On China: Bob Dylan speaks

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Just when you think you’ve seen everything, the truly unbelievable happens. Bob Dylan has actually responded to a controversy that others ginned up about him! The statement on his website is titled: “To my fans and followers.”

I’ll copy some of it here, but I will pause to crow a little bit. Those of us who were extremely dubious that Dylan was in fact playing from a censored set list have been utterly vindicated. (Of-course some will argue Dylan is lying, but those will generally be people who are still on the hunt for Bin Laden.) He states that all he did in response to Chinese requests to know what he would play was send them “the set lists from the previous 3 months.” He received no instructions whatsoever about censoring songs: “and we played all the songs that we intended to play.”

He is not only taking on this year’s controversy, but also last year’s news, wherein it was stated far and wide in the press that the Chinese had “banned” him from doing shows. It never happened, and he never intended to play there in 2010. He blames a frustrated promoter for making up that story. A little more crowing: That was pretty much what I suggested had actually happened at the time. (Based not on any insider knowledge; just my ongoing research into human nature.)

There’s much more in the statement that’s enlightening and/or amusing, so read it. The bit I’m quoting is where Bob takes the time to sock it to the press about the nature of the audiences in China:

According to Mojo magazine the concerts were attended mostly by ex-pats and there were a lot of empty seats. Not true. If anybody wants to check with any of the concert-goers they will see that it was mostly Chinese young people that came. Very few ex-pats if any. The ex-pats were mostly in Hong Kong not Beijing. Out of 13,000 seats we sold about 12,000 of them, and the rest of the tickets were given away to orphanages. The Chinese press did tout me as a sixties icon, however, and posted my picture all over the place with Joan Baez, Che Guevara, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. The concert attendees probably wouldn’t have known about any of those people. Regardless, they responded enthusiastically to the songs on my last 4 or 5 records. Ask anyone who was there. They were young and my feeling was that they wouldn’t have known my early songs anyway.

What can you say? I’d just like to welcome Bob to the world of blogging. An excellent first post.

12 Replies to “On China: Bob Dylan speaks”

  1. You didn’t even mention the very last part of Dylan’s message, which now gives you complete carte blanche if you’ve ever wanted to write a book about him. At least he’s got a sense of humor about it all.

  2. You are proof that a common sense approach to all-things-Dylan is possible…and as it turns out, fully supported by Uncle Bobby himself. Great work, as always, Sean!

  3. “the names of the songs that I would be playing. There’s no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists”

    Love that logic!

  4. It is an amazing moment — mainly because it seems so uncharacteristic of Dylan to actually respond to some nonsense that got printed about him. I hope it’s the norm from now on! I have to admit I read and reread the piece, and double-checked the URL, and wondered if it was some kind of hoax for a little while — like when Van Morrison “announced” he’d fathered an out of wedlock child on his website.

    I doubt that the NY Times will make any correction, as it was an allegation in an opinion piece by Maureen Dowd. And she’s so used to being wrong that she probably doesn’t care. But there are a lot of newspapers who printed misleading “news” items about the supposed censorship. They ought to issue corrections – but I don’t think we should hold our breath. At least Dylan has put something out there for responsible historians.

  5. Oh, and the thing on all the books being written about him is such a hilarious non sequitur. It’s also a way of saying, “I allow all this stuff to go on without suing anyone, because I figure it all evens out in the end.” Or something like that. Which has clearly been his attitude in practice for some time …

  6. Bob should make it a monthly thing at least. “Here are the corrections for June …” etc etc.

  7. Sean, you should crow a bit more . . . I believe you wrote that Dylan sould comment somewhere, didn’t you?

    The NY Times didn’t mention Down by name, but did link to her article (you’d really have to look for it )- The word “much” in the first paragraph.

    i was wondering if they would “censor” my comment, but i’m there, at #5

    Keep up the good work!

  8. Praise for Bob’s nonsequitur! I suppose he’s taking his upcoming 70th birthday in stride, knowing that would-be writers will try to capitalize on the event. But, I dread thinking of the books that will come out upon his demise….I can hardly think about that…World Gone Wrong Without Bob In It!

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