Bob Dylan: Autodidact

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on May 24, 2009

bobdylanI found the following passage on the venerable singer to be utterly thrilling:

In 1960 Robert Zimmerman, a gawky Jewish boy from Minnesota, hitch-hiked to New York City. He came to join the burgeoning folk music circuit, but he also came to read, hunkered down on the sofas of his bookish new friends in Greenwich Village. “I read all of Lord Byron’s Don Juan and concentrated fully from start to finish,” he wrote later. “Also Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan.’ I began cramming my brain with all kinds of deep poems. It seemed like I’d been pulling an empty wagon for a long time and now I was beginning to fill it up and would have to pull harder. I felt like I was coming out of the back pasture.

Gogol, Balzac, Hugo, Dickens, Thucydides (“a narrative which would give you chills”), Tennessee Williams, Bertolt Brecht, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells: all were piled into the wagon, alongside the music of Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams, and the films of Marlon Brando and James Dean. He spent nights studying the American Civil War at New York public library and consuming newspapers: “What was swinging, topical, up to date for me was stuff like the Titanic sinking, the Galveston flood, John Henry driving steel…this was the news that I considered, followed and kept tabs on.”

Would that more artists were so intellectually adventurous and disciplined.

(Thanks to Scott Johnson for the reference. Paul Cella’s piece on Dylan and Sean Curnyn’s sketch are both very much worth your time.)

  • zzonick

    Bob Dylan has inspired the world to think on a higher plane. By expressing human emotions in an honest and touching way, Bob has expanded on what an artist's role is in society.
    He has an almost 50 year career unmatched in music. We are lucky to have him in our lives.

    Please visit my website, moon's rock, to keep up with Bob Dylan news:
    http://www.moonsrock.com

  • zzonick

    Bob Dylan has inspired the world to think on a higher plane. By expressing human emotions in an honest and touching way, Bob has expanded on what an artist's role is in society.
    He has an almost 50 year career unmatched in music. We are lucky to have him in our lives.

    Please visit my website, moon's rock, to keep up with Bob Dylan news:
    http://www.moonsrock.com

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