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The Cinch Review

From the Complete Rolling Stone Interview: Following Up On Dylan & God (etc)

Bob Dylan Rolling Stone Interview God

The new issue of Rolling Stone containing the full interview with Bob Dylan by Mikal Gilmore has now hit the streets. It is a riot: a wildly entertaining romp, in my opinion, and well worth handing over a few of Caesar’s coins to the newsagent in order to read in full. To what extent it is more than merely entertaining is going to be a matter of debate. Dylan is capable of giving very thoughtful and sober interviews; you can dig out the books and read them. This one, by and large, didn’t turn out that way, I think, although it has a few moments, especially the interlude regarding the U.S. Civil War.

If you’ve read the whole interview, you’ll know that Dylan goes off on a big tangent about a notion of “transfiguration”: his own, somehow connected with the death of another, different Bobby Zimmerman in a motorcycle accident in the early 1960s (mentioned very briefly in Chronicles, page 79). Rolling Stone unabashedly makes this the centerpiece of the article, highlighting it in the intro as a story “much more transformational than he has fully revealed before,” etcetera, etcetera. Well, you be the judge. Personally I’ve never seen anything that is more clearly a riff, a lark, and big fat red herring. I mean, I have no doubt Bob was struck when he first read about that other Bobby Zimmerman who also liked motorcycles, but as to the rest of the meaning of it … let’s just say that if I’d been eating anything when I read it I would have joined young Bobby Zimmerman in the afterlife by now.

In any case, I started something with a previous post on Bob’s seemingly easy and offhand expression of faith in an early excerpt of the interview, and it behooves me to follow up on that subject. Specifically, that was when he was complaining about being called “Judas” for playing an electric guitar, and he remarked: “As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified.” Continue reading From the Complete Rolling Stone Interview: Following Up On Dylan & God (etc)

Bob Dylan Jesus Mofos

Bob Dylan: “I still believe in Jesus, mofos!”

Bob Dylan Jesus Mofos

Well, how could I be expected to resist a title like that?

When I first read the excerpt of Bob Dylan’s interview in Rolling Stone yesterday, I didn’t much remark on the line where he complains about being called “Judas” for playing an electric guitar, and then says: “As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified.” But naturally you don’t refer to Jesus as “our Lord” and speak in that way about him unless you believe in Jesus as “your” Lord. Hearing him speak in the language of a believer was, however, unsurprising to me: an awareness of God is throughout his songs, after all, and I’ve never been of the crew who insist he “rejected” his more particular belief in Christ; quite the contrary, in fact. Bob Dylan is a Jew, and he’s clearly very serious about his Jewishness, but he also clearly enough sees no conflict with that and his belief in Jesus. He’s not alone in this, but due to our various baggage and traditions, many of us can’t get our heads around that. Especially, people in the rock press have never been able to get their heads around the whole “religion thing,” and have concocted theory after theory to make themselves feel more comfortable. Dylan for his part has never given the impression he much gives a damn what anyone thinks; he has just plowed his course, a course that has included Jewish observances in the company of the Chabad Lubavitch folk, and recording a Christmas album that includes hymns of faith, sung with as much angelic devotion as his crusty vocal cords could muster. And there have been other indications, literally too numerous to mention, of a man serious about faith in the God of the Bible, both the Hebrew and the New Testament.

In the end, it’s his business. Some people pick up on it and some don’t. Yet, people continue to be curious. Many people go to Google and type in “Is Bob Dylan still a Christian?” and similar queries. I know because some of them happen to end up in my website statistics after doing so, because they hit upon something I wrote on the subject in the past. (Others have written plenty too.)

The curious thing about this Rolling Stone interview excerpt is that Dylan is talking about the “plagiarism” subject, and then seemingly out of the blue recalls being called “Judas” in the 1960s, and then just slips in what amounts to a profession of faith. Again:

These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me. Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you’ve been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified.

It’s sorta hilarious and somewhat typical that he does it in this indirect way. But nonetheless he is stating his faith in Jesus as “our Lord” and therefore “his” Lord—and also, by the way, his belief in the historicity of the gospels. (This is not unusual: it’s a belief common to most ordinary Americans, after all. What’s unusual is the endless analysis given to it in his case, because he is who he is.) Continue reading Bob Dylan: “I still believe in Jesus, mofos!”

