04/25/2012 12:16 pm ET Updated Jun 25, 2012

The Many Faces of Bob Dylan (PHOTOS)

If you put the various Dylans over the last 50 years in a row--from earnest folknik of 1962 to the current Vincent Price Fall-of-the-House-of-Usher Dylan--the witness behind the one-way mirror would object that these perps have nothing in common. I mean who are all these guys? Oh, well, you'd have to say, it's a sort of Desolation Row type police lineup.

Bob Dylan, like any genuine American genius is a chameleon. His solution to the question of identity is that of the three-card monte player. Pick a card. Nope, not that one. Sorry, no, not that one either.

To understand as wildly eccentric and inventive a character as Dylan you have to take his self-mythologizing, tall-tale spinning, perverse statements, contrary points of view as seriously as the so- called facts of his life. What other approach would be appropriate to a character who believes he was born in the grooves of a 78 record, and has spent his life--imaginary and actual--dealing with the gap between the two?

David Dalton is the author of Who Is That Man? In Search of the Real Bob Dylan.