Greil MarcusNov 20, 2023
A Bob Dylan Biography in Seven Songs
Yale University Press 2022
Greil Marcus is perhaps the world’s foremost interpreter of Bob Dylan. This podcast focuses on Marcus’ latest Dylan book, Folk Music: A Bob Dylan Biography in Seven Songs (Yale University Press, 2022). Marcus begins his book with a 2001 quote from Dylan: “I can see myself in others.” In this sense, Marcus writes, “the engine of his songs is empathy.” We begin our conversation with “Murder Most Foul,” from 2020, on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, with Dylan “putting on Kennedy’s bloody suit.” We discuss, too, “Desolation Row,” from 1965. The opening line— “They’re selling postcards of the hanging…”— could be a reference, Marcus suggests, to a lynching of three black circus workers in Duluth, Minnesota in 1920, just over twenty years before Dylan was born there. And Marcus offers insights on the five other songs covered in this volume: “Blowin’ in the Wind”/1962; “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”/1964; “The Times They Are A-Changin’”/1964; “Jim Jones”/1992; and “Ain’t Talkin’”/2006.
Veteran journalist Paul Starobin is a former Moscow bureau chief for Business Week and a former contributing editor of The Atlantic. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications. His latest book, Putin’s Exiles: Their Fight for a Better Russia (Columbia Global Reports) will be published in January.