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Chronicles: Volume One

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  47,796 ratings  ·  1,741 reviews
"I'd come from a long ways off and had started a long ways down. But now destiny was about to manifest itself. I felt like it was looking right at me and nobody else." So writes Bob Dylan in Chronicles: Volume One, his remarkable book exploring critical junctures in his life and career.

Through Dylan's eyes and open mind, we see Greenwich Village, circa 1961, when he first
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 13th 2005 by Simon Schuster (first published November 12th 2004)
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Cathy Janak I guess I found the answer to my question. I will continue to hope that some day soon we will see Chronicles part two. I don't know if Chronicles one …moreI guess I found the answer to my question. I will continue to hope that some day soon we will see Chronicles part two. I don't know if Chronicles one was plagiarized but I found it the closest I got to ,"knowing" Dylan the man. Hope to read more.(less)

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Oct 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biophilia
I’m going to do something I try not to do here, since I consider this to be a site about other people’s words- I’m going to ramble on autobiographically for a bit.

I bought this first volume of Dylan’s Chronicles the day it came out in 2004, was anticipating the hell out of it. Back then I was managing a used record store in College Park, Maryland. I studied poetry and creative writing at UMD, big waste of my time, could’ve learned all that on my own, learn more now on my own than I did then anyw
Paul Bryant
Conscience impels me to remove one star from my original 5. I'm bewitched, bothered and bewildered.

When this gorgeously written, completely eccentric and endearing memoir came out in 2004 I loved it, and my original review is included below. In the years since then, Dylan fans and commentators have been finding out stuff, and it opens a big can of worms, the worms of


Because, it seems, if the rabid batgooglers and archive monkeys are to be believed, large parts - maybe all - of Chronicl
Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: recent
After being on my “to read” shelf for a while, this book jumped up a couple spots when Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature. He didn’t win the prize because of this autobiography or for his novel, but rather for the lyrics he wrote down and then placed over music.

This autobiography is well written and honest, but it is disjointed at times and didn’t tell me much about the things I thought I wanted to know about. I wanted to know what Dylan was thinking when he wrote songs like “Blowin'
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Positively Fraud Street?

I see you on the street
I always act surprised
I say, “How does it feel?”
But I don’t mean it.

"I can't taste your words,"
You said, "Your songs are just lies."
So I cried that you were deaf,
You'd lost the sight in your eyes.

And I said that you were wrong
When you accused me of theft
But all I really wanted to know was
What else have you got left?

No, I never wasted any time,
And I never took much.
I never asked for your crutch,
Now don't ask me for mine.

Well you got up to leave
And y
Lee Klein
Jan 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
UPDATE: A good and memorable read but probably not why he won the Nobel.

What a wonderful weird book about the influence of cities and sounds, knowing what you want and going for it and getting it thanks to talent, luck, attitude, and meeting the right people. Funny how it emphasizes what no one really wants to know -- "New Morning" and "Oh Mercy" era stuff instead of everything from "Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" to "Visions of Johanna" to "Shelter From the Storm" to "Isis." Those songs are hardly men
David Schaafsma
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I awake this morning to the news that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature for 2016, which I absolutely am happy about. A bold move for the committee. It made me think that the committee is probably quite old to do this, but also well aware of his lyrics, which I assume is the reason he wins. I also read Paul Bryant's reviews of this book, the first of which, like mine originally, was very positive. I loved the book and await more. Then I saw Paul has read a lot of research identifyi ...more
Mar 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not by any means a big fan of autobiographies or biographies written with the ‘popular’ market in mind: Autobiographies can all too often be divided into the self-aggrandising, self-serving, self-promotion type, or alternatively the celebrity/ghost written cut and paste, vacuous and pointless nonsense type or the pseudo ‘warts and all exposé’ type – or sometimes a combination of all three. Biographies on the other hand, more often than not are written with the agenda either of the fan or th ...more
Dec 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Each phrase comes at you from a ten-foot drop, scuttles across the road and then another one comes like a punch on the chin.

So goes Dylan on the marvel of Pirate Jenny, the haunting number by Brecht/Weill in their Three Penny Opera. Apparently seeing this performed life indelibly changed Dylan's approach to songwriting. I bought myself G.W. Pabst's film version of TPO for this recent Christmas and I was absolutely riveted by Lotte Lenya's performance of the song, she's so cold , so decisive, muc
Sep 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mark my words, this book is going to be considered as an American classic piece of literature. Students in the year 2035 will study it, and young men wearing plastic rain coats will be holding this book as a fashionable prop in the most elegant nightclubs.

