A portrait of the artist through his interviews
The Dylan contained in this anthology is the ideal interview subject: insightful, playful, at times self-reflective, and rarely boring. This will come as no surprise to those who have followed Dylan closely or read the interviews previously collected in Jonathan Cott’s Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews (2017). What may come as a surprise is how fresh this volume reads. Burger—who has contributed to the publisher’s Musicians in Their Own Words series with portraits of John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and Leonard Cohen—mostly fills in around Cott’s book (the two overlap in only a handful of cases). The author draws smartly from the scores of Dylan interviews to present the full arc of his subject’s career from before his debut album to his 2016 Nobel Prize speech. With his notes and insightful introductions, Burger provides the necessary connective tissue and creates the narrative’s ultimate effect as an autobiographical oral history told in close to real time. It works, then, as an introductory text covering the iconic moments of an iconic life but also as something more intimate. Reading Dylan—even his absurdist performance-art press conferences of the mid-1960s—readers may feel more receptive to his ideas than when watching footage of the same scene. At the heart of Dylan’s artistry is his abiding love for music. In 2015, he told Robert Love about lying in bed as a boy in Hibbing, Minnesota, and listening to the Staple Singers on the radio: “It was the most mysterious thing I’d ever heard….And that singer is pulling things out of my soul that I never knew were there.” It is the same thing Dylan’s own music has done for so many of his listeners, which is what makes Burger’s arrangement rewarding.
A valuable contribution to the record of Dylan’s legacy.