My Photo

the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

Follow 1michaelgray1 on Twitter

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Today is the 74th birthday of one of the authors of the first book on Bob Dylan (songbooks aside): Barbara Ribakove, as was. The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia entry on the authors and their book goes like this:

Sy Ribakove and Barbara Joan Mayer, now Barbara Ribakove Gordon, were born in New York on February 28, 1928 and November 21, 1932 respectively. They wrote the first book on Bob Dylan, the ‘quickie’ Folk Rock: The Bob Dylan Story, in 1966.

It may seem odd now that 1966 was the first year to see such a thing in print, but this was an era in which neither publishers nor the mainstream media were much concerned with ‘pop music’. In 1964 Douglas R. Gilbert’s photographs of a fresh-faced young Dylan, looking, in retrospect, rather neat and short-haired, were rejected by the heavyweight New York magazine Look, which had commissioned them, on the grounds that Dylan was ‘too scruffy for a family magazine’.

Barbara recalls: ‘Sy and I were given…four weeks in which to write the Bob Dylan book. We had never heard of him, but immediately bought all his records and played them night and day while researching and writing the book. Sy’s musicianship was very important to this work; he holds two degrees from Juilliard. We made the deadline.’ Sy adds: ‘We were forbidden to contact Bob Dylan or quote his lyrics… [and] couldn’t have done the book without the generous material in…the daybook provided us by Izzy Young.’

The book was published by Dell as a small-size 124-page paperback with 16 pages of photographs; it mixed biography with a rudimentary discography and a semi-musicological description of the transitional albums from folk to rock. A Japanese translation continued to sell in Japan for some years.

The Ribakoves, who enjoyed a 23-year marriage and collaboration on writing magazine articles, and in 1974 wrote one other ‘quickie’ book (Sy’s own term), The Nifty Fifties: The Happy Years, went their separate ways in the late 1970s.
Sy, now aged 78 and long retired, has played and taught piano professionally, been President of the Rockland Music Teachers Guild and President of the Hospice of Rockland in New City, NY.

Barbara was Senior Editor of the now-defunct Health Magazine and won an award for journalistic writing on hypertension in 1985. In 1981 she went to Ethiopia with the first American mission to Jewish villages, defying the Ethiopian government’s order not to make contacts with villagers; in 1982 she co-founded the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry and in 1991, during a temporary armistice between warring factions, sheh took part in Operation Solomon, airlifting over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

[Sy & Barbara Ribakove: Folk Rock: The Bob Dylan Story, New York: Dell, 1966; The Nifty Fifties: The Happy Years, New York: Award Books, 1974. Quotes, e-mails to this writer from Barbara Ribakove Gordon and from Sy Ribakove, 1 Feb 2006.]


Post a Comment

<< Home