Who Is That Man?: In Search of the Real Bob Dylan

David Dalton, Author
David Dalton. Hyperion, $26.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4013-2339-4
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-316-33089-3
Open Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-4013-0417-1
Hardcover - 383 pages - 978-1-78038-546-4
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Bob Dylan's life and legacy have received plenty of coverage, but few biographers have had the insight and writing chops of Dalton (Get Back), a founding editor of Rolling Stone who is at the peak of his powers in this engaging examination of Dylan's ever-changing persona. Though he hits the obligatory career highlights (e.g., Dylan's quick assimilation into the New York City folk scene, his electric set at Newport, the motorcycle accident that supposedly almost cost him his life, etc.), it's Dalton's keen observations of Dylan's chameleon-like qualities that make this study such addictive reading. Fully aware of the power of the public image, Dylan carefully cultivated his influences from the beginning (many of which he would adopt outright, such as that of Woody Guthrie), skillfully crafting an image of a larger-than-life folk messiah that eventually morphed into a grumpy, hoodie-wearing recluse, and back into a formidable presence in the music world. Dalton is at his best when he's examining Dylan from a thousand feet; his retrospective audit of the artist's early years and his career path are spot-on and full of critical insight. He artfully dances between fan and critic, fully admiring Dylan's work and putting it into a cultural perspective, while remaining somewhat awestruck by the artist's talent and creativity. This approach would have crumbled in lesser hands, but Dalton does a stunningly good job. (Apr.)
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