"There’s no philosophy, not really, in 'The Philosophy of Modern Song.'"
Writes Dwight Garner in "Bob Dylan Breaks Down 66 Classic Tunes in His New Book/'The Philosophy of Modern Song' offers commentaries on a range of music, written in the singer’s unmistakable lyrical style" (NYT)
I'm reading the book, and I've been asking myself, as I go, where's the philosophy? My working answer is the reader has to put together the philosophy. Dylan is providing a lot of raw material, but can't you see what he's saying?
You know there's a philosophy, but you don't know what it is, do you?
Mr. Garner writes:
These riffs, which he flicks like tarot cards through a distant cactus, sound a lot like his own song lyrics....
Much of the book is Dylan paraphrasing lyrics from songs, and it's only subtly obvious that Dylan's words are better, deeper, more mysterious. What I'm seeing is that for every song — or almost every song — he heightens the inward emotional structure of the main character in the song.
But Garner gets weary (book reviewers do get weary):
The tone becomes repetitive. In a lot of the cases, you could switch Dylan’s commentaries around, apply them to different songs and not know the difference....
But that's why there's a philosophy to be extracted by the reader. He's looking at different songs and seeing the same thing.
He suggests that the Who’s “My Generation” is sung from the perspective of an 80-year-old man in a nursing home, that Ricky Nelson and not Elvis was the true ambassador of rock ’n’ roll and that Rosemary Clooney’s “Come On-a My House” is about a pedophile mass murderer. There’s an analysis of Bing Crosby’s version of Yale’s “Whiffenpoof Song.” Sometimes you only hope he’s kidding.
Is this where it is? Sorry, I need to hand in my ticket and go watch the geek.