Bizarre alleged “interview” with Bob Dylan in The Hindu (Indian newspaper)

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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!

13 Replies to “Bizarre alleged “interview” with Bob Dylan in The Hindu (Indian newspaper)”

  1. I wish The Hindu had referred to more of Dylan’s fine songs. A few of my favorites:

    Ballad of a Svelte Dullard

    Stuck Inside Alabama (Hollering the Tennessee Blues Again)

    Joke-telling Man

    You Must Serve God or the Devil

    I Intend to Change My Habits of Thought

  2. That’s right! And I wish they’d asked him about his great album “Charity and Stealing”.

    This so called interview is the most absurd thing on Dylan I’ve ever seen published and that’s saying something!

  3. It’s been a long time, but I spent several months in India many years ago and I recall The Hindu having been an English language newspaper, so translation would not have been an issue. There are differences between “Indlish” and other forms of English, though.

  4. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Dylan felt that way about Paul Robeson. According to Jackie Alper, Dylan spent quite a bit of time listening to Paul Robeson records when he visited their home for a week in 1962.

  5. Compare with this “interview” with Robert De Niro by the same writer.

    Best ridiculous quote from De Niro:
    He is keen to visit India and is fond of the versatile Naseeruddin Shah, the gorgeous Dimple Kapadia and the dashing Sushmita Sen for whom he has lot of affection. And he signs off, “I met actor-director Satish Kaushik whom I found an interesting personality but I am eager to visit the residence of Satyajit Ray who fondly called me an actor of solid substance. After all Hollywood is yet to create an ‘Apu’ Trilogy or a ‘Charulata’.”

  6. Oh I know Bob would love this. He would thoroughly enjoy it, I hope he reads it.
    It’s absolutely hilarious.

    A Jewish Fundamentalistic Born-Again Christian turned Maoist Communist.
    Or the other way ’round?

    Just what we want.
    AHAHAHAHAHA, Give the Anarchist a cigarette!

  7. Appalled by the racism.What is pidgin? So all anti-establishment is commie?

  8. @padmanab: There’s been no racism, either in intent or in substance. “Pidgin” describes a simplified language, defined by Websters dictionary here:

    It may not be the most accurate way of describing the language attributed to Dylan in the article, but the intended point is that his alleged quotes sound like a bad translation of English.

    Secondly, “all anti-establishment” is certainly not “commie” but an endorsement of Mao’s Communist revolution in China — which resulted in the deaths of millions — is definitely very commie.

  9. A totally new form of journalism. Why bother with quotes taken out of context when you can create your own reality. Or as Paul Robeson told me over breakfast this morning (he’s a frequent house guest) “I taught Frank Gehry everything he knows when I showed him my drawings of the Sydney Opera House. Architecture has’t been the same since, and neither has modern dance.”

  10. to richard wells:

    you must mean Paul Robeson Jr. because Paul Sr. died in 1976.

    many people are ignorant of Paul Robeson and the tremendous influence he had in the years just before Dylan’s emergence. He was a giant in 20th century culture.

  11. @Bill: I think everyone could believe that Dylan would respect Robeson on some level, but that doesn’t make the “Hindu” article any less fantastic.

  12. Sean,

    You may know and respect Robeson, but it is a shame that more Dylan fans are not as open-minded about other artists as Dylan himself. I think most people who think of themselves as Dylan fans, and even most Dylan fanatics, have no idea, or only a very sketchy idea of who Paul Robeson was.

    It may be possible that Robeson actually communicated with Dylan, or a second-hand message was delivered, in 1965 or 66, though Robeson was retired from all public contact. It makes total sense that Robeson found something very special in Maggie’s Farm – the song was a perfect match for the man who sang “I must keep fightin’ until I’m dyin'”

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