Paperbacks: Once Upon a Time: The Lives of Bob Dylan, By Ian Bell


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The Independent Culture

This first half of a two-book biography starts with the infamous folkie heckle of 1966, "Judas!" Dylan's response: "You're a liar", then "Play fucking loud".

It ends with 1974's Blood on the Tracks ("less impressive now"). Bell chews over Dylan's ceaseless re-invention. Only on page 207 is he "Bob Dylan, finally." Bell's research – Bob's polio-afflicted dad Abe didn't merit the slight in Highway 61 Revisited ("God said to Abraham, 'Kill me a son'") – is weakened by irksome cool: "Difficult man, difficult son: sometimes that's how it goes." Still, an impressive start.