Well, this doesn’t happen every day. One gets used to seeing Bob Dylan quoted badly out of context, or seeing “hearsay” quotes where some nameless person allegedly heard Dylan say something. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a completely fabricated interview before. Yet, that’s what we appear to be dealing with today in The Hindu, an English-language newspaper in India. Link here, extracts below:
“Protests need not always come out on the streets or shooting with the gun,” says Bob Dylan, the folk icon, as he answers a long distance call from California. “I appreciate and admire the folklore of this glorious sub continent that has one of the richest cultural heritages.” Last month saw his first performance in China, where he was earlier forbidden or never invited.
Speaking of his China tour, Bob Dylan grows excited. “This was the concert of a lifetime. I admired the Red Revolution and China is a nation to look up to.
Elaborating on folk songs, Bob Dylan states, “A country or folk song is very different from a popular one. If the lyrics do not have the essence of the birth place’s soil, wind and waters, it is not a folk song at all.”
Songs like Blowin’ in the Wind, The times they are a Changin’ and albums like “Things Must Pass” and “No Direction Home” are legendary favourites. Yet, he confesses, “My personal favourite is I will be working in Maggie’s farm no more. Through this I brought out the plight of a deprived and exploited peasant in the American countryside who was ignored by Hollywood and the world. This song, I feel, is the hymn of farmers and peasants through the globe. Even Paul Robeson complimented me for my creation.”
Of the current synthetic genre of music, Dylan says, “Synthetic music requires more heart than craft to be everlasting. But the majority of numbers don’t appeal permanently as they lack simple emotions.” What did he think of the Beatles? “Their lyrics are said to be as popular as the Bible. They even outclassed their predecessors, Rolling Stones. Though I do not think along the same lines of all their songs, I must admit some of them like Yellow submarine, Michelle and I wanna hold your hand are fabulous. A second Beatles can never be born.”
Bob Dylan confesses, “The greatest singer to musically convey the voice of people the world over is Paul Robeson. Sometimes I feel like a motherless Child is an evergreen number. The resonance in his voice is incomparable. Pete Seeager also was very effective in Where have all the flowers gone. I would be biased if I do not mention Dalia Lave, the greatest revolutionary female singer, who oozed emotions in her famous number My world can be yours.”
The poetry of Dylan Thomas is the Bible for Bob Dylan, who feels that a combination of guitar, bass, drums and piano accompanied occasionally with horn sections and violins can create magical effects.
Recollecting his joint performance and appearance with George Harrison for his Bangladesh concert in 1971, Bob Dylan states, “I was determined to musically greet the survivors of a bloody battle and convey my musical condolences to those noble souls who lost their lives to liberate their nation. George Harrison was on an objective mission and how could I not support his cause?”
According to him, the content of a song is best with imagination and protest against all forms of despotism and wrongdoing.
He signs off, “The U.S. may be a super power but not all the wars it has fought are just; nor are all its policies. I am a writer, singer and musician and my protests are conveyed through my music.” [Bolding added by me.]
And if you believe Bob Dylan said that stuff, then I have some prime real estate in North Korea to sell to you. The whole thing is in pidgin English, so at first it’s natural to wonder whether it’s just a very bad translation of things Bob might actually have said … but, no.
The article is credited to Ranjan Dasgupta. The question is: What’s the motivation behind this, aside from obviously trying to portray Bob Dylan as a hard-line communist? Has the newspaper been duped by a con artist, or has the journalist himself been duped? I’m kind of intrigued by all the references to Paul Robeson. The whole thing is rather hilarious, really.
I’m emailing the editor – if I get a response I’ll follow up.
Addendum 5/29/2011: No response, to me at least, from anyone at “The Hindu.” This morning Expecting Rain linked to the interview but with this note from KEA: “I call this fiction!” Some on messageboards argue that the strangeness is just due to the content having obviously being translated from Hindi (or another language) into English, but that simply doesn’t explain some of the more bizarre remarks. Is it conceivable that there was some kind of real interview with Dylan but it has been garbled and distorted and mixed up so much that this is the end result? Anything is conceivable. But at this point I continue to presume that someone has been conned …
Addendum 5/30/2011: Some are still wondering about the translation issue. I don’t think it’s open to question that the “quotes” from Dylan have been translated from another language, presumably Hindi, to English. Why his original answers in English would have been translated in the first place is a good question, especially as “The Hindu” is an English-language newspaper, but by itself it doesn’t prove whether the interview is genuine or not. (And then there’s always the possibility that Bob learned Hindi over his long winter break this year and was willing to do the interview in that language.)
There’s a lot in the interview that could be a garbled and distorted version of things Dylan might say. However, right at the beginning is his alleged endorsement of Mao’s Communist revolution: “I admired the Red Revolution and China is a nation to look up to.” This is so egregious, and so seemingly designed to fit someone else’s political agenda that it colors one’s view of everything that follows. Add in various gross factual errors by the writer of the article and it’s hard not to see the whole thing as a joke or a scam. Yet, down the road, other journalists and writers are no doubt going to refer back to quotes in this article as if they represent things Dylan actually said. Surely this cries out for a definitive “clarification” from someone in the know … please!