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The Inner Life and Transcendent Genius: The Inner Life

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A review of Modern Song Philosophy by Bob Dylan, 352 pages, Simon & Schuster (November 2022)

Transcendent genius has been proven to be not so rare over the past century. In the case of physics, Einstein, Fermi (Feynman), and Hawking were all born within a few decades. Film, on the other hand, is just over 100 years old and produced three true geniuses (Griffith Eisenstein, Chaplin, and Feynman) before it emerged from its silent era.

American popular music, however—if one excludes jazz—has arguably produced just one transcendent genius. Bob Dylan is now entering his 82nd birthday. He has transformed his medium in 60 years. Dylan has effectively divided American popular music into the era before his emergence and the era that followed, in which everyone—willing or unwilling, consciously or unconsciously—trod in his footsteps.

This was possible by Dylan liberating American pop music. Pop music prior to Dylan was beautiful and sometimes sublime. However, it generally adhered to certain themes, imagery, and occasionally laments.



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