Dylan: The Biography

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The ultimate biography of the musical icon.A groundbreaking and vibrant look at the music hero to generations, DYLAN: The Biography digs deep into Bob Dylan lore―including subjects Dylan himself left out of Chronicles: Volume One.DYLAN: The Biography focuses on why this beloved artist has touched so many souls―and on how both Dylan and his audience have changed along the way. Bob Dylan is an international bestselling artist, a Pulitzer Prize–winning author, and an Oscar winner for “Things Have Changed.” His career is stronger and more influential than ever. How did this happen, given the road to oblivion he seemed to choose more than two decades ago? What transformed a heroin addict into one of the most astonishing literary and musical icons in American history?At 72 years of age, Dylan’s final act of his career is more intriguing than ever―and classic biographies like Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades and even his own Chronicles: Volume One came too soon to cover this remarkable new chapter in Dylan’s life.Through extensive interviews and conversations with Dylan’s friends, family, sidemen, and fans, Los Angeles Times journalist Dennis McDougal crafts an unprecedented understanding of Dylan and the intricate story behind the myths. Was his romantic life, especially with Sara Dylan, much more complicated than it appears? Was his motorcycle accident a cover for drug rehab? What really happened to Dylan when his career crumbled, and how did he find his way back? To what does he attribute his astonishing success? McDougal’s meticulous research and comprehensive interviews offer a revealing new understanding of these long-standing questions―and of the current chapter Dylan continually writes in his life and career.

Review

From Publishers Weekly:

The legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan matures from “feckless, foolish poseur” to calculating, canny poseur in this gleefully acid-etched biography. New York Times scribe McDougal (The Last Mogul) chronicles Dylan’s project of “‘building a character that will sell’” by transforming himself from a middle-class Jewish boy with nice parents in Minnesota into an ersatz orphaned carnie and hallucinatory folk-rock oracle (and later into a country-western balladeer and born-again Christian). Along the way, he argues, Dylan stole the personas and stylings of other entertainers, and plagiarized tunes, words, and paintings (sometimes copyrighting them as originals). Amid makeovers and appropriations, the truly authentic constants of Dylan’s character in this critical portrait are a hard-nosed drive to succeed, self-centered betrayals of intimates, incessant misrepresentations, and voracious appetites for booze, drugs, and women. McDougal eschews gushing exegeses of lyrics and other staples of Dylanolatry; while he acknowledges a body of great music and perceptively analyzes its resonance, he’s happier tossing jibes. (“A tale told by an idiot-savant on PCP” is his review of Dylan’s novel Tarantulas.) Few of his revelations are novel, but McDougal presents his caustic indictment with energy and panache. (May)

From Kirkus Reviews:

“The biographer of Lew Wasserman, Jack Nicholson and Otis Chandler returns with a sometimes-scholarly, sometimes-snarky life of the songwriting and singing legend.”

McDougal leaves few doubts about his seriousness in this long account of Robert Zimmerman, who grew up in the small town of Hibbing, Minn. Many pages feature footnotes, some of which are substantial, others adding but a dollop of color. The author’s admiration for Dylan’s artistic accomplishments is patent―in the preface, he compares him with Shakespeare, Twain and Dickens―though he does not hesitate to blast Dylan for shoddy performances, weak records, personal coldness (even cruelty), drug and alcohol abuse, and a serial sex life that would make Casanova’s grave glow green. McDougal’s work is starkly traditional: He begins with family background and marches steadily forward in 4/4 time, showing how this small-town kid went to New York City and eventually owned it to the core. It was “Blowin’ in the Wind,” writes the author, that shot him to fame, distancing him from the many other wannabes in Greenwich Village, but Dylan later abandoned protest songs (and, soon, his acoustic guitar) and spent the next decades in a continual reinvention―of his music and his persona. But patterns emerged: He eventually wore out even the most indulgent of wives; he abruptly dropped business acquaintances and fellow musicians; he wished always to have the spotlight on him; he “borrowed” lyrics and images for his paintings; and he remained intensely private, probably realizing that too much exposure would remove the “mystery.” McDougal offers engaging details about the major records, as well as Dylan’s books and films. He even finds some good things to say about Dylan’s dreadful performance in Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

Richly detailed, though the author places Dylan on a higher shelf in the cultural library than history may permit.

“Whether you agree or disagree with the author, you will likely never read a book as purely entertaining about Dylan.”―Tom Waldman, nohoartsdistrict.com

Praise for Five Easy Decades: How Jack Nicholson Became the Biggest Movie Star in Modern Times

“Dennis McDougal is a rare Hollywood reporter: honest, fearless, nobody’s fool. This is unvarnished Jack for Jack-lovers and Jack-skeptics but, also, for anyone interested in the state of American culture and celebrity. I always read Mr. McDougal for pointers.”―Patrick McGilligan, author of Jack’s Life and Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light

Praise for Privileged Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynasty

“A great freeway pileup–part biography, part dysfunctional family chronicle, and part institutional and urban history, with generous dollops of scandal and gossip.”―Hendrick Hertzberg, The New Yorker

“McDougal has managed to scale the high walls that have long protected the Chandler clan and returned with wicked tales told by angry ex-wives and jealous siblings.” The Washington Post

Praise for The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA and the Hidden History of Hollywood

“Real glamour needs a dark side. That is part of the fascination of Dennis McDougal’s wonderful book.”The Economist

“Thoroughly reported and engrossing . . . the most noteworthy trait of MCA was how it hid its power.” The New York Times Book Review

“Over the years, I’ve read hundreds of books on Hollywood and the movie business, and this one is right at the top.” ―Michael Blowen, The Boston Globe

About the Author

Dennis McDougal, writer for the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, has won more than fifty awards for his hard-nosed coverage of the entertainment industry. He is the bestselling author of eleven books, including The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA, and the Hidden History of Hollywood and Five Easy Decades: How Jack Nicholson Became the Biggest Movie Star in Modern Times. His book Privileged Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the LA Times Dynasty was produced as a two-hour PBS documentary.

The ultimate biography of the musical icon.A groundbreaking and vibrant look at the music hero to generations, DYLAN: The Biography digs deep into Bob Dylan lore―including subjects Dylan himself left out of Chronicles: Volume One.DYLAN: The Biography focuses on why this beloved artist has touched so many souls―and on how both Dylan and his audience have changed along the way. Bob Dylan is an international bestselling artist, a Pulitzer Prize–winning author, and an Oscar winner for “Things Have Changed.” His career is stronger and more influential than ever. How did this happen, given the road to oblivion he seemed to choose more than two decades ago? What transformed a heroin addict into one of the most astonishing literary and musical icons in American history?At 72 years of age, Dylan’s final act of his career is more intriguing than ever―and classic biographies like Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades and even his own Chronicles: Volume One came too soon to cover this remarkable new chapter in Dylan’s life.Through extensive interviews and conversations with Dylan’s friends, family, sidemen, and fans, Los Angeles Times journalist Dennis McDougal crafts an unprecedented understanding of Dylan and the intricate story behind the myths. Was his romantic life, especially with Sara Dylan, much more complicated than it appears? Was his motorcycle accident a cover for drug rehab? What really happened to Dylan when his career crumbled, and how did he find his way back? To what does he attribute his astonishing success? McDougal’s meticulous research and comprehensive interviews offer a revealing new understanding of these long-standing questions―and of the current chapter Dylan continually writes in his life and career.







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