The Cinch Review

Bob Dylan on the Cost of Slavery to America

There are more attention-getting quotes from the Rolling Stone interview with Bob Dylan (on newsstands on Friday). These are highlighted by the Associated Press. They say that Dylan describes America as shamed because it was “founded on the backs of slaves.” Further from the AP:

“people (are) at each other’s throats just because they are of a different color,” adding that “it will hold any nation back.” He also says blacks know that some whites “didn’t want to give up slavery.”

The 71-year-old Dylan said, “If slavery had been given up in a more peaceful way, America would be far ahead today.”

And asked if President Barack Obama was “helping to shift a change,” Dylan is quoted as saying: “I don’t have any opinion on that. You have to change your heart if you want to change.”

Although these quotes about slavery might set people off in various ways, I don’t see how you argue with Bob on it. He’s taking a long view, as he is wont to do. There’s a difference between America how we’d like to see it, and how it should be, versus how it is in practice. There are ingrained problems and fissures in American society that are easily traceable back to slavery and its consequences. Where you identify the problems might depend on who you are. Continue reading Bob Dylan on the Cost of Slavery to America

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“Wussies and pussies”: Dylan goes off in Rolling Stone interview

The forthcoming issue of Rolling Stone will have an interview with Bob Dylan, from which we already have seen excerpts, and there’s a new excerpt published today, where Dylan is asked what he thinks of critics who allege that he doesn’t cite his sources properly when he makes use of words from the works of others. Read it all (although be warned that it contains a rare bad word from Bob’s mouth—beyond the one related to cats—sometimes abbreviated as “mofos”).

But the gist of his response is this:

And as far as Henry Timrod [civil war-era poet —Ed] is concerned, have you even heard of him? Who’s been reading him lately? And who’s pushed him to the forefront? Who’s been making you read him? And ask his descendants what they think of the hoopla. And if you think it’s so easy to quote him and it can help your work, do it yourself and see how far you can get. Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff.

And he goes on:

These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me. Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you’ve been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified.

Well, it’s good that Mikal Gilmore asked Bob Dylan plainly about this, and got a plain answer. Anyone who thought Dylan wasn’t paying attention or wasn’t bugged by the criticism he’s received from various quarters on this subject now knows different. Continue reading “Wussies and pussies”: Dylan goes off in Rolling Stone interview

The Cinch Review

Bob Dylan in Rolling Stone on Tempest

Mikal Gilmore talked to Bob Dylan for Rolling Stone about his forthcoming album, Tempest.

I assume that what has been published is an excerpt of a longer interview that will be published later, but I don’t know that for a fact.

Dylan describes his own record as one where “anything goes and you just gotta believe it will make sense.” He also says:

I wanted to make something more religious. I just didn’t have enough [religious songs]. Intentionally, specifically religious songs is what I wanted to do. That takes a lot more concentration to pull that off 10 times with the same thread – than it does with a record like I ended up with.

That’s interesting, and also interesting is how he distinguishes “intentionally, specifically religious” songs from others that are presumably not so intentional and specific but still religious. I think we understand what he means.

The article includes some characterizations of certain songs offered by Mikal Gilmore, and some talk about the title track, which is the one long-rumored about the Titanic. Amusingly, Dylan finds a place within the fourteen-minute epic to mention Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s quoted: “Yeah, Leo. I don’t think the song would be the same without him. Or the movie.” Continue reading Bob Dylan in Rolling Stone on Tempest

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

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

20/20 Hindsight (Outtakes from Bob Dylan’s 1985 Interview on ABC TV)

In 1985 Bob Dylan did an interview for ABC’s 20/20 TV show. He was interviewed by Bob Brown. The broadcast segment was less than 15 minutes, and only about half of that was actual interview footage. Now, on YouTube (uploaded by the generous Dylan collector “rankflv”) are the outtakes from that interview. I’d actually seen these before, on a VHS tape, thanks to someone else’s generosity, but had never gotten around to doing anything about it. Now there’s no excuse. So, below are links to each of the seven segments on YouTube [UPDATE: The videos have been deleted from YouTube] along with transcriptions of some interesting snippets, and the odd comment from Yours Truly.

Bob Dylan on Empire Burlesque, the studio, song writing 1985:


Q: Are there any tracks that are your favorites on your new album, Empire Burlesque?

