cover image Bob Dylan: American Troubadour

Bob Dylan: American Troubadour

Donald Brown. Rowman & Littlefield, $40 (254p) ISBN 978-0-8108-8420-5

Cultural critic Brown explores the entire catalogue of Bob Dylan in tandem with the social, political, and personal events that unfolded over the course of the artist's lifetime. Emphasizing the dual history approach, the book begins by aligning Dylan's timeline with the national one. Dylan performs at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, reads Joseph Conrad while recording "Blood on The Tracks," and influenced by the women in his life, moves towards religious music in the early 80s. Brown dissects almost every song on each of Dylan's albums, including the records he produced in the late 80s, which he admits represent a "nadir" for the artist. The string of in-depth, song-by-song album reviews are glued together with quick history lessons. Many writers have already explored Dylan in his historical context, including most of the great first wave of pop critics, like Ellen Willis and Greil Marcus, as well as academic historians such as Princeton's Sean Wilentz. Brown is thorough in his analysis, but Dylan may not need more of this treatment. (Jan.)