published to coincide with bob
Dylan's 60th birthday, which is today, Thursday (May 24), Howard Sounes's unauthorized biography is less a celebration of the enigmatic song poet than an attempt to separate the myth from the man.
Sounes, a newspaper hack from Britain, tracks down ex-girlfriends, former classmates, fellow musicians, bartenders and hangers-on to piece together an intriguing account of how the scrawny folk charmer became the voice of a generation, and now, of course, a for-hire minstrel playing requests for bored corporate execs.
Sounes doesn't go out of his way to pass judgment or draw conclusions. Nor does he offer probing musical analysis. Rather, he's a diligent researcher who wants to be perceived as an objective observer.
So Down The Highway reads like a crime report, where getting the sequence of events, names, places and dates right takes precedence over dropping juicy anecdotes.
And while Sounes clears up some of the mystery surrounding Dylan's song sources, the targets of his lyrical venom, his business relationships and the many women in his life, some questions are left unanswered. Just how serious was that 1966 motorcycle accident -- if, in fact, it happened at all? Sounes lists the reasons why it was a very convenient time for Dylan to lie low, and then confesses that "the true extent of Bob's injuries is still unclear." Thanks a lot.
The sad tale doesn't get any brighter after the two divorce settlements. And the final chapters spiral downward into a whirl of legal disputes with ex-wives and business associates while Dylan rides out the long lapses of creativity on his Endless Tour.
The final image is that of a friendless millionaire drifter who's more to be pitied than admired.