Bob Dylan: The Biography by Dennis McDougal, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Bob Dylan: The Biography

Bob Dylan: The Biography

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by Dennis McDougal

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At age 72: still a household name, a musical hero to generations, an international bestselling artist, a Pulitzer Prize–winning author, an Oscar winner for his 2000 hit song “Things Have Changed,” a career stronger and more influential than ever. But how is this possible, given the road to oblivion he'd chosen to take 20 years


At age 72: still a household name, a musical hero to generations, an international bestselling artist, a Pulitzer Prize–winning author, an Oscar winner for his 2000 hit song “Things Have Changed,” a career stronger and more influential than ever. But how is this possible, given the road to oblivion he'd chosen to take 20 years earlier?

Dylan answers that question by digging deep into Bob Dylan lore, past everything Dylan fails to address even in Volume One of his autobiography, Chronicles. Dylan doesn’t simply dig through lyrics or sound checks for answers to the enigma that is Bob Dylan, nor does it linger on the well-worn facts of the musician’s American odyssey. What remains for discussion is why this journey touched so many souls, how both Dylan and his audience changed along the way, and what happened during the past two decades that transformed a heroin addict into one of the most astonishing literary and musical careers in American history.

Told through anecdote and observation of the musician’s friends, family, sidemen, and fans, this book asks the reader to rethink Dylan. More than any other contemporary artist, writer, filmmaker, or stage performer, his influence has been global. At its most basic, this book is a simple and very American story of a fallen star, brought low by drugs, drink, women, and despair, and his rise again to unimagined heights. It reprises his early and middle years with a new emphasis on the real story behind the myths: Was his romantic life, especially with Sara Dylan, much more complicated than it appears? Was his famed motorcycle accident really just a cover for drug rehab? What happened to Dylan when his career fell apart (about the time he turned publicly to Jesus), and, more important, how did he find his way back? To what does he attribute his astonishing success? Through former Los Angeles Times writer Dennis McDougal’s interviews and meticulous research, Dylan gets to the bottom of these questions, offering a fresh and revealing look at not only the older stories, but also on the final and least known chapter of Dylan's life and remarkable career.

Editorial Reviews

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 the Publisher
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 but worry that he will end up in a tin drum off the coast of New Jersey." —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

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.

Product Details

Turner Publishing Company
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6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 2.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

When the van rolled up to the Chateau Marmont Hotel on Sunset Strip to fetch Bob Dylan for his sold out concert at the nearby Pantages Theater on the evening of May 14, 1992, the legendary singer/songwriter was already spaced out on tequila, and more.

“He was on smack,” declared one of his handlers that night. “He was nodding off time and again.” 

By the time the driver had coaxed him into the van and ferried him to the Pantages, Dylan was slurring his words and had to be helped to an easy chair behind a curtained-off section at the loading dock out back of the theater, where he fell into a trance watching black-and-white TV reruns of Gilligan’s Island until his stage call.

He made it by rote through his 90-minute set that night, leaning on his keyboard for support, seemingly oblivious to the chorus of boos as the audience reacted to the fact that his vocals were indecipherable and the arrangements loud but unrecognizable. When he’d finished, Dylan left the stage without having said a single word to the audience.  He walked directly out of the rear of the theater where, rather than wait for his driver to take him back to the Chateau Marmont, he climbed into the van, threw it into reverse, and nearly backed over one of his roadies.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone in the Pantages audience left that night satisfied with what had occurred. The fact that any fan showed up in the first place was a testament to Dylan’s distant past, not his recent achievements. It had been 30 years since Blowin’ in the Wind first thrust him into the public consciousness, 17 years since his album masterpiece Blood on the Tracks.  Since then a string of 18 mostly forgettable albums had produced few hit singles.

Dylan had continued to tour, playing smaller venues and sometimes selling them out.  But the faithful who paid to see him frequently came away disappointed, saddened, and even unnerved to watch the great musical hero of their youth so reduced. What was the deal, they wondered. Was it age? Boredom?  Did he just not care anymore?

Meet the Author

Dennis McDougal, writer for theLos Angeles Timesand 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.

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Bob Dylan: The Biography 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is like the nursery, but it i for older cats and it is in the sid of a hill.