By Michael J. Casey
For people who are interested in the life of Bob Dylan that first thing you need to do is introduce your self to his music. Obviously Dylan can be heard on countless radio stations across the nation but what I would suggest you do first is go and by a greatest hits CD. Although this will be only a sliver of his catalog, if you don't like what you hear you probably won't want to continue.
Now for this there are many CDs to choose from I would recommended one of two. Either his recent collection the three Disc Dylan which is a very good collection that spans his career very well including hits off his more recent albums. A less in depth but still very good collection would be The Essential Bob Dylan only a two disc collection but it is the one that put me in motion and also a fine collection, also a little cheaper.
Now with a man with so many different albums its time to look into certain areas that you liked the best. Now his first nine or ten albums that he had were golden and any Dylan fan would enjoy the music on the albums. So for that I would say maybe one or two of those albums would need to go into our collection. But Dylan was making music continuously through five decades so you have some other albums to look at two.
Blood on the Tracks is a definite buy after that there are any number of albums some better than others. I would say think about looking into some of the Bootleg Volumes for some more insight. The more recent albums have also been successful such as Modern Times and Love and Theft. Now with a man who has 50 albums including all the greatest hits and live music you cant have them all, unless you have the money for it. But get yourself a handful of CDs and research songs on the Internet to see if there ones you like.
Now that you got yourself a small collection it is time to start to find out more about the man himself. You can do this through books and movies. One documentary that I think is a much see is Martin Scorsese No Direction Home. This was an amazing movie that showed great Dylan interviews, old footage of concerts, and what some of his old pals thought of him. It gives you something that you just can't get from the music alone.
A recent bio called I'm Not There stars many great actors such as Heath Ledger and Christian Bale and they all play Bob Dylan. Although some people were not fans of this movie, because it is defiantly a different way to view someone I think it is something that a true Dylan fan would enjoy, because we all see Dylan as more that just a man and one way to show that is make him ten different men, all with different goals and personas, and note the movie is worth watching just to see Cate Blanchett play Dylan.
There are plenty of books and articles written about Dylan. One book worth looking into is Chronicles: A Bob Dylan Series book one of what will be three is a book written by Dylan himself that talks about select areas of his career. If you want to learn about someone who better than straight from the horse's mouth. Interviews with Rolling Stone among others are great insight into Dylan. Although some of these things may be hard to get a hold of if you can its really exciting.
Since Dylan is known to be standoffish one way that you could get around this is by buying the book Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews by Jonathan Cott. By the time you have gotten to this step you will know if you want to continue I would defiantly say not get into this until you feel like you have somewhat of a grasp on Dylan, although I don't think Dylan himself has a full grasp on who he is, but this book is great for the Dylan fan who has showed more than just a liking for a few songs, mainly because it can be a lot for a new fan to deal with. Cott who is know as a Dylan expert, who has work with Rolling Stone has put together 31 interviews that he says cover all the areas that you can think off.
See him on tour. I would not recommend anyone who likes a few of his songs to do this; his voice is definitely not what it use to be. He also does not just go around playing his greatest hits. He plays songs from recent albums, and some you just might not know. For someone who is truly into what Dylan has done, you will appreciate it. Lets be honest there aren't many people out their like him today, and its an honor just to say you've seen him play. I have seen him twice, once when I was 15, and again at 20. When I was 15 I really had not matured as a Dylan fan, I didn't know a lot of the songs, and he was hard to understand (I was also piss drunk). At the age of 20 it was much better.
I have begun to come full circle on Dylan, I had just brought his latest CD Modern Times, and I was a little bit more coherent. I thought this Concert was great. It was the first tour in a long time that he played guitar on, although only for his first three songs. I went with a group of kids that thought Dylan was great, but not exactly die hard fans. They did not enjoy the show as much as me, they had not heard any of Modern Times and the majority only knew the three opening songs and the encore. Me on the other hand knew every word to every song, so if you think you are finally ready that I would say go see a concert, and he is almost always on tour.
Repeat steps two through five. Dylan has been around for a long time now, you will most likely ever be able to listen to all his songs, read all his interviews, and know everything there is to know about him. Especially as someone who has 50 years to cover. For the people who followed him from day one its easy to go along as new things come out, but for me at least I view him as a subject of history, there is always more to learn about him. Keep buying CDs that you like, keep your ears open for rare tracks you might hear on the radio. There are always other books and movies than the ones I mentioned that could give you a great insight on the man.
What I've said cannot be accomplished in a day, or a month or even a year. To dive into Dylan can take a long time, I have been doing it for almost ten years and I would not consider myself an expert by any means, just a really big fan. At times you going to get frustrated because there is just so much out there to know about him, but you need to keep on trying to get there, you got to "keep on keeping on."
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