On the Off-Ramp to Weirdness City with “The Philosophy of Modern Song”

Fred Bals
18 min readDec 11, 2022

This one is for Sonny Webster, Ben Rollins, Nina Fitzgerald-Washington, Lester Hawkins, and all the gang at Elmo’s.

“Being a writer is not something one chooses to do. It’s something you just do and sometimes people stop and notice.” ~ Bob Dylan

The Holy Trinity

“There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”

The ghost of Elvis Presley haunts Bob Dylan’s “The Philosophy of Modern Song.” If you count the chapter featuring his namesake, the word “Elvis” appears 57 times in “Philosophy.” The King himself claims 47 of those mentions. In comparison, the next closest contender is Frank Sinatra, whose name Dylan invokes a mere 15 times.

The frontispiece of “Philosophy” features Presley — or a Presley look-a-like — in a Memphis record shop contemplating “Here’s Little Richard,” a long-playing album which includes both “Tutti-Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally.”

“A Tribute to James Dean,” a quickie exploitation LP of instrumental selections from Dean’s three movies issued after his death, can be seen directly under Little Richard’s album.



Fred Bals

Corporate Storyteller. Tech enthusiast. Mini Cooper fanboy. One-time chronicler of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour. Husband of Peggy. Human of Lily Rose.