Bob Dylan in America

  • by Sean Wilentz
  • Narrated by Sean Wilentz
  • 11 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

One of America’s finest historians shows us how Bob Dylan, one of the country’s greatest and most enduring artists, still surprises and moves us after all these years.
Growing up in Greenwich Village, Sean Wilentz discov­ered the music of Bob Dylan as a young teenager; almost half a century later, he revisits Dylan’s work with the skills of an eminent American historian as well as the passion of a fan. Drawn in part from Wilentz’s essays as “historian in residence” of Dylan’s official website, Bob Dylan in America is a unique blend of fact, interpretation, and affinity - a book that, much like its subject, shifts gears and changes shape as the occasion warrants.
Beginning with his explosion onto the scene in 1961, this book follows Dylan as he continues to develop a body of musical and literary work unique in our cultural history. Wilentz’s approach places Dylan’s music in the context of its time, including the early influences of Popular Front ideology and Beat aesthetics, and offers a larger critical appreciation of Dylan as both a song­writer and performer down to the present. Wilentz has had unprecedented access to studio tapes, recording notes, rare photographs, and other materials, all of which allow him to tell Dylan’s story and that of such masterpieces as Blonde on Blonde with an unprecedented authenticity and richness.
Bob Dylan in America - groundbreaking, comprehensive, totally absorbing - is the result of an author and a subject brilliantly met.

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What the Critics Say

"This should have been impossible. Writing about Bob Dylan's music, and fitting it into the great crazy quilt of American culture, Sean Wilentz sews a whole new critical fabric, part history, part close analysis, and all heart. What he writes, as well as anyone ever has, helps us enlarge Dylan's music by reckoning its roots, its influences, its allusive spiritual contours. This isn't Cliff Notes or footnotes or any kind of academic exercise. It's not a critic chinning on the high bar. It's one artist meeting another, kickstarting a dazzling conversation." (Jay Cocks, screenwriter of The Age of Innocence and The Gangs of New York)
"All the American connections that Wilentz draws to explain the appearance of Dylan’s music are fascinating, particularly at the outset, the connection to Aaron Copland. The writing is strong, the thinking is strong – the book is dense and strong everywhere you look." (Philip Roth)
"Sean Wilentz makes us think about Bob Dylan’s half-century of work in new ways. Combining a scholar’s depth with a sense of mischief appropriate to the subject, Wilentz hears new associations in famous songs and sends us back to listen to Dylan’s less familiar music with fresh insights. By focusing on the parts of Dylan’s canon that most move him, Wilentz gets straight to the heart of the matter. If you thought there was nothing new to say about Bob Dylan’s impact on America, this book will make you think twice." (Bill Flanagan, author of A&R and Evening's Empire; Editorial Director, MTV Networks)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Editing badly needed.

Warning ; The first 2 hours of audio , excepting 20 minutes or so could be entitled " How I wrote this book plus all I know about Aaron Copland. " As a high schooler I used to go to the Gaslight Cafe weekly back in 1966 and went to N.Y.U. Unfortunately a lot of the book sounds like a professor spinning pet ideas that are off subject , 2 Hours ! The Gaslight Cafe info , beat poets etc. are part of the Dylan story ,
not endless factoids about Aaron Copland who no doubt merits some time . But not a mini thesis pasted on to a book .
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- Marc

Another side of Bob Dylan

Not the typical tattle tale as the author delves deeply into Dylan's historical influences and extraordinary talent as a 'minstrel'. There are brief snippets of musical material throughout but what Wilentz really elicits is a desire to hear more; to listen carefully with nuanced ears and newly acquired insight so as to reevaluate the entire recorded legacy of a man arguably the most profound troubadour of the 20th and 21st centuries.

This is a serious work and as such, those seeking a peek behind Dylan's multiple personas, may not be satisfied the author can only provide exquisitely detailed signposts instead of pop punditry. However, musicians and poets alike -as well as anyone alive during Bob Dylan's life and times- may find this audiobook the closest we'll get to grasping Robert Zimmerman's true genius.
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- RSH

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-07-2010
  • Publisher: Random House Audio