I Wanna Be Literated #221

I Wanna Be Literated #221

Thursday, 09 March 2023

The Philosophy of Modern Song
by Bob Dylan

Could anyone but Bob Dylan have written a book like this? I use the words “book” and “Bob Dylan” lightly because I don’t think either of those things are true. Let me explain.

The Philosophy of Modern Song is just a plain weird book. It’s fun, sure, but it’s also bizarre as hell. What it is is 65 essays on 65 songs that we guess made a big impact on Dylan. Or maybe they’re just songs that he wants to talk about. Most of the time these short essays are split up into the ramblings of a mad-man as to what they evoke in him followed by a short analysis and background on the song itself. What Philosophy of Modern Song is definitely missing is some context. We have no idea what makes these specific songs so special, or what makes Dylan qualified to speak about them or what the plethora of photos accompanying these essays are supposed to mean (no captions!), but there they are, just padding this book. So yes, this isn’t really a book in the true sense and more of a coffee table book, which I guess is a type of book. The other thing I’m pretty sure about is that Bob Dylan didn’t really write these essays or they were heavily edited. You think Dylan knows what Tik-Tok is? Or that he looked up performances on YouTube? Or that he listens to Jay-Z? Or that he’s doing research in front of his computer late at night looking up release dates, performance dates, album sales, etc? Hell no. But the I’m fully willing to believe that the rambling part of the book is him.

Like I said, every song has a rambling part to it and it’s truly an insight into how Dylan’s mind works, with long yarns, connecting folk figures, and dated pop culture references. These should all be unrelated people and events but Dylan seams them together over and over again. He’s telling the story of the song, it seems and that part is truly impressive. Another big drawback to this book is that it doesn’t come with a music download of these songs so we can know the songs Dylan is talking about. But, that’s why God invented YouTube and I highly suggest you play these songs as you’re reading along. It adds to the fun. I even learned about an artist or two I’d like to check out.

The Philosophy of Modern Song is nothing of the sort and should just be called Bob Dylan Has an Opinion on Some Songs. For the rest it’s just padded with images to make the book seem like it has more content. It doesn’t. Some context would have been nice!

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