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Positively Fourth Street
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Positively Fourth Street

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  2,155 ratings  ·  123 reviews
In 1966 when Bob Dylan, age twenty-five, disappeared from public view, he closed a chapter on one of the most fascinating stories in post-war cultural history. In just five years Dylan had become a spokesman for the counterculture; Greenwich Village the epicentre of youth style; and folk music - once played by earnest throwbacks - had been crossed with rock 'n' roll to for ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 1st 2002 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published April 28th 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mary
Bob Dylan looks like a real asshole in this book. Maybe he was?
Kirk
I picked this up during a time I was really into Farina and was wishing there was a good biography of him and the story behind BEEN DOWN SO LONG IT LOOKS LIKE UP TO ME. It's not many people, after all, who can claim to have gone to college with Thomas Pynchon and C. Michael Curtis and then become a near-brother-in-law to Dylan. The book is strong on the cafe culture of the late 50s and early 60s. Dylan fans will no doubt feel a bit defensive bc Mr. Zimmerman is treated more as a human than a dei ...more
Cyndi
Man, Joan Baez is fucking irritating.
Terry
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeff
I considered reading Positively 4th Street when it first came out, but never got around to it. I considered reading Hajdu's second book, Lush Life, but never got around to it. But when The Ten-Cent Plague, his third book, was published I couldn't resist, it seemed like it would be such a fun book and it was. So naturally I went and got a copy of this book, the subject of which I was familiar, i.e., the tragic story of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Richard and Mimi Fariña.

I've never been a big fan of Dyl
...more
Derek
Obviously, there are more Dylan bios than even the most dedicated fan would have the time to slog through, so David Hajdu's fresh take on the subject puts it somewhere above most of the others. I'm sure there are some readers who picked it up out of an interest in Farina or the Baezes (kudos to all seven of you), but for the most part, I think this is a book mostly meant for Dylan aficionados. What sets the book apart is that Hajdu doesn't necessarily treat Dylan as the focus, and the book is st ...more
Jim
The books timeline was roughly 1960-1966 centering on all four of the names in the title and largely in that order. The book took a unique and intimate approach by way of introduction to the four characters and leading the reader to some logical conclusions about the musicians and music. A lot of material is packed in this book to give you the background and feel for the characters and the scenery and it moves on like a thriller towards the last third of the book. For the most part Hajdu kept a ...more
jeremy
while much has been written about the king and queen of folk, there is remarkably less to be found about richard fariña & mimi baez. this book chronicles the early years of the scene, from the late 1950's through the mid-1960's. it is an interesting read, and was clearly researched quite thoroughly (hajdu even scored interviews with fariña's notoriously media-wary college roommate & famed novelist, thomas pynchon).

to me, the most fascinating parts of the book dealt with richard & mi
...more
Aaron


It's funny how people of history hold this cemented place in your mind. Mainly because you don't know much about them. That was true for me when thinking about Joan Baez and Bob Dylan before I read this book. But now my vision of these famous songwriters is more clear and more enjoyable. In short I'll say that I like Joan much more, and Dylan much less. I'd recommend this book to anyone who's enjoyed a folk song, or any music that had political meaning. You learn a great deal about the 4 title c
...more
Todd Stockslager
Those were hard times. Folk music fed on the Beat generation, the antiwar movement, the labor movement, mixed in the ferment of the times (drugs and sex are a potent brew). Some were nearly-instant celebreties in very small communities, and two become immense stars: Joan Baez first, who then supported the young Dylan, by this reading. While Hajdu seems biased toward the Baez family and too hard on Dylan, it appears to me that both got as good as they gave. They both used each other for what they ...more
Marti
Having just finished the Graham Nash biography, this was a good follow up. Although I never felt that I identified with this scene that much (it seemed a little too earnest and serious for me); it was a very insightful piece of social history. It pretty much confirmed my idea of Dylan as a scathingly sarcastic narcissist who claimed he was posing as a socially committed folksinger because "it seemed like that's what people wanted to hear." The only one of this group of four that seemed truly lik ...more
Kim
Second reading. Especially interesting after reading Suze Rotolo. Regained appreciate for the genius of Richard Fariña.
Bill Gray
Bob Dylan and Richard Farina were the big lights in this story, but Positively Fourth Street gives a fair accounting of all four of these artists at this point in their lives, and, between us, the women are way nicer people. As for talent, there's gobs of it among them, and their lives make a pretty good story in the bargain.

