Saturday, October 21, 2006

Dylan's Chronicles accessible, but unconventional

91. Chronicles, Bob Dylan. Biography, 10-16, pp. 293

Volume One of Bob Dylan’s Chronicles is like an extended conversation with the iconic singer and songwriter. It is as non-linear, obscure and insightful as conversations can be. Chronicles opens in New York City where Dylan, sleeping on friends’ sofas, is seeking to break into the folk music scene. We leap to New Orleans where he struggles to record an album that is one of his least known and then, back in time, to his home state of Minnesota where he is living in Dinky Town on the edge of the University of Minnesota and, finally, jetting forward in time, to New York, where he ultimately signs a contract with Columbia.

Although we know the outcome of this story – unparalleled fame is looming around the corner for this skinny, blue-jeaned disciple of Woody Guthrie – we don’t know what he was thinking or feeling or experiencing during this heady time. In Chronicles Dylan attempts to share all that and that is where Chronicles is both unique and exactly what we would expect of Dylan – it is a biography of the internal, far, far more than the external. It isn’t so much about what happened as what he felt and thought and experienced.

It is also intriguing because Dylan shares his influences; the art and books and music that shaped him, who was, in turn, to shape so many. Those influences include Guthrie, of course, but also Robert Johnson, Joan Baez and numerous obscure blues and folk musicians.

It’s a terrific work; accessible, but unconventional – pure Dylan.

No comments:

Post a Comment