Review

Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan

by Howard Sounes



He is the most enigmatic of musicians, recording stars, pop stars,
whatever you want to call him. He completely and inalterably
changed music from the moment his scratchy anti-voice flowed out of
some mono speaker over 40 years ago. He has experienced, in just
the last few years, the most public adulation and award-receipts of
his entire life, chalking up Grammys and Oscars alike. His last
marriage, secret and heretofore unknown, has been revealed, so he's
actually made it into the gossip columns --- something which makes
him cringe mightily, I'm sure. And, in the course of one publishing
season, two major books have been published about him. DOWN THE
HIGHWAY: The Life of Bob Dylan is a typical Bob Dylan biography,
nothing more.

On AOL alone, there are 1,135 sites dedicated to Bob Dylan. His
back catalog continues to sell almost as well as his recent albums,
like the brilliant "Time Out of Mind." His travails with women,
drugs, and religion have been broadly and perfunctorily visited by
rock journalists and biographers alike. Howard Sounes is not
someone that any of the Dylan website folks know anything about,
and his book doesn't give them any information they haven't gotten
from any of the other 90 books most fans have read about Dylan. Oh,
the motorcycle accident in '65 that marked the end of his folk
career? Gee, says Sounes proudly, it may never have actually
happened. Well, we know that, Howard! Every good Bob fan knows that
that whole escapade is shrouded in mystery. We look to you, the
seekers and researchers of what you wish to call the "truth," to
give us the details, fill us in on something we never knew about
him before. Here, Sounes disappoints.

If you haven't guessed it, I am one of those fans who read every
book about Bob Dylan that comes out. The breadth and depth of his
work continues to fascinate, amuse and entertain me, as it does so
many other people. Except for Sounes's ardent claim about a secret
marriage, certainly surprising and then not surprising for Mr.
Dylan, there is nothing in this book that makes it any different
from the others. However, if you have never read a book about Bob
Dylan, you should. He is surely one of the most rewarding gifts
America ever gave to the universe, and if his music has touched you
at all, you will find the details of the making of that music quite
fascinating. Sounes writes in a conversational tone that draws you
in and gives you a front row seat. If you've never sat in the front
row before, then DOWN THE HIGHWAY will be a great treat for
you.

If you are a longtime Dylan fan, the ultimate Dylan bio, one that
Bob might actually authorize, has not been written yet. But if you
need a brush-up on your Dylan-ography, take a look at DOWN THE
HIGHWAY.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 21, 2011

Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan
by Howard Sounes

  • Publication Date: April 9, 2001
  • Genres: Biography, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 527 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802116868
  • ISBN-13: 9780802116864