Determined to Stand
(The Reinvention of Bob Dylan)
April 1, 2021
the plotted plain press
Blurb: Although Bob Dylan’s music of the 1960s and 70s was highly acclaimed and vastly influential, by the mid 1980s his creativity had dipped so low that he was seriously thinking of retiring. Yet from the late ‘90s onwards he began to produce work that was comparable in quality to that of his heyday. The action in these extraordinary songs appears to take place in an indeterminate historical period, sometime between the American Civil War and the present day; in a mythic landscape of noisy, smoky honky tonks and juke joints; haunted by the ghosts of the great blues and country music legends, along with various long-lost crooners and torch singers. The songs reference a vast number of literary texts, ranging from Ancient Greek epics and the King James Bible to Shakespeare, the Romantic and Symbolist poets. They tell the story of Dylan’s personal battle to reclaim contact with his poetic muse. In Determined to Stand Chris Gregory traces the way in which Dylan, by focusing on his roots in folk, blues, country and gospel music, was able to reinvent his art and his persona from the 1990s onward to create a new and unique body of work. The book is an in depth study of Bob Dylan’s songs from 1997’s Time Out of Mind to 2020’s Rough and Rowdy Ways. It also focuses on the crucial role that the live performances on Dylan’s Never Ending Tour (1988 to the present) played in his battle to find ways of remaining creative despite the onset of ageing.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Determined to Stand (the reinvention of Bob Dylan). I found it to be inspiring and thought provoking. An excellent resource for anyone studying poetry or music. This book is more than a catalogue of Bob Dylan’s latest work, analysing his songs with a focus on the period between 1997-2020’s. Chris’ writing is almost poetic as he delves into Dylan’s different art forms giving meaning and understanding to Bob Dylan and the artist he is.
I personally had not given much thought to Dylan and his music over the past few years. I have heard of him–I think you would have had to have lived a very sheltered life not to–and knew and liked some of his music but that was about it. Whilst reading Determined to Stand, I listened to each song I didn’t remember or didn’t know. Each song took me back to a time of bittersweet memories reminding me of lazy hazy days spent in Somerset, where I would share an evening or two with my brother and his friends, jamming and sharing thoughts on different artists and their music. The poetry of Dylan’s songs relighted my love of music that looks straight into my soul. Chris wrote about this stage on Dylan’s career with deep knowledge and insight blending the book together with references to Dylan’s earlier work and comparison to other artists.
I thought the front cover and lay out of the book was engaging; however, I would recommend anyone who is dyslexic to use a coloured overlay as the pages are very white and the writing is detailed. I found the discography helpful as Determined to Stand caused several discussions among my family and friends.
I would definitely recommend Determined to Stand (the reinvention of Bob Dylan) even if you are just a little bit curious about Bob Dylan.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.