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Book Review: Dylan: 100 Songs and Pictures compiled by Chris Charlesworth

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Bob Dylan was quoted in 1962 as saying, "The songs are there. They exist by themselves, just waiting for someone to write them down. If I didn't do it, someone else would." I don't think there's anyone else who believes that. George Harrison certainly disagrees. "If Dylan hadn't said some of the things he did, nobody else was going to say them."

If you need more proof then that, the brilliance of Dylan is on display over nearly 500 pages in Omnibus Press' mammoth Dylan: 100 Songs and Pictures. Presented in chronological order starting with "Song to Woody," the template is as follows: there is a black and white picture of Dylan, many familiar, some rare; brief commentary about the song, something along the lines of mentioning those who covered it, or the frequency Dylan played it live; quotes from Dylan through the years and quotes from both musicians he played with and ones who admired him, such as Paul Simon, John Lennon and Jerry Garcia; then there's sheet music with guitar chord boxes; and, for the non-musician, complete lyrics of the songs where the power and poetry of his words are on full display.

The 100 songs cover his entire career. There are the folk hits that caused him to burst onto the scene like "Blowin' in the Wind" and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall;" the commentary of race relations in this country in "Only A Pawn In Their Game" and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll;" and his embrace of electric guitar and rock 'n' roll on "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and "Like A Rolling Stone," the latter of which Frank Zappa says when he heard it, "I wanted to quit the music business." The book continues offering selections through the years, including Dylan's Christian phase with "Gotta Serve Somebody" and "Saving Grace" and his recent critical resurgence, featuring songs from Time out of Mind, "Love and Theft" and closing with Modern Times' "Thunder on the Mountain" from 2006.

The only studio albums of original work that don't have a song in the 100 are Dylan, Empire Burlesque, Down in the Groove, and Under the Red Sky. "The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)" represents Self Portrait where it appears live. There are also rarities, like "Tomorrow Is A Long Time," which while written in 1962 didn't get released until a live version appeared on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 the following decade. Also included are songs from The Basement Tapes; The Bootleg Series, Volumes 1-3; and the Oscar-winning "Things Have Changed" from The Wonder Boys.

While the words and photos alone make Dylan: 100 Songs and Pictures. a good buy, it is best suited for the musician who wants to learn how to play Dylan's music. The book showcases the brilliance of one of the most important songwriters of the 20th century.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • Greg Barbrick

    Sounds pretty cool. Have you ever heard Lennon’s answer to “Gotta Serve Somebody”? It’s called “You Gotta Serve Yourself” and is hilarious.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    i don’t think I know that one. will have to check it out