As for me, this was such a surprise remarkable read. I didn't expect it to be so great. What makes it so great is Dylan personal observations on the world around him. The way he goes through his frirends' library was one of my favorite parts o
Connie G
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Bob Dylan takes us from his boyhood in northern Minnesota to his start as a folk singer in Greenwich Village in 1961. His biggest influence was Woody Guthrie, and he had a great mentor in Dave Van Ronk who got him started at the Gaslight, a folk club. Dylan read widely and listened to the folk greats, especially the storytellers, in his quest to become a singer/songwriter. He spent his first months in New York sleeping on the couches of generous friends. It was an exciting day when he was signed ...more
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing. I have to clear this first: I have never been a Dylan Fan, I have never been able to go past his voice, which is crazy, folkie, and just too rough for me. Call me a softie. But this book is greatness. His memoirs, or, never better described, chronicles, are separated from different moments in his life, not in any order, and each chapter is from a different moment. He connects everything he is going through at the time of each chapter, and people he might have come across, m ...more
Dec 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone! Even if they don't like Bob.
Shelves: favorites, music

I really want to talk with Dylan

And it happened. That's what it feels like when you get under the bed covers with this book, no sound but a cricket buzz outside the window. His words come out at you like his music. Unpretentious, romantic. Funny like a Woody Allen movie. It feels like any minute that gravel voice will start whispering out of the pages to you.

A genius talking about his inspiration. What more could you want?

So, what inspired him? Better yet, what didn't? Everything's flowed in
Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: True Bob Dylan fans & fans of any artists in general
Know this, readers. Bob Dylan has ALWAYS and will forever continue (probably even at his death) to do things HIS OWN WAY!

I read some of the reviews for this book. First off, ignore all those who are not even fans of Bob Dylan or are the ones that wish he would sing "Like a Rolling Stone" or "Tangled up in Blue." Get over it.

What I saw in this book was his inspiration. You will NEVER get this in any biography about any artist. Or at least rarely. Biographies and even autobiographies are a way fo
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you are looking for a straight up biography, this isn't for you. Dylan's style of writing is very disjointed and can take some getting used to, but overall the book is very well written. There is a segment on how he came to put together his album "Oh Mercy" which was very interesting but not one of his albums I was well versed in. Unfortunately he doesn't really discuss his other albums. He does talk a great deal about all of his influences (the name dropping this man can do is unreal) and fo ...more
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hardcore Dylan Fans
Chronicles Vol. 1 has a few moments of insight concerning Dylan's musical influences and non-linear remembrances from his past, small vignettes that are often unrevealing in regards to the overall scope of the enigmatic artist's life. This is not an autobiography, and those wishing for a tell-all of the life of one of the most celebrated singer/songwriters in history won't find much to work with here.

Dylan does ramble at length about the difficulties of fame, his stalkers, and his unwillingness
Sep 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nobel
I originally rated this two stars, but I had to take off a star after reading Paul Bryant's review detailing how much Dylan plagiarized. That was news to me, but not a surprise, considering Dylan padded his Nobel Lecture with lines from SparkNotes, of all places. It pains me that I have to add this book to my Nobel shelf. I understand that the prize was awarded primarily for his song lyrics, but the Nobel is awarded for an author's entire body of work, and so this sad, meandering, cliched, plagi ...more
I'm really not a big Dylan fan per se, but that he is an amazing poet cannot be denied. Once upon a time I played a mediocre rendition of "like a rolling stone," mostly because I fell in love with this lyric:

You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain't it hard when you discover that
He really wasn't where it's at
After he took from you everything he could steal.

