Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
For the Bob, he is a life coachin'...
Extravagant claims for Bob Dylan have been legion over the decades.
He's the Picasso of pop music. He's the most significant American poet since Robert Frost. He's a Jewish mystic and a Christian revolutionary.
But in this slight paperback, American business writer Jon Friedman makes a particularly bizarre argument -- that Dylan missed his calling as a self-help guru and that he's as inspirational as Stephen Covey or Tony Robbins.
"I think Dylan can teach people life lessons based on his mysterious genius," Friedman burbles. "He represents so much more to me than an entertainer."
It's true that Dylan, still going strong at 71, has earned a place in the culture beyond that of mere song-and-dance man. But most of Friedman's claims in Forget About Today seem totally at odds with everything known about the composer of Mr. Tambourine Man and a thousand other brilliant tunes.
"Dylan might have excelled as a corporate strategy planner," Friedman writes, sounding like a corporate MBA.
"He possesses an uncanny ability to identify a deficiency and then act conclusively to convert it into an asset."
Friedman's method throughout is to strain the details of Dylan's biographical record through a sieve of motivational business-speak.
For example, Dylan's dropping out of the University of Minnesota at age 19 meant he had "a well-thought-out plan" to make it as a folk musician.
When he shilled for Victoria's Secret lingerie in 2004, it was "an opportunity to reach out to young women consumers, a lucrative demographic that went beyond his traditional male base."
Friedman has an annoying habit, common to self-help authors, of trying to shine a light into the deepest depths of our souls.
"The act of going electric was a turning point for Dylan," Friedman writes. "What's yours?"
Noting that hundreds of acts have covered Dylan's songs, he asks: "Are you just 'covering' someone else, or are you truly showing the original side of you?"
Friedman's devotion to the Bobster isn't in doubt. Nor is his familiarity with the man's musical corpus.
As a writer, he is magazine slick (again, totally at odds with Dylan's scruffy persona) and he has done his research, both by interviewing others and by sifting through the library stacks of Dylanology. He finds much support for his argument in Dylan's 2004 memoir, Chronicles: Vol. 1, from which he quotes extensively.
But, needless to say, Friedman couldn't bounce his eccentric theories off their subject. If he had, Dylan would have asked him what he was smoking.
Contrariness, after all, is one of the seven habits of highly effective people.
Free Press Books editor Morley Walker will be buying Dylan's new album, Tempest, on Sept. 11 and he has his ticket for Bob's Oct. 5 concert at the MTS Centre.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2012 J8
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