sometimes I think he is only singing and his lyrics are not as mysterious as people want them to be. He has a deep respect for folk music and American history, and although he will sing for a cause, left Joan Baez when they were younger because he did not want to be pulled into her antiwar work. They are still friends. It was good to read about his first love in New York, Suze, and all the songs he wrote for her. But in the end the press and other people surrounding them became too much. The same happened in his marriage, though he did try hard to protect them by living in a secluded area of Woodstock, NY, and many say his married years with his young children were the happiest they ever saw him.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Clayton Whisnant

    A interesting book on Bob Dylan’s life and career up through the early 1980s written by a music journalist and folk scene insider who knows Bob Dylan and his music well. The pacing is a little off--the story moves at a snail’s pace through the early to mid-1960s, the period in which Shelton clearly was spending a lot of time personally with Bob Dylan and has a lot of personal memories to add. It picks up speed through the 1970s, and the Christian period of Dylan’s life is zipped through quickly. A interesting book on Bob Dylan’s life and career up through the early 1980s written by a music journalist and folk scene insider who knows Bob Dylan and his music well. The pacing is a little off--the story moves at a snail’s pace through the early to mid-1960s, the period in which Shelton clearly was spending a lot of time personally with Bob Dylan and has a lot of personal memories to add. It picks up speed through the 1970s, and the Christian period of Dylan’s life is zipped through quickly. For people who want a closer look at Bob Dylan’s life in New York City during the 1970s, you can turn to Will Hermes’s _Love Goes to Buildings on Fire_. The book reveals Bob Dylan with all of his contradictions: one of key figures to bring authenticity to 1960s music who, nevertheless, had very much fabricated his personae by running away from his past and by borrowing (some might even say stealing) key elements from others. Dylan was also a pop star with great ambition who searched for popularity in the early 1960s and yet who also came to hate the media attention, scorn journalists, and even at times to scorn his own audience. Fans of Dylan may be familiar with this story from Martin Scorsese’s documentary. However, Schelton does a better job than Scorsese at keeping up his admiration and even love for this difficult man. A good book for anyone who wants to get to know Bob Dylan and his music.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    For those who already know the Dylan story, Shelton's book provides some new details, but it's not a particularly good introduction. Shelton wrote the New York Times review that put Dylan in the spotlight for the first time and he hung out with the singer during his early years, which earned him a kind of insider status. That's both a good thing and a problem. It seems clear Shelton had an agreement with Dylan not to write about aspects of his private life which have been well documented elsewhe For those who already know the Dylan story, Shelton's book provides some new details, but it's not a particularly good introduction. Shelton wrote the New York Times review that put Dylan in the spotlight for the first time and he hung out with the singer during his early years, which earned him a kind of insider status. That's both a good thing and a problem. It seems clear Shelton had an agreement with Dylan not to write about aspects of his private life which have been well documented elsewhere. Not a big problem, except that Shelton's perspective on the music isn't particularly insightful. The track by track analyses of the albums through Street Legal didn't give me anything new and frequently felt off point. Still, there's enough of the flavor of the sixties here to make it worthwhile. At this point, Howard Sounes' Down the Highway remains the best Dylan bio, but I'm still waiting for something truly definitive.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rupert

    I didn't get around to this book until now for the goofy reason that the 1986 publication date put me off, thinking it would deal primarily with the tragic '80s decade. Plus I'd read Scaduto's biography and that always gets prime critical real estate, but for me this is the definitive book on Dylan. Shelton was the first to take serious critical note of Dylan in his early days at Folk City and the two became and stayed friends. So you get this intimate but level headed life story combined with a I didn't get around to this book until now for the goofy reason that the 1986 publication date put me off, thinking it would deal primarily with the tragic '80s decade. Plus I'd read Scaduto's biography and that always gets prime critical real estate, but for me this is the definitive book on Dylan. Shelton was the first to take serious critical note of Dylan in his early days at Folk City and the two became and stayed friends. So you get this intimate but level headed life story combined with an incredibly detailed and passionate critical overview. The inside scoop of Dylan coming out of his reclusive '70 to '73 period and reconnecting with friends to eventually start up The Rolling Thunder Revue was almost as inspiring as his feverish three year classic period of churning out Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Reid

    Bob Shelton's "authorized" Dylan biography distinguishes itself in that he was there in the Village at the beginning of Bob's career and was in fact a friend of Dylan's. He also wrote the newspaper review in September 1961 that was partially responsible for launching Dylan's career and putting him on John Hammond's map. In that sense, it is an interesting read, especially the early years where Shelton knew the players personally. The later sections don't reveal much, but it was a soli Bob Shelton's "authorized" Dylan biography distinguishes itself in that he was there in the Village at the beginning of Bob's career and was in fact a friend of Dylan's. He also wrote the newspaper review in September 1961 that was partially responsible for launching Dylan's career and putting him on John Hammond's map. In that sense, it is an interesting read, especially the early years where Shelton knew the players personally. The later sections don't reveal much, but it was a solid read all the way through. While not as complete / accessible / typical biography as a Heylin or Sounes, it is still worth reading due to Shelton's unique perspective.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ivan

