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Bob Dylan announces first book of new writing in nearly two decades

'The Philosophy of Modern Song’ arrives on November 8

By Joe Goggins

Bob Dylan, 1991
The book is the first of new written work from Dylan since his 2004 memoir. (Photo: Xavier Badosa/Wikimedia Commons)

Bob Dylan has announced his first book of entirely new writing in nearly 20 years.

The legendary singer-songwriter will release ‘The Philosophy of Modern Song’ on November 8. It is a collection of more than 60 essays on the art of songwriting that he began penning in 2010, and will include reflections on the craft of, among others, Stephen Foster, Elvis Costello, Nina Simone, and Hank Williams.

According to a press release, the book will see Dylan deconstruct the work of a number of his peers and forerunners; in it, he “analyses 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”.

Dylan has released multiple books of his lyrics over the years, with the most recent being 2014’s ‘The Lyrics: Since 1962’. In 2016, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Still, ‘The Philosophy of Modern Song’ will be his first book of new work since his 2004 memoir ‘Chronicles: Volume One’.

Simon & Schuster will publish the collection of essays, which they have described as “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 book will include close to 150 “carefully curated photos as well as a series of dreamlike riffs.”

The Philosophy of Modern Song could only have been written by Bob Dylan,” said Jonathan Karp, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster. “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’s latest record, ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’, was released in 2020 to widespread critical acclaim. He is one of a number of high-profile artists to have sold off his songwriting catalogue in wholesale fashion in recent years, striking a deal worth a reported $300 million (£225.5 million) with Universal for the masters and publishing rights to his life’s musical work.