For me, what with Epstein's knowledge of music and, especially, poetry, this bio of Bob Dylan- The Ballad of Bob Dylan, is probably definitive.
Epstein neatly chronicles BD's life with four concerts as guideposts.
I had accepted the media myths created for BD (Dylan) - that he is the prickly, uncooperative, but an iconic hero of the 60's. That bugged me because I know many other greater heroes of the 60's.
Turns out Bob is hardworking and generous. While he may not been have been forthcoming or political enough for my tastes- it's clear that while BD reflected the 60's, he did not comment upon them, as much as we may have wished some one to do so (see Howard Zinn)!
The dvd documentary on Phil Ochs ("There but for fortune") shows clearly that Phil spoke more clearly than Bob about the 60's... but were his songs better? no way!! Jonh Lennon and Gil Scott Heron spoke much more clearly about the 60's! In fact- so did Nina Simone!! But Bob joined Phil for the concert in honor of the Chilean singer, Victor Jara, who was killed by Pinochet's thugs. And how much more of a protest song could our generation want than "Masters of War"?
BD is, after all, a composer, poet and musician. You are sucked in by his harmonies, his cadence changes- and then come the dynamite lyrics: "Here's to those that came w the dust and are gone w the wind"- simple but unforgettable.
BD has (w integrity) stubbornly refused to be pigeonholed as other than a song and dance man- following in the footsteps of a Johnny Cash. So what if he has not had the edge of certain others- his lyrics clearly support the humanity of a generation trying to change things for the better.. he channels Woodie Guthrie- he channels so many other persons who had something to say!.he is a good artist for our generation- we don't tolerate fools gladly. It's clear enough where his sympathies lie. The fact that BD has obfuscated interviewers often is a credit- they ask such stupid questions, don't they?
You can see that if Bob respects the film maker- as a Scorcese- he tells it like it is!
Hopefully, artists like BD (and film makers like Scorcese) will be even more honest and political in the future!
To me, "the answer my friends/ is mass movement for social change; the answer is mass movement for social change"- but that has no poetic ring.
When I hear that Bob collects cars or real estate- that reminds me of a Hugh Hefner; I would like Bob to be MORE- but...the fact that he is not? (I also wish other great composers- Mozart and Wagner were more political- guess what?!?!? they're not!)
Noes added later (7/19/11) upon watching the Scorcese documentary on Dylan- "No Direction Home"- Bob is not evasive talking to Martin- I realize my initial negative reaction (see above letter and refutation by Dan) was juvenile and foolish. The harmonic changes alone draw you into Bob's music- and THEN- then there are the lyrics. For a protestor like myself? "Masters of War" is as great a protest song as you could like.
"I hope that you'll die/ and I hope it comes soon/ I'll stand on your grave and make sure that you're dead!"
"Here's to those that come w the dust and are gone w the wind"- was that enough for poetry? or "How does it feel- to be all alolne- no directgion home, like a rolling stone?"- right up there w the stones "All of the things that you used to do- if they're done now, well they're done by you!"
A great documentary on Phil Ochs- "There but for Fortune" has just been released, and one could be tempted to say, Phil suffered at Bobby's hands. But didn't Bob join Phil at the tribute concert to Victor Jara- Chilean folk singer shot in the back by Pinochet's thugs in Chile?
Liam Clancy tells Bob: "Remember Bob- no fear, no envy, no meanness."