Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan
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Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  2,145 ratings  ·  65 reviews
Featuring a wealth of new information, Down the Highway is likely to be hailed as the definitive biography of Bob Dylan. Acclaimed biographer Howard Sounes has spent three years researching the book and has interviewed more than 250 people important in Dylan's life -- many of whom have never before given interviews -- and sifted through documentary evidence unavailable to...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published April 9th 2001 by Grove Press (first published April 2nd 2001)
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James Lundy
Apr 23, 2008 James Lundy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Diggers of dirt who speak very little English
I enjoyed reading "Down the Highway" not because it is a well-written book (it isn't) and not because Howard Sounes has any insights into the music of Bob Dylan (he doesn't). I enjoyed the book because this is the first biography of the man that gives the reader a feel for what it's like being Bob Dylan on a day-to-day, year-to-year basis. The three years of research that went into the biography focused more on "digging the dirt" on Dylan rather than Clinton Heylin's (much better executed) book...more
The writer did a great job covering the beginning of Bob's life and fame, but at about the mid 70's he started losing his touch - or the book just got annoying. Yes, there's a lot of information, lots of 'I was with Bob so many years, so I will comment about this' stuff, but it lacks feeling. Where's Dylan the Joker? where's the poetry? Howard Sounes describes the many loves of Bob without any feelings - sometimes I felt as if I was reading a big guest book of Dylan's lovelife, just names and da...more
This is possibly my all-time favorite Dylan bio.

It's gossipy and deliciously so: how many children by how many different women do you think Bob has?

Why did Bob Dylan start his own publishing company (Dwarf Music) in January of 1966 and how did he come to name it "Dwarf"?

How many roads must a man walk down before he finds out what price you have to pay to get out of going through all "these things" twice?

After reading this you'll find yourself unable to declare in regards to Bob Dylan: nothing wa...more
This book is for you if you care more about the tabloid biography, if you care, for instance, more about the women Dylan has bedded than the actual life events and experiences that inspired the artistic output of a master songwriter. You probably should pass on this book if you value the accuracy of little details like the ACTUAL setlist to his seminal Newport "Dylan-goes-electric" show. Sure he did play 'Mr. Tambourine Man' but isn't it more important that he came back onstage and played 'It's...more
Michele bookloverforever
After reading this, I feel very sorry for Mr.Dylan. He may be blessed with talent and money/property but it does not seem to have brought him happiness. He appears to be a very private person. The author does not appear to have interviewed either Mr. Dylan or his immediate family and is on the outside looking into a very complicated individual. But then, great artists are usually complicated. The respect this author has for Mr. Dylan's music is profound and that comes through loud and clear. Jus...more
This was a pretty good biography on Dylan and the first one I read on our 20th century bard. While the bio by Heylin is more detailed overall, there are some interesting stories in here about Dylan when he was growing up that did not appear in Behind the Shades.
Sounes is also a lot less arrogant than Heylin but Heylin is undoubtedly a better biographer (even though I wish he would stop being so subjective in his analysis of Bob's albums).
This is a good place to start if you want to find about...more
When I saw this book on the bookstore I didn't really know why but I knew I had to buy this book, it was some kind of an instinct, I guess. At that time the only thing I knew about Bob Dylan was - he had written Knocking on Heaven's door . But now, after finishing this book I feel like I know everything about this great man/artist.
I thought the story was brilliant. I am amazed by how the author could write all of this information without contacting Bob Dylan himself but, damn, he had access to...more
of the three biographies of Dylan, it's the best I've read.
Perry Whitford
Down the Highway extinguishes itself from the hundredweight of Dylan biographies available on the market because Sounes somehow managed to get the greatest number of first hand accounts from childhood friends, early lovers, allies and enemies from his formative years in Hibbing, Dinkeytown and Greenwich Village, at the same time doing the exhaustive "births deaths and marriages" paper chase which helped him to uncover some long-held secrets about his private life.
His biggest journalistic scoop i...more
Sounes is a journalist turned biographer who writes serviceable prose and provides a balanced, if not insightful, survey of Dylan’s personal and professional lives. He boasts some new discoveries, marriage and birth date information for wives and children, that don’t add to whatever understanding the reader may have of Dylan from his work and the half century of media coverage he has garnered. Dylan is aloof and intensely private. Sounes conducted a number of interviews but none with Dylan himse...more
I really liked Sounes's bio of Bukowski and I have been a big Dylan follower since I was a teenager, so reading this one was a given. I enjoyed the newer information about Dylan's personal life and the details that come out in his interviews with many (like 250) of people who knew Dylan or at least obsessed about his every move for 40 years.
This book is not flawlessly written by any means. At times it is self-important and the writing style itself seemed to me to be far inferior to Sounes's effo...more
A poorly written but fairly informative Bob book. Sounes was able to round up interviews with a bunch of people who've never gone on record before (including one Bruce Dorfman, who married my dad's first wife shortly after the period described in this book), but he fails to offer much substance, just fact after fact. Towards the end of the book you can tell Sounes is just describing Dylan shows he himself attended as though those moments are somehow significant moments in Dylan's life. There are...more
Apr 22, 2008 Melissa rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Dylan Fans
Recommended to Melissa by: Joanna Rose
The author of this admits that he got a lot of information from other sources and admits that Bob Dylan himself was not willing to comment (but of course he wouldn't). However when reading the accounts of Dylan's life it seems like the author was present. I laugh out loud at some of the interesting comments Dylan has made to press. One specific comment that is in the book is a response Dylan had to a reporter during an interview from Playboy (in the 60s) the reporter asked Dylan what his "songs...more
There shouldn't be. Dylan's tale has been so frequently told, his works so extensively analysed, his associates so exhaustively interviewed, that even a life as carefully cloaked as his must surely have few further secrets to yield - in pop terms, only the Beatles can boast a comparable list of biography and criticism. But while the Fabs' story ended 20 or 30 years ago, Dylan's continues to ramble on. Just last month, he picked up his first Oscar - for 'Things Have Changed', the bleak hymn of di...more
Howard Sounes is a clunky writer with very little to say about Dylan's music, and nothing to offer by way of analysis or fresh perspectives. He is, however, a relentless schlepper of facts, and alone among Dylan biographers he had the gumption to track down and confront William Zantzinger, the sleazeball target of Dylan's scathing protest song "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll." (I leave you to discover the very amusing result.) Clinton Heylin's book is still the one to beat, but Sounes does...more
John Pilecki
There is a library of books about Bob Dylan, I have read most of them, and this one is the best. Mr. Sounes obviously did his research first-hand and presents all phases of Dylan's career and life - from childhood to advancing age - in a clear eyed style that is respectful and highly appreciative, not intrusive and fawning, as some life accounts of this man's musical accomplishments and personal life have been. Highly recommended for both inveterate fans and readers who want to know more about o...more
While Bob Dylan is one of my favorite artists I had never read any books about him except for the one he wrote (chronicles). I found this book really informative with lots of info about specific albums and songs. It also had some really good info about other periods of his life besides the 60's. It's worth noting that Bob was never interviewed by this author. Instead he got all of his info from previouus Dylan interviews and first hand interviews with many people directly involved in his life. O...more
Craig Werner
Probably the best biography of Dylan which is both real praise and a commentary on the state of Dylan biography. Sounes does a nice job boiling down the known story, mixes in a few new details, and brings the story up to 2011 (the first edition was published a decade or so ago). But in comparison with Jonathan Gould's Beatles bio or Dave Marsh's books on Springsteen, Down the Highway's kind of pedestrian. Bob Spitz's Dylan bio has more detail about some key moments, but the tone is so irritating...more
Jessica Kjeldsen
thoroughly researched and paints a vivid picture
A very good biography of Bob Dylan, revealing little-known aspects of the life of this enigmatic genius - including his second marriage to his back-up singer, Carolyn Dennis, and the birth of his sixth child, Gabrielle Desiree Dennis-Dylan, and his ownership of a coffee shop in Santa Monica. This biography does a good job of balancing the reader's desire to know some intimate details of the man's life without going into yucky expose type digging. I especially like the chapters on his later years...more
Christopher Bundy
A good solid look at Dylan's career. Sounes takes a fairly journalistic approach but considering the plethora of Dylan devotees who have written more hagiography than biography, this felt truer, if less poetic.

