Bob Dylan New York


Bob Dylan New York
By June Skinner Sawyers
Roaring Forties Press- $14.95  £10.99

‘’New York in the early 1960s was perched on the precipice of change, moving from one era – the supposed ‘’innocence’’ of the Eisenhower years – to another – the dynamic but short-lived excitement of the Kennedy years. Indeed, the relatively short span between Eisenhower’s election in 1952 and the arrival of the Beatles in America in 1964 ushered in a decade or so of social change that shook American society to its very core on many levels: politically, socially, and economically. From peaceful civil rights demonstrations in the streets to racially tinged riots, the 1960s started with a gentle whimper and ended with an explosive bang.’’

Equally perched upon a wave of (said) unstoppable, almost miasmic, social-sea of change, was Bob Dylan’s arrival in New York City during the winter of 1961. It proved to be as musically and as socially explosive, as that of the decade itself. And to say he nurtured, bequeathed, radicalised and embraced the city with as much guts and gusto as just one singer-songwriter was capable, might be considered something of a discerning understatement.

The mere fact there’s a book dedicated to this very subject alone, underlines the unquestionable value and idiosyncratic importance that such an understatement might bestow.

Furthermore, this (partially) explains why it might be a good idea to read and fully contemplate June Skinner Sawyers’ Bob Dylan New York, wherein chapter eight’s ‘Thief of Thoughts,’ she reiterates the simple fact that: ‘’Dylan could have reinvented himself anywhere. But he didn’t go just anywhere. He went somewhere. He deliberately chose New York because New York, more than any other city or town, was his point of reference while growing up in Minnesota […]. ‘’There was nowhere else he could have gone to become Bob Dylan,’’ echoes music critic Anthony DeCurtis. ‘’It is hard to imagine where else he could have gone given what his aspirations were.’’’’

Even the word ‘aspirations,’ is a little lightweight, especially given the profound effect that both the city and the artist were to eventually have on one another. As such, it’s quite surprising that a book on the subject of Dylan and New York wasn’t written years ago; so all the more reason to embrace this one.

As a regular columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Sawyers is evidently just as much a Dylan fan as she is a formidable student. Both aspects of which are liberally peppered throughout what can only be described as yet another inviting and interesting book on the greatest songwriter this side of Lennon and McCartney.

David Marx


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