No idea where he comes up with this shit, but it's brilliant. Actually, in "chron
Dec 19, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: already disillusioned Bob Dylan fans
Bob Dylan has given us a meandering, often boring and only occasionally interesting account of some of the formative moments of his career. Two thirds of the book is taken up by the story of how he came to record "New Morning" and "Oh Mercy." Yowzah! He gives only glancing, arrogant mention to the days of his most prolific and brilliant songwriting--which is fine, it doesn't shatter my perception of Dylan to find him arrogant and evasive, but I do take umbrage with the boring minutia of the reco ...more
Apr 13, 2011 marked it as to-read
Shelves: wishlist
*********WANT BADLY**********
Mother's Day is coming up! or for Birthday then, Xmas in July, Aussie Friend Day, Happy Person who does your laundry day, Day for people who will beg for books. Well any excuse will do - have loved Bob a long time....will even be embarrassing & pimp my photo here - of a time when I played his records over and over..
Bob and me.
Dylan writes as he sings: with honesty, passion and care for humanity. Misunderstood as an artist, labeled on countless ocassions as something he didn't recognize himself lof being, you can think that people just don't get your message so maybe you're singing to the wrong crowd. I was very pleased to see that Bob is also a pretty curious and well read man, a guy who values integrity, the idea of being humble, down to earth. Some of the best autobiography I've read, equally disturbing and heart-b ...more
Ben Winch
Nov 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
In some ways a beautiful book. Glowing, inspirational. Unique too, in that it makes us privy to the deep love of a legend for his influences. On the most glowing pages, we see Brecht, Robert Johnson, Mike Seeger, Woodie Guthrie (of course) through Dylan’s eyes, and it’s revelatory. Here he is on the eight extant seconds of Johnson on film:

He’s playing with huge, spiderlike hands and they magically move over the strings of his guitar. There’s a harp rack with a harmonica around his neck. He looks
Tracy Reilly
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: rock-music

When I was maybe six or seven, and already beginning my lifelong devotion to music, and rock in particular, I remember standing in the Record Department at Arlan's looking at the 45s, since my mother said I could get 5, if my brother and I could agree. We already knew some we liked: Herman's Hermits, the Monkees, The Dave Clark Five, Tommy James and the Shondells, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs:

"What about this one?" My brother said, pointing to a sleeve with a guy with crazy curly hair; "Bobby
Sep 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow! A dense, extraordinary approach to an auto-biography. Dylan was never going to write a conventional biography, and readers who want one should keep on walking. This isn't for them.

Instead Dylan has constructed a mythology as autobiography. While I think it's fair to assume that everything in this book is true, I think we should probably accept that it's not necessarily literal. He's obviously missed large chunks out for a start - the book really only covers a couple of periods in his life.
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
An explanation of two stars is required here. I found out from a goodreads friend that Dylan probably lifted a number of uncredited passages from other books and used them in Chronicles. The link below highlights some of examples but there are others.

So to make a long story short I only made it 1/3 of the way through the book because I spent several sidetracked hours verifying the lifted passages myself. I think there are legitimate points that musicians l
It wasn't really that much of a surprise that Bob Dylan's music is more interesting than Bob Dylan. While this book had its good moments, a lot of the time its anecdotes went nowhere and I was left wondering what the point was. He did seem to use the word "reality" a lot. No offence, I'm a huge fan, but Bob Dylan is not a great writer and even though he's telling you about his influences, you don't learn much about him or his inspirations. He doesn't even name his wife - she's just "my wife." I ...more
M. Sarki
Mar 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-wonders

The year 1965 brought us to terms with Bob Dylan and his outrageous and defiantly autonomous behavior with the Columbia Records release of Highway 61 Revisited. Dylan was by this time extremely tired of the press, their questions, the long tours, and was hiding out in Woodstock, New York. Now everything was going to change even more. It wasn't enough to just have Johnny Cash.

Bob Dylan's Chronicles Volume One, published in 2004, was ignored initially by me
Sep 21, 2016 added it
Shelves: 2016
I have to be careful with music. I'm vulnerable as a listener in a way that I'm not vulnerable to other kinds of art. Rousseau tells us that music is capable of communicating truth directly, or perhaps it would be better to put it that music permits one to experience truth itself. Words, he says, merely present one with the representation of phenomenal reality, the likeness of truth. I often think about this lesson when I've been incautious as a listener.

My relationship with music is the exact o
"There was a missing person inside of myself and I needed to find him."