Dylan: I like that song “I’ll Remember You”, and um … I like ’em all really. That one stands out.

Q: For any particular reasons?

Dylan: Well, it stands out because I still feel exactly the same way as I did when I wrote it, and I figure I said what I had to say and I said it in a way that was very concise and very brief, and then it was over, y’know?

Q: All through your career, there have been tons of material written by people who don’t know you and who are either trying to figure out what you’re saying, or—I suppose worse—believing that they know what you’re saying and then writing about that. It must be strange to read those things or look at them and realize they’re writing about you.

Dylan: Yeah, sometimes they don’t—they write about me instead of what it is that I’m doing, y’know? But I don’t think it can be helped. I don’t think anybody can change it, that’s just the way people are.

Bob Dylan on “Dark Eyes”:


Q: There’s a line in Dark Eyes that says, I believe it’s: “I live in another world where life and death are memorized / Where the earth is strung with lovers’ pearls / And all I see are dark eyes.” It’s one that people have picked up on …

Dylan: It’s very simple—that line, I was thinking of changing that line. I wasn’t sure I was happy with it. But I wrote up the whole song so quickly that I just left it, and it seemed to sing right. A song like that, usually I’m not sure how effective it would be on paper, to read, y’know. The stuff I do you have to listen to, you have to hear it being sung. I’m not sure if it comes off on paper for somebody to read.

Q: That particular one does, actually I think you can read it visually and get a sensation from it.


Q: Did the line itself come—was there some literal meaning behind it—or do lines like that come to you from another direction?

Dylan: That whole song came from another direction. I just picked up my guitar and I started playing and that song just came right out.

Bob Dylan on “Clean Cut Kid” and Vietnam:


Dylan: … I know some guys that were in Vietnam, even today if you ask them why they fought there they don’t really know. They just went because they were asked to go or they were told to go. They don’t really know why they went, whereas usually in a war, if it’s a real war, every man, woman and child is in the army. There’s no getting away from that. If you’re attacked, if you’re in a war, that’s for keeps. Everybody’s a soldier in a war. It’s not like you can have a standing army and send them somewhere, y’know to fight somebody else’s battle.

If people don’t believe and know why they’re fighting, they can’t win.

Bob Dylan on the Messianic Kingdom, “Trust Yourself” and Myth:


Q: Some people have used the word “apocalyptic” to describe some of your songs […] is that a word that you’d use …?

Dylan: Apocalyptic. Yeah, I guess so. But apocalyptic is just the end of, of — what would come next would be the new beginning. So apocalyptic to me isn’t necessarily a negative type word.

Q: Do you think that there will be a new beginning, some kind of new beginning?

Dylan: Oh yeah, sure. I think this whole thing’s gotta end. Yeah.

Q: What would the new beginning be like?

Dylan: Well, there’s a Messianic kingdom that will be coming in. That will be — when it comes in. Some people say tomorrow. I don’t particularly think it’s gonna be tomorrow, but I believe it’s gonna happen.

Q: Do you have a guess as to when, or how?

Dylan: Yeah, I have a guess as to when. It’s just a guess as to when, but all the calendars look like it’s gonna be in two hundred years.

Q: The calendars … biblical calendars?

Dylan: Yeah, the calendar even we’re on now.


Q: There’s a song on your new album that’s called “Trust Yourself”, that some people have interpreted as essentially a message to people who’ve made a kind of myth out of you. Is that an accurate interpretation?

Dylan: A myth?

Q: That it’s a message to people to trust their own instincts and not to follow, not to put so much stock in …

Dylan: That’s pretty accurate, yeah.

Q: Did you write it with people in mind or […]?

Dylan: No, I didn’t have anybody specific in mind when I wrote that. I just felt like writing that particular type of song with an attitude like that. It might seem contradictory to some other songs I’ve written but if you listen to all the lyrics I don’t think it really is.

[Drudge Report headline tomorrow: Bob Dylan says the world will end in 2185.]

[It should be noted, related to the above comments, that this interview took place well after much conventional wisdom posited that Dylan had turned away from the beliefs expressed on what we call his gospel albums. The song “Trust Yourself,” in particular, was seen by some as Dylan’s repudiation of former songs that praised a God of time and space, and a God of the Bible. But it seems some listeners had missed the import of the line: “Don’t put your hope in ungodly man …”]

Bob Dylan on LiveAid & Sun City:


[Strangely, someone apparently associated with Little Steven’s Sun City project butts in during this segment to get a quote from Dylan, apparently to use in promoting that record.]

