Bob Dylan may need more than one cup of coffee for the road in 2005: The sixty-three-year-old legend’s schedule includes a spring tour with country veteran Merle Haggard, a possible repeat of last summer’s outing with Willie Nelson, the paperback release of his best-selling memoir, Chronicles: Volume One, and a Martin Scorsese-helmed documentary.
First up is the two-month-long tour with Haggard, beginning March 7th in Seattle. The country singer-songwriter’s 1969 hit “Okie From Muskogee” (“We don’t burn no draft cards down on Main Street”) assailed the counterculture that claimed Dylan as a leader. But the sixty-seven-year-old Haggard says he’s “as big a Bob Dylan fan as anybody. I haven’t been a show opener for years, and I wouldn’t open for just anybody. But I’m honored to do it for Bob. There’s a lot of similarities between us: We both play guitar, we both live in America and we’re both probably better songwriters than we are singers.”
Haggard says he hasn’t yet bought a copy of Chronicles, but more than 500,000 others have. “It’s an enormous success – one of the best-selling memoirs of the year,” says David Rosenthal, executive vice president of the book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster. “Everything about this book has exceeded our expectations.” Chronicles was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, with a winner to be announced on March 18th. (Another date to watch: Pulitzer Prize nominees are unveiled on April 4th.) A paperback version is due in October. Simon & Schuster also plans to publish Chronicles: Volume Two, but don’t expect Dylan to deliver a manuscript anytime soon. “It’d be wonderful to have it in the next few years,” says Rosenthal. “But we’ll get it when we get it.”
The excavation of Dylan’s past will continue in Scorsese’s two-part documentary, No Direction Home, due to air on PBS in September, followed by a DVD release. The three-and-a-half-hour film will draw from ten hours of taped Dylan interviews, conducted by his manager, Jeff Rosen. Using previously unseen footage from Dylan’s archives, the movie will reportedly focus on the start of his career, from 1961 to 1966. “It’s nonfiction – maybe,” Scorsese said in January. “With Bob Dylan, you never know.”
A two-CD collection of outtakes and live recordings used in the film is tentatively set for an August 16th release, as the seventh volume in Dylan’s Bootleg Series. The documentary will also spawn the Bob Dylan Scrapbook, which will include Dylan artifacts such as lyric sheets and contracts.
Meanwhile, Dylan is in the early stages of planning a second tour with Nelson. As for a new studio album, Dylan told Rolling Stone in October that he has “a bunch” of new songs written and that he hoped to record them “sometime in the beginning of the year.”
This story is from the March 10, 2005 issue of Rolling Stone.