Classic Rock Review

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Folk-Rock: The Bob Dylan Story by Sy Ribakove (1966)


I read this book just before my 16th birthday when it came out in 1966. I thought it was true, of course, and I’ve often wondered how many runaways who hit the road in the second half of the 60s were influenced by this small gem of a book on a then-new phenomenon? Not a joke. Every hippie girl I met had a copy of this thing!

The book is basically a long magazine article, with some fairly interesting song reviews thrown in. Just about everything Dylan did pre-Blond-on-Blond comes in for scrutiny, most of it quite fascinating if you recall that 1966 was a banner year for Bobby Darin and Andy Williams — lots different from what was about to come!

Simply put, this book is a salute to the lost innocence that flourished for awhile in the 60s before everything went sour. We really believed that people could change their minds on serious issues by a kid with a guitar. We really believed all the twaddle Dylan told people about himself running away and jumping freight trains (all now known to be total fictions, but so what?) and that the freedom of the open road was still available to everybody.

Reading it now is a shock for the same reason listening to “The Times They Are A-Changin” is a shock: Dylan articulated a kind of freedom that was drying up even then. The times a-changed — for the worse. Freedom is now a commodity you’d better be prepared to pay serious money for. Or as Dylan himself put it, “money doesn’t talk. it swears.”

That’s why this book stands alone: Other sources have more “facts” about Dylan; this one is the Dylan legend complete with that totally naive optimism that could only have come out when it did, right before the innocence of the Sixties turned nasty.

But read it and be shocked anyway. Be shocked for the freedoms we once took for granted and are now slipping away with each new clause added to the Patriot Act. Read it to know what intelligent and inexperienced kids in the 60s thought mattered. It may not matter now, other things do. But to understand the past you get into the minds of those who tried to make a difference.

That’s why this little book matters. I classify it as “fiction” because it’s not what the mid-60s were really like. It’s more like what we wanted them to be. If they’d have been what we wanted, the world would look a lot different now, come to think of it.

May 13, 2013 Posted by | Book Folk-Rock: The Bob Dylan Story by Sy Ribakove | , | Leave a comment