Q: […] Can you tell us why you would be involved in it and what you feel about the South African situation?

Dylan: I’ve never been in South Africa — I don’t know what the scene is there. A few whites rule over lots of blacks, I guess. So this is a record that Steven and Arthur [Ed: Arthur Baker, who had just worked on mixing Dylan’s new album] wrote, and sent it and I listened to it, and I’ll probably next week put some kind of thing on it. I haven’t listened that closely to the song. That’s all I know. Uh, want me to say something else?

Q: They asked me to ask you for something for something that they’re doing — they’re gonna try to do a little video about the making — they just wanna try and get a statement from each of the artists that they could use as part of the — y’know why artists are doing it, so I just want to try and get some — he asked me to see if I can get some positive statement from you about it.

Dylan: I don’t know why artists are doing it. I don’t know — I mean is money from the record going to go to South Africa or …?

Q: […] but it’s not for money, it’s mostly for awareness about the problem.

Dylan: I think everybody knows about the problem.

Q: It’s for artists to say that they’re not going to play there, that they’re going to stay away and not play in South Africa.

Dylan: OK. Well I don’t think any artists are going to be playing in Sun City. But a lot of artists have played Sun City.

Q: And you?

Dylan: No, I’ve never played Sun City—I’ve never been asked to play Sun City, but, uh, some artists have been asked to play Sun City and haven’t, and others have been asked to play and have.

Q: Uh —

Dylan: [smiling] I don’t know what the point is.

Q [Bob Brown interjects]: It sounds like with all this going on, that there’s a lot of pressure being Bob Dylan.

Dylan: I don’t feel the pressure of being Bob Dylan. I wish I could think of something relevant to say about it. I’m not quite sure of what the idea of the Sun City record is … [interjection off camera] yeah … because I heard the song and I called him and I said, “What do you want me to do on this?” It was full. It was full up. Y’know.

[You would think there could be no more, um, black and white issue for most people in 1985 than apartheid in South Africa. Yet, even on this issue (and we know full well where he stood on issues of racial oppression in the U.S.) Dylan is unwilling to just be a puppet and say what Little Steven and his cohorts want him to say, something along the lines of, “I think it’s grossly immoral of any artist to even think of playing Sun City while the oppression in South Africa continues.” He’s just not willing to accept someone else’s characterization of how simple the issue is — in this case the issue of playing at Sun City. He did end up contributing some vocalizing to the record, as he had agreed to do, but, judging from the above, it seems it was more about doing a favor for some friends (Little Steven and Arthur Baker) rather than making a big political statement.]

Bob Dylan on politics and social change:


Q: … I think a lot of people were inspired—if you want to use the word—to get involved in the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement as a result of having listened to you, and listened to your songs, like The Times They Are a-Changin’, songs like that.

Dylan: Yeah, possibly. I wrote that in early sixty-something though, so there again they might have picked up on it two or three years after it was done. Which—that happens with a lot of my stuff. But I’m not one to really say that this one affected this or this song affected that. I really don’t know. Once something gets done it’s just for whoever wants to pick it up, y’know. It’s hard to say what really causes anything to happen. I don’t know if a song can really do that but they say it might, I don’t know.

Q: Do you think there’s any hope at all for any political system that would appeal to you, that you would be happy with? [Ed: Now that’s some question.]

Dylan: I don’t think any political system, really. I’d be happy living under a king, really, if he was the right king. I mean, I don’t really think about systems …

Bob Dylan on names, the afterlife, and record sales:


Dylan [taking up after a break in the film] … I wouldn’t assume to know that. But, um … at a certain time, all the people from history will stand up. And, ah … I believe in the resurrection. And, ah, there are certain things, there is certain knowledge that I’m not sure it’s available right now on a mass level, maybe, sometime, because some of it is a little extreme—it might go against what a lot of people already think and what a lot of—which, a lot of what’s happening today throughout the world operates under something like a spiritual, religious order, but is actually happening more in terms of financial … it’s more like a financial empire. And, ah—[smiling] this is from what I can see, y’know—and has nothing really to do with spirituality or the next world or the soul, y’know, the trip that the soul’s on. Um, ah, I don’t know—we don’t have much—I could go deeper, but it’s more of a—I’m not sure how much of it I want to just state right out and say because I’m not sure how much it applies here. Um, then again you have to be very very sure of what you’re saying in this area because there’s so much—people believe so many different things and there’s a lot of wrong things you can say. But—uh [visibly giving up], I don’t know.

