Sean Wilentz: Bob Dylan, Democracy & History
Wilentz is a distinguished man, one of this year's winners of the
Bancroft Prize for history and chair of the American studies department
at Princeton University. But in person he can remind you of the
smart-aleck who sits in back of the class, with his playful eyes,
crooked smile and signed photo of Bob Dylan in his office.
Wilentz won the Bancroft, voted on by fellow historians, for "The Rise
of American Democracy," an 800-page chronicle of American political and
social movements during the first half of the 19th century. He is also
a contributing editor to The New Republic and a Democrat who testified
before Congress against the impeachment of President Clinton.
In still another life, he's a music critic.
"I've always had a sense of multiple identities," the author, half
Irish and half Jewish, told The Associated Press during a recent
interview at his office on a cold, rainy afternoon.
Wilentz, 55, holds the untenured position of "historian-in-residence"
at bobdylan.com, which features various writings by the professor on the bard.
He was a Grammy nominee for his liner notes to Dylan's "Live 1964," a
Carnegie Hall performance released in 2004. His commentary for "Live 1964"
also brought him a Deems Taylor award from the American Society of
Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP), a prize handed out for
outstanding media coverage of music.
"I didn't even know he was a historian. I know him as a Dylan writer,"
says musician and ASCAP judge John Wesley Harding, who praised
Wilentz's writing for its balance of scholarship and passion.
Wilentz has spent more than 20 years at Princeton, but his roots aren't
so far from Dylan's. A native New Yorker who grew up in a diverse
Brooklyn neighborhood, the historian spent much of his childhood in
Manhattan at the Eighth Street Bookshop, the Greenwich Village hangout
run by his father and uncle and populated by Allen Ginsburg, Jack
Kerouac and many others. (The store closed in the 1970s.)...
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Adam Holland - 3/25/2006
The second link in the previous comment is bad. Sorry! Go to Google Book Search and plug in wilentz 8th street. Click on the first result.
Adam Holland - 3/25/2006
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