The ohgosh moment for me was a scene that played out at a party, at which Dylan was mocking Joan Baez's misery, misery that he had in fact brought on by breaking up with her
...more
Julie
Provided a lot of context about the 1960s folk scene.
M. Milner
A confession: I may have a slight Bob Dylan obsession. I own a bunch of his albums, have written a bunch of pieces about him and own a handful of books about him and his music. Dylan’s a fascinating guy: how did this awkward, mumbling guy from Minnesota take the folk world by storm, explode into rock music and revolutionize music in less than five years?

Those questions were part of the attraction for David Hajdu’s book positively 4th Street. His four-headed biography also covers Richard Farina
...more
Denis Farley
Hmm, finished on Valentines Day . .. the heros of my youth, although Richard and Mimi were a subtext but certainly grew in stature after this reading. I had been aware of Richard's book but don't believe I read it or can't remember if I did and may have even seen the movie . . . It was it seems well researched and referenced, and quite a few quotes. Easy reading and essentially before my time . . . I mean, it was a good deal of the soundtrack for those years although I had always been eclectic, ...more
Jeff
Does something within rock crit unconscionable: suggests that the literary side of Dylan's lyrical audacity in the early love songs ("Don't Think Twice," "Girl From the North Country" "Tomorrow is Such a Long Time," "Mama You've Been On My Mind") comes, not from the Beats, as if, that's been boilerplate for way too long, but from Farina and the folkie coterie around the Gaslight. Hajdu explains, that is, Dylan's meteoric compositional game-raising that occurred between late 1962 (the time of wri ...more
Lisa
Detailed, interesting, and gossipy. This deconstructed my heroes. A little bit.

--

"'I lived with her, and I loved the place,' Dylan recalled. 'And, like, I lived with her. Hey, I lived with Joan Baez.'"

"'Dylan was offensive in that he would really be rude to people, and Dick wouldn't be rude to people. But Dick was like 'Look at me -- here I am. Dig me!' Dylan was like, 'Look all you want. You'll never see me.'"


--

From Resilience Science, a review of Steven Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From:
...more
Kevin
Para alguien ajeno al origen de la escena folk de la costa este de EE UU, este libro acomoda muchas ideas y pasa lista de todos las cabezas relevantes del momento, especialmente para quiénes nunca han pasado más allá de los datos obvios y fragmentos de wikipedia o simplemente no son muy aficionados (como yo.)

Aún más allá el libro es brillante: narración perfecta, velocidad, prosa, datos, fotografías, comentarios, entrevistas lo vuelven una historia atrapante y casi ficticia (sin alcanzar idolatr
...more
Dusty Henry
David Hadju was pretty ambitious taking on a four headed biography where each of the subjects could have (and some do) their own books devoted to them. To be honest, I wasn't even aware of Mimi and Richard Farina before this. Despite these things, Hadju pulls it off with an interesting "he-said-she-said" style which reveals the surprising roots of the folk revival.

