Mark Davidson and Parker FishelDec 9, 2023
Mixing Up the Medicine
Several years ago, a treasure trove containing some 6,000 original Bob Dylan manuscripts was revealed to exist. Their destination? Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The documents, as essential as they are intriguing—draft lyrics, notebooks, and diverse ephemera— comprise one of the most important cultural archives in the modern world. Along with countless still and moving images and thousands of hours of riveting studio and live recordings, this priceless collection now resides at The Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, just steps away from the archival home of Dylan’s early hero, Woody Guthrie.
Nearly all the materials preserved at The Bob Dylan Center are unique, previously unavailable, and, in many cases, even previously unknown. As the official publication of The Bob Dylan Center, Bob Dylan: Mixing Up the Medicine (Callaway, 2023) is the first wide-angle look at the Dylan archive, a book that promises to be of vast interest to both the Nobel Laureate’s many musical fans and to a broader national and international audience as well.
Edited by Mark Davidson and Parker Fishel, Bob Dylan: Mixing Up the Medicine focuses a close look at the full scope of Dylan’s working life, particularly from the dynamic perspective of his ongoing and shifting creative processes—his earliest home recordings in the mid-1950s right up through Rough and Rowdy Ways (2020), his most recent studio recording, and into the present day.
The centerpiece of Bob Dylan: Mixing Up the Medicine is a carefully curated selection of over 600 images including never-before-circulated draft lyrics, writings, photographs, drawings and other ephemera from the Dylan archive.
With an introductory essay by Sean Wilentz and epilogue by Douglas Brinkley, the book features a surprising range of distinguished writers, artists and musicians, including Joy Harjo, Greil Marcus, Michael Ondaatje, Gregory Pardlo, Amanda Petrusich, Tom Piazza, Lee Ranaldo, Alex Ross, Ed Ruscha, Lucy Sante, Greg Tate and many others. After experiencing the collection firsthand in Tulsa, each of the authors was asked to select a single item that beguiled or inspired them. The resulting essays, written specifically for this volume, shed new light on not only Dylan’s creative process, but also their own. Bob Dylan: Mixing Up the Medicine is an unprecedented glimpse into the creative life of one of America’s most groundbreaking, influential and enduring artists.
Mark Davidson is the Curator of the Bob Dylan Archive and the Director of Archives and Exhibitions for the Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie Centers in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He holds a PhD in musicology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with an emphasis on folk music collecting, and an MSIS in archiving and library science from the University of Texas at Austin.
Mark has written widely on music and archives-related subjects, including his dissertation, “Recording the Nation: Folk Music and the Government in Roosevelt’s New Deal, 1936–1941,” and the essay “Blood in the Stacks: On the Nature of Archives in the Twenty-First Century,” published in The World of Bob Dylan.
Parker Fishel is an archivist and researcher who was co-curator of the inaugural exhibitions at the Bob Dylan Center. Providing archival consulting for numerous musicians and estates under the umbrella of Americana Music Productions, Fishel is also a co-founder of the improvised music archive Crossing Tones and a board member of the Hot Club Foundation. Highlights from his recording credits include Ann Arbor Blues Festival 1969 (Third Man Records), a forthcoming box set inspired by the Chelsea Hotel (Vinyl Me, Please), and several volumes of the GRAMMY Award–winning Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series.
Daniel Moran earned his B.A. and M.A. in English from Rutgers University and his Ph.D. in History from Drew University. The author of Creating Flannery O’Connor: Her Critics, Her Publishers, Her Readers and articles on G. K. Chesterton and John Ford, he teaches research and writing at Rutgers and co-hosts the podcast Fifteen-Minute Film Fanatics, found here on the New Books Network and on X.