Read Two Excerpts From Bob Dylan’s New Book The Philosophy Of Modern Song

Read Two Excerpts From Bob Dylan’s New Book The Philosophy Of Modern Song

For his new book The Philosophy Of Modern Song, Bob Dylan — a guy who has written a few good songs himself — wrote more than 60 essays on the art and craft of songwriting, each one centered on a particular song. The book is out next month, and today the New York Times has published two excerpts from it.

First up is Dylan’s take on Frank Sinatra’s 1966 #1 hit “Strangers In The Night,” with music by Bert Kaempfert and lyrics by Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder. That one’s accompanied by audio of Dylan reading from the excerpt, starting with this bit of beat poetry:

The song of the lone wolf, the outsider, the alien, the foreigner, and night owl who’s wheeling and dealing, putting everything up for sale and surrendering his self-interest. On the move aimlessly through the dingy darkness — slicing up the pie of sentimental feelings, dividing it into pieces all the time, exchanging piercing penetrating looks with someone he hardly knows.

Next comes Dylan’s take on the Who’s 1965 smash “My Generation,” written by Pete Townshend, which begins like so:

This is a song that does no favors for anyone, and casts doubt on everything.

In this song, people are trying to slap you around, slap you in the face, vilify you. They’re rude and they slam you down, take cheap shots. They don’t like you because you pull out all the stops and go for broke. You put your heart and soul into everything and shoot the works, because you got energy and strength and purpose. Because you’re so inspired they put the whammy on, they’re allergic to you, and they have hard feelings. Just your very presence repels them. They give you frosty looks and they’ve had enough of you, and there’s a million others just like you, multiplying every day.

It’s especially interesting to hear Dylan’s take on songs that were popping off when he too was at his peak of commercial visibility. (His highest-charting single, “Like A Rolling Stone,” peaked at #2 between the release of “My Generation” and “Strangers In The Night.”) Seems like The Philosophy Of Modern Song will be an interesting complement to our own Tom Breihan’s forthcoming The Number Ones book.

You can read the full excerpts and hear his narration here.

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