God, this is incredible. Completely wonderful. A fucking masterpiece autobiography. Wondrous observation. Surprising self effacement. The wisdom of years. A delicious and well-honed sense of irony. Every sentence a joy. More references in one graph than in whole books. A complete world brought to life. Ruminations and the joy of learning and discovery: Dylan's own and his conveyance of it to us. Dylan's highlights aren't the
Dec 16, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dylan is a better songwriter than he is an author. That said, I found his book to be fascinating in parts, amusing in others, and a bit unfocused at times. The story isn't linear, but Dylan manages to cover his life from the summer after finishing high school in Minnesota, to recording the album Oh Mercy! in the 1980s. The Greenwich Village parts of the book were particularly interesting and bring to life an era I'll never experience. As someone who is passionate about music, I was intrigued to ...more
This was a birthday present from my eldest son. I listened to Chronicles, Volume One, which is read by Sean Penn, who does a great job narrating. Such a class actor, he doesn't try to imitate Dylan's voice, but gets the vibe across of what Bob Dylan is, well, chronicling. Dylan, the old chameleon, doesn't give much away about himself, but all the same, being one of the greatest writers of the Twentieth Century, albeit a songwriter and poet, he describes the people and times of Greenwich Village. ...more
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What is the best Dylan biography? 11 609 Apr 26, 2014 08:03AM  
Because of you 2 36 Feb 16, 2011 03:02PM  

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Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman) is an American singer-songwriter, author, musician, poet, and, of late, disc jockey who has been a major figure in popular music for five decades. Much of Dylan's most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when he became an informal chronicler and a reluctant figurehead of American unrest. A number of his songs, such as "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times T ...more

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“Some people seem to fade away but then when they are truly gone, it's like they didn't fade away at all.” 331 likes
“The first thing you notice about New Orleans are the burying grounds - the cemeteries - and they're a cold proposition, one of the best things there are here. Going by, you try to be as quiet as possible, better to let them sleep. Greek, Roman, sepulchres- palatial mausoleums made to order, phantomesque, signs and symbols of hidden decay - ghosts of women and men who have sinned and who've died and are now living in tombs. The past doesn't pass away so quickly here. You could be dead for a long time.

The ghosts race towards the light, you can almost hear the heavy breathing spirits, all determined to get somewhere. New Orleans, unlike a lot of those places you go back to and that don't have the magic anymore, still has got it. Night can swallow you up, yet none of it touches you. Around any corner, there's a promise of something daring and ideal and things are just getting going. There's something obscenely joyful behind every door, either that or somebody crying with their head in their hands. A lazy rhythm looms in the dreamy air and the atmosphere pulsates with bygone duels, past-life romance, comrades requesting comrades to aid them in some way. You can't see it, but you know it's here. Somebody is always sinking. Everyone seems to be from some very old Southern families. Either that or a foreigner. I like the way it is.

There are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better. There's a thousand different angles at any moment. At any time you could run into a ritual honoring some vaguely known queen. Bluebloods, titled persons like crazy drunks, lean weakly against the walls and drag themselves through the gutter. Even they seem to have insights you might want to listen to. No action seems inappropriate here. The city is one very long poem. Gardens full of pansies, pink petunias, opiates. Flower-bedecked shrines, white myrtles, bougainvillea and purple oleander stimulate your senses, make you feel cool and clear inside.

Everything in New Orleans is a good idea. Bijou temple-type cottages and lyric cathedrals side by side. Houses and mansions, structures of wild grace. Italianate, Gothic, Romanesque, Greek Revival standing in a long line in the rain. Roman Catholic art. Sweeping front porches, turrets, cast-iron balconies, colonnades- 30-foot columns, gloriously beautiful- double pitched roofs, all the architecture of the whole wide world and it doesn't move. All that and a town square where public executions took place. In New Orleans you could almost see other dimensions. There's only one day at a time here, then it's tonight and then tomorrow will be today again. Chronic melancholia hanging from the trees. You never get tired of it. After a while you start to feel like a ghost from one of the tombs, like you're in a wax museum below crimson clouds. Spirit empire. Wealthy empire. One of Napoleon's generals, Lallemaud, was said to have come here to check it out, looking for a place for his commander to seek refuge after Waterloo. He scouted around and left, said that here the devil is damned, just like everybody else, only worse. The devil comes here and sighs. New Orleans. Exquisite, old-fashioned. A great place to live vicariously. Nothing makes any difference and you never feel hurt, a great place to really hit on things. Somebody puts something in front of you here and you might as well drink it. Great place to be intimate or do nothing. A place to come and hope you'll get smart - to feed pigeons looking for handouts”
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