Bob Dylan has written his first book since his 2004 memoir Chronicles: Volume One. The Philosophy of Modern Song, out November 8th, will be a collection of over 60 essays focusing on songs by other artists.
Dylan will analyze songwriters such as Stephen Foster, Elvis Costello, Hank Williams, and Nina Simone. “[Dylan] analyzes 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,” a press release noted. “These essays are written in Dylan’s unique prose. They are 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,” it continues. “Running throughout the book are nearly 150 carefully curated photos as well as a series of dream-like riffs that, taken together, resemble an epic poem and add to the work’s transcendence.”
Dylan has been working on the The Philosophy of Modern Song since 2010. “The publication of Bob Dylan’s kaleidoscopically brilliant work will be an international celebration of songs by one of the greatest artists of our time,” said Jonathan Karp, President and Chief Executive Officer of Simon & Schuster. “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.”
Chronicles: Volume One was a non-traditional memoir that focused on his early days in New York City and the creation of his 1970 LP New Morning and his 1989 album Oh Mercy. Rumors of a Chronicles sequel circulated for years, and Dylan occasionally said he was working on it. “I think I can go back to the Blonde on Blonde album — that’s probably about as far back as I can go on the next book,” he told Rolling Stone in 2006. “Then I’ll probably go forward. I thought of an interesting time. I made this record, Under the Red Sky, with Don Was, but at the same time I was also doing the [second] Wilburys record. I don’t know how it happened that I got into both albums at the same time.”
He gave an update on Chronicles II in 2012, a year after he reportedly signed a six-book deal with Simon and Schuster. “I’m always working on parts of [another Chronicles],” he told Rolling Stone in 2012. “But the last Chronicles I did all by myself. I’m not even really so sure I had a proper editor for that. I don’t want really to say too much about that. But it’s a lot of work. I don’t mind writing it, but it’s the rereading it and the time it takes to reread it – that for me is difficult.”
And while The Philosophy of Modern Song is not another Chronicles, it should still be fascinating to Dylan fans that have never had the chance to hear him discuss the craft of songwriting in this much detail.
Dylan recently resumed his Rough and Rowdy Ways tour with a show in Phoenix, Arizona. It wraps up April 14th in Oklahoma City.