The Bob Dylan Institute of Studies, created in 2017 by the University of Tulsa (Oklahoma, USA) estimates that there are more than 2,000 books written about the author of Desolation Row. To this enormous volume must be added from this month half a dozen more titles that appear on the market with the intention of anticipating the celebrations for the 80th birthday of the Nobel winner on May 24. Among all these volumes stands out the The Double Life of Bob Dylan (The double life of Bob Dylan), written by Clinton Heylin, who already has a volume on the artist’s early years (twice updated), a couple of books analyzing the songs of Robert Zimmerman and another ten volumes of pure dylanismo, a genre almost in itself and that basically consists of publishing very long books that apparently deal with the work and life of Dylan but actually talk about the author’s obsession with the artist. They should already have their own section in bookstores. This time, Heylin has had access to material so far not available, as the Bob Dylan Institute of Studies let him dive into the archive on the artist that he treasures, much of it acquired from Dylan himself for about 20 million euros. And rummaging through audio and video recordings, notes, song lyrics, and various objects, Heylin has come to the conclusion that Bob Dylan is a liar.
As recounted in the volume, the author of Visions of Johana practically everything he told about his childhood was made up. Heylin concludes that Dylan never went to reformatory, was not raised by a foster family, nor did he run away from home at age 12. The book concludes that he was raised by his mother, a woman who, to the chagrin of the mythomania that Dylan himself has created around him, was apparently open, friendly and talkative. The volume recounts an episode in which, after giving a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York, Dylan tells a reporter that he has lost contact with his family and that he has not heard from them for years. Father and mother were sitting in the stalls, fresh from Hibbing, Minnesota, proud to see their son succeed. Nor was he a lone wolf at the University, as he himself has related, but he had a group of close friends, quite popular to the point that among them there was a cousin of his, leader of a fraternity.
Heylin also claims to have found documents that explain the musician’s ambitious and somewhat theatrical character. Apparently, there is a note that he passed to a classmate of his from school that should guarantee this access to the house that Dylan was going to have in a few years in New York once he became a successful musician (at that time he was still playing foreign songs that passed off as their own, says the author). He told him to keep it and that in a few years he could use that pass. Dylan’s well-known cruelty to his closest circle of acolytes is also recounted in detail (calling them friends seems somewhat hyperbolic in this context), who forced them to endure his rudeness if they wanted to continue to be able to share a table and a microphone with him. The book also narrates the song’s genesis Like a Rolling Stone, apparently composed after a party at the Savoy Hotel in London during which Dylan was sipping cocktails laced with LSD. Another curious moment in the volume is the meeting between Judy Collins and Dylan. She wanted to meet him. After doing so, he declared, “I was thinking, ‘This guy is an idiot. He is incapable of constructing a coherent sentence ”. The book ends in 1966, with Dylan taking his Triumph motorcycle for a spin. Heylin promises a second part of the book in which he claims to relate what happened from that moment on. The author compares his own book to a Renaissance masterpiece. Dylan once said that he aspired to do something good enough to be compared to Rembrandt’s work. The more alike the dylanologists the most complicated Dylan himself makes himself understand something of all this jumble of pages and pages of jumbled prose.
Unsurprisingly, this book has already sparked severe clashes within the dylanology. The most popular, with Howard Sounes, author of Bob Dylan. The biography (Debolsillo, 2001), which after selling more than 200,000 copies around the world, this spring is reissued expanded to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the Nobel Prize winner. Heylin hates Sounes and makes it clear in his book on page three, when he accuses him of looking for only the dirtiest and most scandalous. In fact, Sounes appears in Heylin’s volume more times than, say, Bruce Springsteen. But not everything is novelty, scandal and ammunition for the new wars within the dylanology, in the run-up to the celebration of the artist’s 80 years. Robert Shelton’s 1986 classic, No Direction Home, has a new version edited by Elizabeth Tomson, which updates the previous one, released in 2011 to coincide with Dylan’s 70th birthday. Kinder, more analytical and with photos. Of course, it weighs almost two kilos.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.