A career-spanning account of the artistry and politics of Bob Dylan's songwriting.
Bob Dylan's reception of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature has elevated him beyond the world of popular music, establishing him as a major modern artist. However, until now, no study of his career has focused on the details and nuances of the songs, showing how they work as artistic statements designed to create meaning and elicit emotion. Bob Dylan: How the Songs Work (originally published as Bob Dylan's Poetics) is the first comprehensive book on both the poetics and politics of Dylan's compositions. It studies Dylan, not as a pop hero, but as an artist, as a maker of songs. Focusing on the interplay of music and lyric, it traces Dylan's innovative use of musical form, his complex manipulation of poetic diction, and his dialogues with other artists, from Woody Guthrie to Arthur Rimbaud. Moving from Dylan's earliest experiments with the blues, through his mastery of rock and country, up to his densely allusive recent recordings, Timothy Hampton offers a detailed account of Dylan's achievement. Locating Dylan in the long history of artistic modernism, the book studies the relationship between form, genre, and the political and social themes that crisscross Dylan's work. Bob Dylan: How the Songs Work offers both a nuanced engagement with the work of a major artist and a meditation on the contribution of song at times of political and social change.
'One of the more thought-provoking books on Dylan's songwriting. The casual fan and the Dylan obsessive will both be surprised by some of Hampton's insights.... A stimulating and wide-ranging study.' â€” Stride Magazine
'Indispensable.... Setting some gold standard for what Dylan-based works can do, Bob Dylan's Poetics goes chord by chord and line by line, showing 'how the songs work' in form and are changed through performance.' â€” Robert Sean Wilson, Los Angeles Review of Books
'The best account thus far of Dylan's poetics: howâ€”by what concrete meansâ€”Dylan's songs come to signify, and how remarkably they do. Hampton makes the crucial distinction that Dylan's real medium is song, not just the written word and not just poetry.' â€” Spectrum Culture
'As much fun as I've had with a book this year. You needn't be a scholar to appreciate Hampton's clear-eyed analysis of how Bob Dylan does what he does and why it's different from what a lot of people think that he does. Hampton considers a large swath of Dylan's catalog, providing thrilling (yes, thrilling) readings on a number of songs, from 'Talkin' New York' (the first Dylan song officially released on vinyl) to his 2016 Frank Sinatra covers.' â€” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
'With a style that turns analysis into a form of suspense, Hampton can walk you through "Visions of Johanna" or "Summer Days" the way the art historian T. J. Clark can walk you through Manet's Olympia. There's the same generosity of spirit, the same love for the work and the social meanings it absorbs, transforms and sends back.' â€” Greil Marcus, Rolling Stone
'A remarkable book, and more than worthwhile to those interested in song, lyricism, literature and creative invention.' â€” Chicago Life
- Publication Date:
- 01 / 02 / 2021
- 152 x 228 x 15mm