Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan! YUP’s Newest Icon
It’s the 70th birthday of Bob Dylan, once known as Robert Allen Zimmerman, and as part of our Icons of America series, David Yaffe, a music critic and professor of English at Syracuse University, has uniquely written about the musician in Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown. The subtitle may seem paradoxical for such a ubiquitous persona, but as Yaffe observes:
He exists on stage and in our dreams, our fantasies, our real and concocted histories, our colleges, our state fairs, and our concert halls at the same time. He exists as history, and yet he lives, walking into that dark, foggy unknown.
In the book, Yaffe explores Dylan’s complicated relationship to blackness (including his involvement in the civil rights movement and a secret marriage with a black backup singer), the underrated influence of his singing style, his fascinating image in films, and his controversial songwriting methods that have led to charges of plagiarism. These are the makings of Dylan’s iconic status, as part of the American postwar culture that continues to fascinate contemporaries as well as new generations of fans: in 2009, Dylan’s new album Together Through Life debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, and you can count on his concerts to fill their venues with scores of people, young and old. Check out today’s article on The Daily Beast, where Yaffe has written on Dylan’s legacy and the peculiarities and controversies that have made him such an important and lasting figure in music and pop culture.