The Double Life of Bob Dylan: A Restless, Hungry Feeling, 1941–1966

Little, Brown. May 2021. 528p. ISBN 9780316535212. $30. MUSIC
The latest work on Bob Dylan by his longtime biographer Heylin (Dylan: Behind the Shades) focuses on the artist’s first 25 years and attempts to sort out many myths of his life. Heylin’s endeavor to understand all things Dylan might never be fully realized, but this book is filled with absorbing details that help flesh out this most elusive of characters. What sets the book apart from other biographies is Heylin’s access to Dylan’s archive, held temporarily at Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum, with its collection of manuscripts, recordings, and outtakes from documentaries. Heylin covers Dylan’s songwriting, recording, and performing, as well as his evolving persona and the friends and lovers who surrounded him as his fame and influence mounted. The heart of this book is a narrative of the roughly 18 months during 1965–66 when Dylan recorded three masterpiece songs, “went electric” at the Newport Folk Festival, and launched one of the most infamous tours in rock history, where angry folk fans heckled Dylan for his new sound. Heylin relies on contemporaneous remarks and more recent remembrances that reflect potentially faulty memories and even some myth-making of their own.
VERDICT Dylan remains an enigmatic figure. Heylin’s book will be appreciated by devoted fans and is another valuable addition to a puzzle that might never be completed.
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