His life and music are a crazy story no matter how you look at, and you'll come away with a larger appreciation of the music if you don't already have one. Dylan's no saint, but there is no other like him.
Sounes provides a good recount of Dylan's life, but his biography is no where near comparable to those by Heylin or Shelton. If you're REALLY interested in Dylan and read it in addition to Behind the Shades or No Direction Home, it's okay, but if you're just looking for something to cover Dylan and get on with your life...check out Clinton Heylin's work instead.
Bob Dylan is a genius. He was/is inspired and perhaps one of the greatest poets of our time. However, he does not come across as being a particularly faithful friend or lover. And forced to make do after some difficult/expensive divorces, he may have sold out to a certain extent (selling songs to advertisers). But he is a great man and this a good biography.
Matthew Walker
Other reviews that I've had a look at seem to be a bit sniffy about this, claiming that it adds nothing new to the Dylan oeuvre, but that's presuming that you know everything about the man already. I didn't, so this worked just fine, I didn't know anything before, now I feel like a know a lot.
Start with this biography if you are a Dylan fan or just a fan of music and history, period...A very honest look at an American icon, absent all the worship-writing that dominates Dylan-based works usually...Leaves you with the view of Dylan as a human being, not a god or prophet.
A fine biography of the musical raconteur and bard. Again, this is a warts and all presentation, and I really enjoyed it for that reason.
Poorly written from a literary perspective but informative and helpful in putting the life of an amazing and prolific artist into historical perspective. The book helped me to appreciate the art, both mystify and demystify the artist, and pity the man.
herschel Stratego
Oct 03, 2007 herschel Stratego rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any Dylan fan
if there is ONE book that you MUST read to understand the life of Bob Dylan...this is it--trust me: i've studied him and his work since 1998! i'm sure this is the ONLY book you'll have to read to understand him as much as you ever will.
Kristin Q
Loved the way they capitalized on the wanderer, Woody Guthrie side of Dylan. Written like a story, it portrays good feelings of it's characters. It just leaves one hoping they really felt like that.
I have not read many biographies at all so I can't really say how it was as a biography. It was a very informative read and I found out a lot but I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I would have liked.
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I am the author of non-fiction books about a range of extraordinary people: the murderers Fred and Rosemary West (Fred & Rose), the writer Charles Bukowski (Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life) and the singer-songwriters Bob Dylan (Down the Highway) and Paul McCartney (Fab).

My new book is Amy, 27 (27 in the USA), a study of Amy Winehouse and five other music stars who destroyed themselves at th...more
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