Bob Dylan's 1970 album Self Portrait was so derided upon its initial release that Rolling Stone critic Greil Marcus opened his review with a simple question: "What is this shit?" Now, 43 years later, Rolling Stone is revisiting the time period around Self Portait — and some of Dylan's most misunderstood music ever — with a cover story by Mikal Gilmore probing why Dylan burned down his career at the peak of his fame to save himself.
With the help of Dylan's new box set Another Self Portrait — which presents raw, unvarnished tapes from the Self Portrait sessions — Gilmore traces Dylan's creative journey from his motorcycle accident in 1966 through his return to the pop charts in 1973 with "Knockin' On Heaven's Door."
Focusing on the largely untold story of Self Portrait's creation, the cover story features new interviews with Dylan collaborators Al Kooper, David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, David Bromberg and Happy Traum. "I thought it was strange, strange, strange," says Kooper of Self Portrait, which consists mainly of cover songs. "Why is the Shakespeare of songwriting doing other people's songs? And why is he doing all these old folk songs? What's going on?"
Look for the issue on stands and in the iTunes App Store this Friday, August 30th.
This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone: On the Cover: Bob Dylan's Lost Years