The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Letters, part 1

Readers' Letters in response, from Vol.14 No.10, October 1991

Thank you Richard Lehnert...
...for writing such a wonderfully insightful review of Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series (July '91). It's interesting to know there are others afflicted with the same dreams---ie, overlooked albums and titles you just can't remember when you wake up. Maybe we'll all meet someday at Devil's Tower.

Anyway, as one who has loved having Dylan around (if you look closely in the book that comes with the set you'll find my name), reviews such as yours help enhance the pleasure of such a magnificent set since the potential is there to lead others to it. (Of course, anything I say is suspect since I think Under the Red Sky is a good album.)
---Terry A. Gans Washington, DC

The People vs. Dylan
I read Richard Lehnert's Bob Dylan Bootleg Series review in the July 1991 issue. It was a thoughtful, well-written article that clearly reflects a critical appreciation of his music. I have followed Dylan and his music for many years. Mostly, the reviews read like closing argument in the case of The People vs. Dylan.

Thanks for a personal yet informative presentation without the harangue.
---David W. Osterman Denver, CO

I am a Dylan freak
I am what you may call a Dylan freak. I am the one who bought his first album back in '63, loved it, and stuck with his music (released officially or not) ever since. I have been reading Richard Lehnert's review of The Bootleg Series for the umpteenth time now and cannot help but being moved by what he wrote. For a moment there, I wondered if I was alone in thinking that this Box was the most important piece of classical music released this year. (If Dylan music is not classic rock, I don't know what is!)

Seriously, I am very happy that someone acknowledges (and in a magazine as esteemed as yours) the place Dylan occupies in the history of American music (and he is still alive, to boot!). So many thanks and applause for a very astute review with which I agree 100%.

Two new very good books have just been released about Dylan: Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades, by Clinton Heylin; and Performing Artist: The Music of Bob Dylan, Vol.1, 1960-1973, by Paul Williams.
---Edmund Vanderoy Laguna Niguel, CA

Dylan is not God!
After the first couple of pages of RL's review of Dylan's new Bootleg Series in July, I had to stop and shake my head in wonderment. It sounds like RL has finally come to the realization that Dylan is not God!---something that Dylan himself came to understand in the Slow Train Coming era. The feverishly fannish, reverent tone of this review reminds me of the way hardcore "Star Trek" fans used to talk, back in the '70s when I was a teenybopper with nothing better to do than correspond with other nerds about "Star Trek" and its intimate relation to the meaning of life. As Bill Shatner once said to a group of Trekkies in a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, "Why don't you guys get a life?!"

Perhaps the "Trek" fans of that era felt that in some way, "Star Trek," or the "Star Trek ideals," could save the world. This is what many similarly naive people felt in the '60s about the revolution that their gods/heroes/rock stars were singing about. Welcome to reality! The musicians who were idolized 30 years ago have exposed themselves as mere mortals, many having succumbed to greed, addiction, hedonism, or apathy---just the normal human foibles.

Back to Dylan. My impression, as near as I can gather from his albums and cryptic interviews, is that he no longer believes that mankind can save itself, even if he has a spirit as impassioned and seemingly well-motivated as the "peace, love, and dope" generation. He's turned his back on his earlier "angry young man" stance. He believes that God made this world and only He can save it. As a consequence, I don't think Dylan sees any reason for being overly intense or overly serious anymore. Can't we be happy that the man has been able to mature and mellow in his middle age? That he has perhaps found a measure of contentment? As for the lackluster recordings he's put out lately, no one puts a gun to our heads to force us to buy them.
---Eric J. Anderson Ankeny, IA