In reversing our workshop’s title, Michael Gray is resisting its assumption that Dylan is a genius whose folk-hero status may be merely a disguise, instead accepting that while Dylan is an authentic popular hero, the debate about his fitness for the Nobel Prize includes a questioning of his genius. Gray himself finds this questioning unprofitable, being confident of Dylan’s genius, but nevertheless challenges the view that Dylan should receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Michael Gray is a critic, writer, public speaker & broadcaster recognized as a world authority on the work of Bob Dylan, and as an expert on rock’n’roll history. He also has a special interest in pre-war blues, and in travel. Born on August 25th, 1946, he grew up on Merseyside, England, went to the Cavern, and graduated from the University of York with a BA in History & English in 1967.
His pioneering study Song & Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan, published in the UK in 1972, was the first full-length critical study of Dylan’s work. A second, updated edition was published in 1981. The massive third edition Song & Dance Man III — including a 112-page study of Dylan’s use of the blues — was published in December 1999 in the UK and early in 2000 in the US. A seventh reprint was issued in 2008, and the book remained in print until late 2010.
In 1977 Michael took a break from freelance writing, moved to London and worked as Head of Press for United Artists Records (UK) Ltd. and, later, as personal manager for singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty. In 1985 he published Mother! The Story of Frank Zappa. A collection of pieces on Dylan, All Across The Telegraph: A Bob Dylan Handbook, co-edited with Dylan fanzine editor John Bauldie, was published in 1987 and 1988, and in 1996 Michael co-authored The Elvis Atlas: A Journey Through Elvis Presley’s America, published in New York. A new edition of The Elvis Atlas was published in 2011. He has also written Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes, the biography of pre-war blues artist Blind Willie McTell (2007 & 2009) and the 2013 e-book Elvis’ Golden Records.
Michael’s vast Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, published in New York & London in 2006 (paperback 2008) won the International Association of Music Libraries’ C.B. Oldman Prize for the year’s outstanding work of reference and research. Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes: In Seach of Blind Willie McTell, published in the UK in 2007 & 2008 and in the US in 2009, was shortlisted for the 2008 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography and was awarded an ARSC Certificate of Merit in 2010 for a work of exceptional quality.
Michael lives in South-West France with his wife (the food writer Sarah Beattie) and a rescued Griffon Nivernais dog called Mavis.