On Nov. 8, Simon & Schuster will publish The Philosophy of Modern Song, Bob Dylan’s first book of new writing since his bestselling 2004 memoir Chronicles, Volume One. In the works since 2010, the book is “a master class on the art and craft of songwriting” that collects more than 60 essays about songs by other artists, including Stephen Foster, Elvis Costello, Hank Williams and Nina Simone. Also included in the book are “nearly 150 carefully curated photos as well as a series of dream-like riffs that, taken together, resemble an epic poem,” per a press release.
Said release adds of The Philosophy of Modern Song:
[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. 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.
“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 Simon & Schuster president and CEO Jonathan Karp in a statement. “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.”
Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, becoming the first singer/songwriter to do so. The Swedish Academy lauded him “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” We hailed his 39th studio album, 2020’s Rough and Rowdy Ways, among the best of that year. Not a bad little career he’s had.
See The Philosophy of Modern Song’s cover art and listen to a 1999 Dylan performance from the Paste archives below.