Bob Dylan essay collection celebrating art of songwriting to be published

Publisher Simon & Schuster says The Philosophy of Modern Song ‘resembles an epic poem’

Bob Dylan will publish a new essay collection celebrating songs by peers such as Elvis Costello, Hank Williams and Nina Simone.

The book jacket of The Philosophy of Modern Song.
The book jacket of The Philosophy of Modern Song Photograph: PR handout

Dylan began work on The Philosophy of Modern Song in 2010, according to a press release. His first book of new writing since 2004’s Chronicles: Volume One, it contains 60 essays in which the 80-year-old musician “analyses what he calls the trap of easy rhymes, breaks down how the addition of a single syllable can diminish a song, and even explains how bluegrass relates to heavy metal”.

Publisher Simon & Schuster (S&S) described the essays as “mysterious and mercurial, poignant and profound, and often laugh-out-loud funny. And while they are ostensibly about music, they are really meditations and reflections on the human condition”.

Combined with nearly 150 “carefully curated photos as well as a series of dreamlike riffs”, the collection “resembles an epic poem”, said S&S.

Jonathan Karp, president and chief executive of S&S, said in a statement: “The Philosophy of Modern Song could only have been written by Bob Dylan. His voice is unique, and his work conveys his deep appreciation and understanding of songs, the people who bring those songs to life, and what songs mean to all of us.”

Dylan won the Nobel prize in literature in 2016. His latest album, 2020’s Rough and Rowdy Ways, received mass critical acclaim and was placed highly in many publications’ end-of-year lists.

In January, he sold his entire recorded catalogue to Sony Music Entertainment, following the sale in 2020 of his publishing catalogue to Universal Music.

Dylan is currently fighting a lawsuit that alleges he groomed and sexually abused a woman, referred to as JC, when she was 12 years old. His legal team have denied the allegations, calling the lawsuit “a brazen shakedown … false, malicious, reckless and defamatory”.

The Philosophy of Modern Song is published on 8 November , with an accompanying audiobook partially narrated by Dylan.


Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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