The Swedish Academy called him a “cultural icon” when awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. Now there is a new work about the 82-year-old Bob Dylan. “Mixing Up The Medicine” is more than a book, it is as much a museum as it is a journey through the history of the music that Dylan makes and that he influences.

The title – a line from “Subterranean Homesick Blues” – reveals what is hidden on the more than 600 pages. It is a mixture of the medicine divided by creative phases that is Dylan’s music and personality for millions and generations. There are paintings of Dylan, pictures from his childhood to the present day, anecdotes, memories, images of lyrics typed on a typewriter and handwritten notes.

Dylan’s Playlist

There are telegrams, letters from Andy Warhol’s assistants or from television host Ed Sullivan and thousands of fans. Plus what we now call playlists, written down in an inconspicuous notebook from 1964 long before Spotify and iTunes existed – with songs from the Beach Boys and Dusty Springfield to the Isley Bros. You can see the leather jacket that Dylan wore, when he played “electric” for the first time.

There are images by photographers like Richard Avedon and Annie Leibovitz, essays by companions, authors and artists who were allowed to choose things to write about from the huge collection at the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There are also interview excerpts and countless background information on songs – famous ones like “Mr. Tambourine Man”, but also the less well-known, no less moving ones.

Martin Luther King and Johnny Cash

The fact that Bob Dylan first maintained a pen pal relationship with Johnny Cash and then remained in close contact with him for 50 years is documented, as are Dylan’s memories of the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. Music was an important part of the civil rights movement at that time.

He sang “When The Ship Comes In” and “Only a Pawn in Their Game” with Joan Baez. And he felt how historic the day was: He was there first hand when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech, which still deeply affects Dylan to this day.

The new book features stories about John Lennon and the Beatles, John Hammond, Patti Smith, Eric Clapton, Allen Ginsberg and Tom Petty, among others. David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix appear as well as the Black Panther Party, Live Aid and several US presidents: hundreds of prominent names are lined up on six register pages at the back of the book.

“Mixing Up The Medicine” is also something for people who aren’t die-hard Dylan fans, but love music – because: He influenced everyone. The Nobel Prize winner for literature is the godfather of the great songwriters, musical poets, from Mark Knopfler to Bono, from Van Morrison to Françoise Hardy, from Bruce Springsteen to Stevie Wonder, and countless others.

If there were books on prescription, this would have to be mandatory.

Bob Dylan: Mixing Up The Medicine. Edited by Mark Davidson, Parker Fishel. Droemer, hardcover, 608 pages, 98.00 euros, ISBN: 978-3-426-27915-1