Bob Dylan in America - Sean Wilentz
Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz grew up in the heart of Beat- and folk-centric Greenwich Village, and, at 13, witnessed Bob Dylan’s famous Philharmonic Hall concert. Over the last decade or so, he’s begun to explore Dylan’s “reshaping of old American musical traditions” to become a “modern minstrel,” and he’s collected the essays in BOB DYLAN IN AMERICA (Doubleday, $28.95). The first two chapters, on Aaron Copland and the Beats, set the scene. Wilentz then devotes chapters to exploring historical connections in specific songs and albums: he recounts the story of the blues-singer Blind Willie McTell, and has an especially fine chapter on the shape-note origins of “Lone Pilgrim.” He ends with riffs on Dylan’s most recent works—Love and Theft, Modern Times, Tell Tale Signs, and even last year’s Christmas album.