DYLAN: A Biography by Bob Spitz

DYLAN: A Biography

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A massive biography of the folk/rock-star by Spitz, former manager of Bruce Springsteen and Elton John and author of Barefoot in Bablylon (1979). Spitz presents a warts-and-all Dylan that should stun devotees who looked toward Dylan as a purveyor of ethical humanism in an age of fragmentation, militarism, and moral decay. Dylan appears as a single-minded egotist, willing to disown his hard-working parents (thus his name-change from Zimmerman), lie about his past (dreaming up a fictitious persona of a rail-running vagrant), walk over his Greenwich Village peers to advance his career (recording Dave Van Ronk's ""House of the Rising Sun"" before he even asked the writer's permission), giving free rein to his sticky fingers (stealing record albums from friends), and two-timing and toying cruelly with women (refusing to let Joan Baez sing on stage during an English tour despite the fact that she, his lover, had ""introduced"" Dylan to her national following during her own concerts). Spitz's account, however, suffers from two flaws: he refuses to resort to solid prose when a profanity will do, and his treatment of Dylan is sparse in the wrong places for a book purporting to be a detailed biography. Chronicling Dylan's high-school rock-'n'-roll ventures, for instance, Spitz expends a lot of time on ""The Golden Chords,"" one of Dylan's groups, and mentions not a word about the Shadow Blasters or Elston Gunn. And if an aficionado is interested in learning the genesis of some of Dylan's songs (the crux, after all, of his charisma), one can learn more by reading Dylan's own notes from his Biograph collection. Finally, in this 656-page book, Spitz compresses the last nine years of Dylan's life to date (one-third of his public career) into about 20 pages. Even though this is a more revealing and satisfying work than, say, the garbage-sifting of A.J. Weberman or the patronizing plaudits of Robert Shelton (No Direction Home, 1986), Spitz still leaves a lot of the answers to Dylan blowin' in the wind.

Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 1988
ISBN: 0393307697
Publisher: McGraw-Hill