Encounters with Bob Dylan: If You See Him Say Hello

Encounters with Bob Dylan
If You See Him, Say Hello

A Book by Tracy Johnson

(Humble Press)

First Appeared at The Music Box, June 2000, Volume 7, #6

Review written by John Metzger

The American public loves their celebrities. Just about anyone can get their virtually guaranteed fifteen minutes of fame simply by having a brief encounter with someone in the media limelight, be they movie stars, rock stars, or presidential interns. So when a book is published with a title like Encounters with Bob Dylan: If You See Him, Say Hello, one must view it with a certain degree of skepticism.

As a general rule, fan-authored works tend to add little to the conversation. Pick a band and peruse the myriad of enthusiast-run web sites about them, and you’re likely to spend an afternoon wasted in vain, searching for that elusive gold nugget, but repeatedly reading the same dribble and wondering how much of what you’ve found is pure fiction. For those without Internet access, check out the various fan-created, Grateful Dead-oriented publications for pretty much the same experience.

The same can be said for Bob Dylan, whose relationship with his fans has been an odd one. However, Encounters with Bob Dylan is quite a pleasant and enjoyable surprise. Sure, there are plenty of more insightful books about the legendary artist on the market, but Tracy Johnson offers readers a refreshing view from the other side of the equation.

In her book, Johnson compiles fifty glimpses into the world of Dylan from the viewpoint of fans who have had a close encounter of the third kind. Several of the stories were written by the likes of mandolinist David Grisman, bassist Bill Amatneek, former Dylan bassist Rob Stoner, and rap artist Kurtis Blow, but most of the essays were contributed by everyday fans. Consequently, not all of the stories work. Some are just moderately entertaining anecdotes, while others impart the various, overly obsessive — and often downright obnoxious — ways that fans try to get a little closer to their heroes.

However, when strung together in chronological order, the tales do paint a rather intriguing picture — not only about Dylan’s relationship with his fans, but also about the general subject of fandom and fanaticism that comes with being a celebrity. Yet, in the end, Johnson’s book only serves to reinforce the mystery and legend surrounding Dylan, rather than diffuse it. Dylan no doubt would find this amusing. starstar ½

Encounters with Bob Dylan is available from Barnes & Noble,
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


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