In 2022, Bob Dylan published the book The philosophy of modern song, a collection of his comments on songs by other musicians. As this is the first newly written book by him since 2004 Chronicles: Volume One, the release was received with much anticipation. Some fans even spent $600 on an autographed version of the book. However, after realizing that all the autographed copies had an identical signature, fans began to question the authenticity. Dylan issued a rare public statement to apologize for using the automatic pen to sign the books.
Bob Dylan published the book ‘The Philosophy of Modern Song’ in 2022
In his first book since winning the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, Dylan intended to give “his extraordinary insight into the nature of popular music” (via Simon & Schuster). In the book, he covered songs by artists like Little Richard, Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Cher, and the Grateful Dead.
“He discusses what he calls the easy rhyming trap, discusses how the addition of a single syllable can diminish a song, and even explains how bluegrass relates to heavy metal,” his editor explained. “These essays are written in Dylan’s unique prose. They are mysterious and mercurial, moving and profound, and often laugh-out-loud funny. And while they are ostensibly about music, they are actually meditations and reflections on the human condition. Throughout the book there are almost 150 carefully selected photos, as well as a series of dreamy riffs that, taken together, resemble an epic poem and add to the transcendence of the work.
Bob Dylan apologized for using autopen to sign the books
For some fans, the book became more valuable when it arrived hand-signed by Dylan himself. These copies, which sold for $600, included a confirmation of the authenticity of the signature by Simon & Schuster CEO Jonathan Karp.
Soon, however, fans who had paid for the signed copies began to doubt their authenticity. Comparing the signed copies on social media, they noticed that the signatures looked identical on hundreds of books. As it turned out, Dylan used autopen, which automatically replicates a person’s signature. He offered a rare public apology.
I have been informed that there is some controversy over the signatures on some of my recent artwork and on a limited edition of Philosophy of modern song. I have hand signed each and every art print over the years, and there have never been any problems. However, in 2019 I had a severe case of vertigo and it continued through the pandemic years. It takes a team of five people working in close quarters with me to help enable these signing sessions, and we couldn’t find a safe and workable way to complete what I needed to do while the virus was raging. So, during the pandemic, it was impossible to sign anything and the vertigo did not help. With contractual deadlines approaching, the idea of using an automatic pen was suggested to me, along with the assurance that this sort of thing is done ‘all the time’ in the world of art and literature.
He admitted that it was a mistake and that he was working with the publisher to fix it.
“Using a machine was an error in judgment and I want to rectify it immediately,” he wrote. “I’m working with Simon & Schuster and my gallery partners to do just that.”
Simon & Schuster has also apologized and offered full refunds to anyone who purchased a signed book.
Other artists responded to the blows in the book.
The book made waves in other ways. Some artists, including The Talking Heads’ Chris Frantz, felt a bit disrespected by Dylan’s comment. Frantz chafed at Dylan’s assertion that “Elvis Costello and the Attractions were a better band than any of his contemporaries. Light years better.”
“When I read that, I thought, ‘Jesus, Bob,’” Frantz told Rolling Stone. “’I get that you like Elvis Costello, but did you have to say it that way?’”
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Other musicians, however, were happy Dylan brought them up, even if it wasn’t entirely flattering. When he wrote that the Hank Williams song “Your Cheatin’ Heart” wouldn’t have worked with someone like guitarist Joe Satriani, Satriani was happy Dylan knew his name.
“Does Bob Dylan know my name?” Satriani said, still adding in his defense: “I think the great Hank Williams and I could have patched things up and made some great music together.”