    FIRST LINE REVIEW: "The is a story about a poet and musician who was born and reborn time again, who 'died' several 'deaths' and yet continued to live." I've always been a Dylan fan, though I'm not sure I could have articulated why. Now I can. This was an abundantly rich, detailed bio that tracks his life from birth to the late '70s. The author was one of the few journalists Dylan trusted and the only one given the blessing to write a biography. I loved two-thirds of the book and could have done FIRST LINE REVIEW: "The is a story about a poet and musician who was born and reborn time again, who 'died' several 'deaths' and yet continued to live." I've always been a Dylan fan, though I'm not sure I could have articulated why. Now I can. This was an abundantly rich, detailed bio that tracks his life from birth to the late '70s. The author was one of the few journalists Dylan trusted and the only one given the blessing to write a biography. I loved two-thirds of the book and could have done without the other third. Got bogged down at times with too much tangential info/opinions. And, boy, is it long!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    A very detailed account of the life of Dylan up to about the 80's. If your are not a big Dylan fan then you probably won't stay with the book. I am a big fan. The book is very good and gives me what I like in a book about BD. There is never a complete, all ending account of this complicated man but this book helps. There are many other books about him that adds to this one. There could have been less detail and more reader friendly but researchers and fans will like it. Because of detail I can n A very detailed account of the life of Dylan up to about the 80's. If your are not a big Dylan fan then you probably won't stay with the book. I am a big fan. The book is very good and gives me what I like in a book about BD. There is never a complete, all ending account of this complicated man but this book helps. There are many other books about him that adds to this one. There could have been less detail and more reader friendly but researchers and fans will like it. Because of detail I can not give it a 5; because of who it is about, I can give it a 4.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rdurie

    Overall I enjoyed reading this book about one of my favourite artists. The key to the book was the friendship and trust between Dylan and the author which enabled Shelton to have many one on one conversations with Dylan, from which he produced pages of Dylan talking about himself and his art. Very illuminating. The book was a bit all over the place in terms of writing style, themes and organisation but the quality of the insights into Dylan's artistry shone through.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    I am loving this book, both because I grew up with Dylan's music and only late realized what a gift that was and what a very exceptional artist he is. As an artist myself, I admire a fellow artist who does only the artist's work and who knows the value of that work to the collective even when he is ridiculed and mocked. Robert Shelton is also an inspiration, a journalist who is not an egoist, but a witness of supreme sensitivity. E Graf

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brett

    From the guy who wrote the review that broke Dylan. Not a lot of gossip here -- Robert Shelton was a trusted comrade, so you get good behind-the-scenes ideas of the man and times -- but nothing too dirty. Read this book, then pick up Howard Sounes to pick up on the lost, disenchanted years of the 80s (his second wife and their child) -- Gossip -- the "born-again" phase, or however its usually described (which doesn't encompass the full truth) and for the Time Out of Mind "comeback."

  22. 5 out of 5

    Faith Lowery

    I don't have the exact read start and finish dates on many books I have read this year. The dates are approximated, as I have been in & out of the hospital, and on bed rest, and read 2-5 books a day depending on the book & length and my ability to focus. All dates are approximated, by month.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rick Bayko

    A somewhat 'authorized' biography by one of the few people that Bob Dylan let close enough to do a fair job of it. I've been a Bob Dylan fan since my high school days in the mid-1960s but learned much that I didn't know throughout the pages of this voluminous book, and savored every bit of it. And to think that more than 30 years of Dylan output have occurred since publication. Rock on!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Larry Wayte

    This is a unique perspective on Dylan's music and career, coming from a NYTimes journalist who covered Dylan's music as it happened and got to know him in the process. As a musicologist, I particularly appreciate Shelton's song-by-song engagement with Dylan's recordings. This classic work should be near the top of your list of books to read if you're interested in Dylan or folk music in general.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marcie

    After reading White Biclycles and Chronicals I wanted to read some more on Dylan. I realized about half way through that I needed to know MUCH more about his actual music then I know to really get the most out of this book. Shelton goes through every album in detail as well as what was going on in his life. I may try again after I go out and listen to more of his records.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sheila

    Shelton is Dylan's so-called appointed Dylanologist. He experienced Dylan as Dylan was experiencing himself and his life, so it's helpful when Shelton puts readers in the moment and draws them in. Other than that, I didn't particularly care much for his style. a good read, if you're into Dylan.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    I was a moderate fan of Dylan's before reading Shelton's exhaustive biography, but by the time I put it down I found myself contemplating a road trip to Hibbing, Minnesota. The book benefits greatly from Shelton's first-hand experiences with Dylan in his early days. The only downside is that the sheer weight of his research causes the narrative to get a tad tedious at times.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    It is still the Dylan bio which all other Dylan bio's are measured against. Shelton reviewed Dylan's first major NYC concert for the NY Times and became a friend. The book is well written, has great insights on Dylan's music, and lots of personal anecdotes of Dylan. Great Read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anne Cullen-wright

    Written in intricate detail, suitable for the Dylan obsessed. Really enjoyed the second half of the book as I knew very little post 1966. It deserves more than 3 stars but I found some of it hard going, especially the first half.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Shelton apparently spent 20 years writing this book, and it shows both in the thick mass of detail and the occasional feel of overkill. Lots of "I was there" moments from the man who wrote the breakout review in The New York Times of The Bard's early performances in Greenwich Village.

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