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Yes, there are bookshelves lined with bios about Bob Dylan – including a planned-three volume autobiography from the singer. But journalist Donald Brown approached American Troubadour, the latest Dylan book, in a completely original fashion, looking at the cultural landscape surrounding the release of each album.
While many of the stories of Dylan’s life have been dissected ad nausea in just about every bit of medium imaginable, Brown’s approach is refreshing; a nearly album by album retrospective of one of the most culturally significant and musically influential musicians in modern history. In addition, unlike many biographies on Dylan, Brown is objective enough to point out when the albums were uneven and, for most of the 1980’s, downright mediocre. While it’s clear from his writing and exhaustive knowledge of the music, that Brown is a fan of the singer, it’s nice to read an impartial take on this exhaustive catalog of music.
Coming in at just over 300 pages, the book doesn’t claim to be an exhaustive dive into Dylan’s life, but more of a look at how world events may have shaped his music from decade to decade. By taking that approach, Brown has written a book that manages to be ideal for both the casual Dylan fans and the diehard acolytes of the singer.
Bob Dylan: American Troubadour by Donald Brown/Hardcover/308 pages/Rowman & Littlefield/2014