Once Upon a Time: The Lives of Bob Dylan
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Written with an intelligence and verve rarely found in rock biography, the mysterious artist that is Bob Dylan is illuminated through the cultural history of his time.
Half a century ago, a youth appeared from the American hinterland and began a cultural revolution. The world is still coming to terms with what Bob Dylan accomplished in his artistic explosion upon popular culture.
In Once Upon a Time, award-winning author Ian Bell draws together the tangled strands of the many lives of Bob Dylan in all their contradictory brilliance. For the first time, the laureate of modern America is set in his entire context: musical, historical, literary, political, and personal.
Full of new insights into the legendary singer, his songs, his life, and his era, ?this new biography reveals anew the artist who invented himself in order to reinvent America. Once Upon a Time is a lively investigation of a mysterious personality that has splintered and reformed, time after time, in a country forever trying to understand itself. Now that mystery is explained.
Dylan resented a failure to pay him proper attention, but the first of the biographers had only Pete Karman’s word for that. Of slightly more interest is a remark Dylan would make in January of 1966, during a long interview/performance on a Bob Fass phone-in on WBAI-FM in New York. One caller wanted to know what the mention of Hazard, Kentucky, would ‘mean’ to the star. After an evasive exchange, Dylan said: ‘You shouldn’t just know about Hazard, man. Hazard’s just a … Hazard’s just a
pure, academic sense — and probably just as well — Sandburg had collected hundreds of songs during his annual lecture and reading tours, a haul published in 1927 as American Songbag, his ‘ragbag of strips, stripes, and streaks of color from nearly all ends of the earth’. It would become a famous text. The poet had been a ‘musical expeditionary’ long before the rest, putting around 100 (so he reckoned) of the 280 songs in his volume into print for the first time, and later recording a good few of
premeditated, a set-up, and you can see his point. After the Newsweek ‘expos.’ Dylan had no reason to love glossy international news journals. He represented himself almost as the persecuted victim of compromised and predatory hacks. The hacks could meanwhile spot widening cracks in the PR veneer. But who had told all those elaborate downright lies, time and again, on Dylan’s behalf, from the very start of his career? You might want to excuse the fictions as sophisticated postmodern games —
conspicuously better off or worse off than anyone else; the real mining wealth, like the ore itself, was shipped out. Still, Bobby had plenty of friends. In Duluth he had attended kindergarten; in Hibbing he grasped the point of the Alice Grade School23 — it lasted all day — and wore the occasional insults of those who teased him because of his odd, complicated name. It seems, too, that he acquired the retentive, sponge-like capacity of near-infinite memory: he opened his eyes and his ears. What
an’ flunked out for refusin’ to watch a rabbit die I got expelled from English class for using four-letter words in a paper describing the English teacher I also failed out of communication class for callin’ up every day and sayin’ I couldn’t come I did OK in Spanish though but I knew it beforehand I’s kept around for kicks at a fraternity house They let me live there an’ I did until they wanted me to join I moved in with two girls from South Dakota in a two-room apartment for two