An Argument for NOT Reading “The Philosophy of Modern Song” by Bob Dylan – Instead Listen to It

Helen Mirren, reading Bob Dylan’s description of Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up.”

What’s not to like?

Or John Goodman waxing eloquently about the Jewish tailor who moved west and became known as Nudie, designing suits for the likes of Webb Pierce, whose song “There Stands The Glass” Dylan analyzes as a nightmare vision of a Vietnam veteran turned murderer under the authority of his uniform. We learn that Nudie loved country music, and occasionally performed wearing a 10 gallon yarmulke when not outfitting popes, presidents, and Neil Armstrong.

How the heck does Dylan pull all this together, where does it come from? This book no doubt emanates from Dylan’s success with his wonderful Theme Time Radio Hour, which brightened the airwaves for several years.

So rather than paging through the book, I’d encourage you to search out the audio version. Previously, I found the autobiographies of Quincy Jones, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Martin and Roger Daltrey incredibly compelling when hearing them literally in the author’s own voice.

The Philosophy of Modern Song is one audiobook that you will not want to amp up the replay speed, as the nuances and inflections of the narrators are excellent. Even when you toggle between the audiobook and the actual songs through your Spotify account, your road trip will seem half as long. There is nothing that beats the old-school turning of a physical page, but creative casting blended with such accessible technology is a great development, and this is the best example.

You will listen to these 60+ songs differently hereafter, and most other songs as well.

You will wonder about some of Dylan’s choices here, but that has wonderfully been the case about Dylan for half a century. Such as Johnnie Taylor’s “Cheaper to Keep Her” as a diatribe in favor of polygamy for both sexes. Or bluegrass being the flip side of heavy metal. 

Who knew?

Here is the Spotify playlist for easy toggling.


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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