Friday, November 23, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Bob Dylan Chronicles: The Confession Of An Artist

Cover of "Chronicles: Volume One"
Cover of Chronicles: Volume One
by Johnny Clark

Bob Dylan: Chronicles - Volume 1, is supposed to be the first part of a 3 volume memoir.

Published in 2004, there have been countless rumors about the release of a second volume. The author has just confirmed in a recent interview to Rolling Stone dated September 2012 that he was indeed working on it.

This is the second book written by the songwriter since his experiment with Tarantula (1971), and apart from the following three collections of his drawings Drawn Blank (1994), The Brazil Series (2009) and Man Gave Names To All The Animals (2009).

This first volume of Bob Dylan's Chronicles covers the year he arrived in New York, back in 1961, and the events surrounding two of his albums: New Morning and Oh, Mercy. Therefore, it avoids the times and recordings that turned the man into a legend.

This may be an attempt to reestablish his relationship with journalists on another level, as he explains: "Most people who write about music, they have no idea what it feels like to play it. But with the book I wrote, I thought, 'The people who are writing reviews of this book, man, they know what the hell they're talking about.'

This musician's autobiography is one of the few written by an artist himself, without the help of a journalist, and it's also well written. Up to the point where attacks have been made against the book using the same charges that have targeted his songs recently. Indeed, a lot of sentences from Chronicles seem to be reassembled phrases taken from other books.

But maybe that's why his memoir is so good: it was written like a song, so that the book itself reflects its own subject, and that the form underlines the content.

Furthermore, the book acknowledges the way Bob Dylan built his entire body of work. Charges of plagiarism fall flat the minute you realize what Chronicles is: not the list of events that made B. Dylan famous, but a collection of situations that have inspired the artist. The book actually lays down the foundation of his art, within the form of the work itself.

Because the book is not a biography, but a true chronicle. It's not the account of a person's life but "an extended account [...] of historical events, sometimes including legendary material, presented in chronological order and without authorial interpretation or comment", as defined by the free online dictionary.

Long after Bob Dylan was labeled the "voice of a generation", people keep scrutinizing his lyrics and building up theories, when the guy keeps repeating that he only wants to write songs and play them live. And this book says nothing more ...

Bob Dylan uses the same template for memoir and for his songs, giving the book the coherence and genuine quality that lacks so many other musical autobiographies. This is just another way to say that what matters is the music, and the music only.

If you like real music like Bob Dylan's music, than you might also check out Frans Schuman. He has recorded his first two albums with just a guitar and a harmonica. Some are folk songs and some have a different feel. But I think you might like it. Click here to download a copy of his latest single for free.

Cheers, Johnny Clark.

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