The Ballad of Bob Dylan: A Portrait by Daniel Mark EpsteinThrough the lens of four seminal concerts, acclaimed poet and biographer Daniel Mark Epstein offers an intimate, nuanced look at Bob Dylan: a vivid, full-bodied portrait of one of the most influential artistsof the twentieth century, from his birth to the Never Ending Tour.
Beginning with 1963’s Lisner Auditorium concert in Washington, D.C., Epstein revisits Dylan’s astonishing rise as the darling of the folk revival, focusing on the people and books that shaped him, and his struggle to find artistic direction on the road in the1960s. Madison Square Garden, 1974, sheds light on Dylan’s transition from folk icon to rock star, his family life in seclusion, his subsequent divorce, and his highly anticipated return to touring. Tanglewood,1997, reveals how Dylan revived his flagging career in the late 1990s—largely under the influence of Jerry Garcia—discovering new ways of singing and connecting with his audience, and assembling the great bands for his Never Ending Tour. In a breathtaking account of the Time Out of Mind sessions, Epstein provides the most complete picture yet of Dylan’s contemporary work in the studio, his acceptance of his laurels, and his role as the éminence grise of rock and roll today. Aberdeen, 2009, brings us full circle, detailing the making of Dylan’s triumphant albums of the 2000s, as well as his long-running radio show.
Drawing on anecdotes and insights from new interviews with those closest to the man—including Maria Muldaur, Happy Traum, D. A. Pennebaker, Nora Guthrie, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and Dylan’s sidemen throughout the years—The Ballad of Bob Dylan is a singular take on an artist who has transformed generations and, as he enters his eighth decade, continues to inspire and surprise today.
The ballad of Bob Dylan
The song tells the story of a South Dakota farmer who, overwhelmed by the desperation of poverty, kills his wife, children and then himself. The album version of the song is performed as a solo piece by Dylan with his vocal accompanied by an acoustic guitar in the flatpicking style. The guitar is in 'double-dropped D tuning ': Both the first and sixth strings, which normally play two E s separated by two octaves , are tuned down a whole step , down to D. Also, Dylan uses a capo on the first fret. Therefore, while his fingers are positioned as if he were playing in the key of D minor , the song is actually in the key of Eb minor. The song had been recorded during sessions for Dylan's previous album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan , in November , but remained an outtake. On this earlier version, Dylan played the harmonica and just strummed the chords, rather than picking the strings.
This was the tour which produced one of the most famous catcalls of all time when a man in the audience shouted "Judas" at Dylan. No doubt many who left that night now regret not staying for the whole set, but, hindsight or not, everyone privileged to see Dylan on that tour knew they were observing something historic. Of all the great figures thrown up by popular music since the s, Bob Dylan stands pre-eminent. Partly because for three years between and he was the coolest man on the planet. But the main reason for his lasting stature are his abilities as a songwriter and performer. Yet, it goes much deeper.
He arrived on the scene in the s, nowhere near fully formed, but aware of his talent and ready to go to work. He may not have considered himself a member of the counterculture in those days, but he found his audience among its number. He was nimble and unsentimental. He did not hesitate to move on to other interests, other sounds, while many of his first admirers seemed stuck in place. Now in his seventh decade, Greil Marcus still writes with the almost foolish enthusiasm of a young person, and when he takes on Bob Dylan, who inspired him to become a writer, he is at his most alive. Dylan will try to pull a fast one, and Marcus will usually catch him in the act and call him on it.
Bob Dylan is a performing artist—a traveling bluesman, a modern-day minstrel—and the best way to try to access his art is to see him perform live. Reading the lyrics, even listening to the records just does not do the man justice. In The Ballad of Bob Dylan , Daniel Mark Epstein does what few have been able to do at all, much less this well: capture that spirit, and in so doing, somehow manage to get closer to the essence of an American icon. Epstein explores Mr. Dylan through the lens of four concerts spanning 46 yes, you read it correctly, 46!
Ian Wickerman opened his eyes to yet another grim, underpaid, unappreciated day as an adjunct professor of poetry at Bixley State University. Brightening somewhat at the idea of grinding up some single origin El Salvadoran and making himself a triple ristretto cortado he used the scant energy provided by this thought to ascend from his bed. Danielle snorted. Usually he had a message or two, but today, he had over twenty, Facebook, texts, emails, all from fellow poets. Had Eileen Myles become engaged—to a man? The news was indeed surprising, but it was wonderful.