When I started reading I was a bit concerned, it seemed a bit "Baez-centric." Dylan wasn't even mentioned until something like 60 pag
...more
Rick
I enjoyed reading Hajdu's joint biography of the Baez sisters Joan and Mimi and their relationships with Richard Farina and Bob Dylan. The background material on the folk scene was also interesting. Given Farina's friendship with Thomas Pynchon -it makes one wish that Dylan and Pynchon had met ( I do not think they ever have) but that would be a narrative well worth reading. Might be a novel there for someone to write.
Dylan dominates in all his eccentric irrascibility. He is probably not the mo
...more
Tracy Jones
I had originally bought this book for a college class I was supposed to take. Fate had a weird twist, and the professor died the weekend before the class started. So, I kept this book and the others because I was interested in them. (The class was about the 60's) Now, just about 4 years later, I decided to dust off the cover of this one and give it a whirl.
I enjoyed reading this book partially because I learned a lot about a subject I had never really thought about that much before. I really on
...more
Sarah
Coming to this book as someone not particularly interested in either Dylan or Baez, I was unexpectedly enthralled by this account of how the folk music scene got its start in the lefty enclaves of Cambridge and Greenwich Village in the 1960s. Given fantastic access by many of the characters in his story, Hajdu deftly reconstructs the period and shows how various individuals' success rested on a combination of luck, talent, personality and political winds -- not necessarily in that order. Perhaps ...more
Dave-O
American folk in its both in its development and maturation held the same drama and pathos as any other American music that fused with social movement. The figures that Hajdu chose to focus on in his excellent book became very influential artists of the time, Dylan even attaining a cult-like status.

Like any biography of young people it is filled with betrayal, misunderstandings and bruised egos. As they are portrayed, Dylan and Farina were by far the larger and more fragile of the egos and they
...more
Brayden
This book is a portrait of four interesting individuals from the 60's folk music scene: Joan Baez, Mimi Baez, Richard Farina, and Bob Dylan. The characters were not only connected through music and their careers, but their lives intertwined in more personal ways. Mimi and Richard married when Mimi was still a teenager. Dylan had a longtime crush on Mimi, but eventually picked up an affair with Joan when it was clear Mimi chose Richard over him. The four were close friends.

The book is as engrossi
...more
Tamanna
This book took me a few years to complete because I never wanted to finish it - so very juicy and beautifully told. It captures all the details about Dylan, the Baezs and Farina in perfect detail, making it factual but beautifully poetical at the same time. You get an intimate insight as well as a broad overview. Just behind Chronicles Vol. 1 (written by Dylan himself), this is the best book I've read about Dylan and his musical adventures during the 1960s. Hajdu ties in the details about their ...more
David Ward
Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina, and Richard Farina by David Hajdu (Farrar Strauss & Giroux 2001)(780.92) focuses on the period in Bob Dylan's development as an artist when folk went mainstream and international. This was the moment when Dylan and his lover Joan Baez became worldwide superstars. My rating: 5/10, finished 3/10/14.
Michael (Mike)
This was a good read. Gives good acknowledgment regarding Woody Guthrie being the originator of Folk along with sub-founder Pete Seeger. Lots of good history regarding the Folk scene of the late 50's and early 60's with all the key players like Seeger, Carolyn Hester, Richard Farina, the Baez sisters, Dylan, Judy Collins, Peter, Paul & Mary, etc. Good thesis on why there was a rise in Folk during that time period.

Unfortunately the story confirms a lot of what I suspected about the Folk scen
...more
micah
Nothing could be more natural than a rebellious feeling toward the fussy and bewildered Academy of Dylanology who you'll mostly find in bars in the afternoon. But if you find, like I do, that, despite the blowhard chorus, there is something irresistibly listen-able and watch-able about Bob Dylan's music and behavior then you could do a lot worse than this specific and grounded account.

Hajdu clearly has the bug: he relishes recounting "Bobby's" impish cruelty toward Joan Baez (so will you), but
...more
James Foster
Nice, even though I grew up in the Sixties I never really knew the depth of the relationship between Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, and I didn't know anything about her sister and Richard Farina. And come to think of it I had little appreciation of the folk music movement beyond Peter, Paul, and Mary.

And so this is a useful little book that gives you a bit of a feel of these folks and what it was like to be around the emerging folk scenes in New York and Cambridge, Mass. The book closes with Farina's
...more
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DAVID HAJDU is the author of Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn and Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina. He is a critic for The New Republic and a professor in the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. He lives in New York City."
More about David Hajdu...
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“[Bob] Dylan said, "I don't have to B.S. anybody like those guys up on Broadway that're always writin' about 'I'm hot for you and you're hot for me--ooka dooka dicka dee.' There's other things in the world besides love and sex that're important too. People shouldn't turn their backs on 'em just because they ain't pretty to look at. How is the world ever gonna get any better if we're afraid to look at these things.” 1 likes
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