[People always wonder why Dylan doesn’t talk more, and more clearly, about his faith, especially in recent years. I think you’ve got more than a clue in that segment as to what he sees as the reasons for his reserve.]

. . .

The parts of the interview that were actually broadcast in the 20/20 show (which are not included in these outtakes) are also available on YouTube at [video since deleted]. (I had previously transcribed that interview here.)

. . .

Seeing it all together, it occurs me that Bob Brown actually did a pretty good job, didn’t he? Dylan is visibly very wary, but Brown — despite the occasional goofy question — has done his homework and comes across as both sensitive and intelligent, and draws Bob out quite a bit. Taken as a whole, in fact, with both the parts that were broadcast and the outtakes, I think this interview stands as one of the most strikingly revealing ones of Dylan’s career.

Bob Dylan’s 1985 interview on the ABC TV show 20/20

I believe the interviewer’s name is Bob Brown. I include the voice-over (v/o) statements of the show, in order to fairly provide the context of what was a highly edited segment on a magazine program, and also because assertions are sometimes made during the voice-overs that seem to refer to things that Dylan said during the interview, but which we are not shown on camera. I paragraphed parts just for readability’s sake.

Throughout, various footage was inserted by ABC; mainly musical clips. I only refer to them when it seems necessary for continuity’s sake. The entire segment was a little over 15 minutes. I’m confident about this transcription, which I made from a digitized file of the show which is in circulation amongst collectors, but if anyone thinks I mis-heard any words, do let me know.

So here it is:

Opening credits over the promotional video for "“When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky”."

ABC: Do your children have an idea of what you meant?

BD: I think so, on some kind of level, but, when I was growing up – say in the fifties – the thirties to me didn’t even exist. I couldn’t even imagine them in any kind of way, so I don’t expect anyone growing up now is gonna even understand what the sixties were all about, anymore than I could the thirties or twenties.

ABC v/o: Dylan’s lyrics summarized the times with enormous influence. For this 1969 appearance at England’s Isle Of Wight music festival, spectators included Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison of the Beatles. (footage rolls)

Voice of Kurt Loder: Well, the cliche is that he speaks for his generation, that he’s the voice of a generation, so (ABC v/o: Kurt Loder is a senior editor of Rolling Stone Magazine).

Kurt Loder continues: Popular music – popular culture – seemed to have no relationship to anything really human. Then you have Bob Dylan come along and he’s singing in this strange voice and this real loud rock’n’ roll and he’s actually talking about things, about how repressed everything is now, and how stifled people are, and you say "yeah, that’s exactly how I felt, why couldn’t I put it like that?" And that breakthrough is something that never be taken away from him and it’s really made a tradition of its own in pop music to communicate with people directly like that.

ABC v/o: Even when they were new, it seemed as if some of Dylan’s songs had been with us forever. Blowing In The Wind became an anthem of the civil rights’ movement. And like all balladeers, he wrote first person accounts of relationships, and the roads that they take. Among the generation that followed him, millions adopted The Times They Are A’ Changin’ as a manifesto to a system they protested. His lyrics were studied and analyzed as poetry. Fans waited for what he would say next – what he would do next. Hardcore supporters were sometimes outraged when he changed his music from folk to rock or rock to country. His rhymes, his reclusive life, his changing appearance, added to the mystery.

In 1979 Dylan took the most dramatic and controversial turn of his career: to born-again Christianity, reflected in songs like Shot Of Love, and performances with an evangelical fervor. He believes in the resurrection, he says, but he also delved intensely into his own religious heritage: Orthodox Judaism. Spiritual messages are still present in some of his music. But he has also returned to the popular mainstream: to Rock’n’Roll. Said one writer: "Any attempt to tie him down, musically or lyrically, is bound to fail."

BD: I used to think it’s better if you just live and die and no one knows who you are.

ABC v/o: From the beginning, Dylan, now 44 years old, has shied away from publicity, granting few print interviews, never agreeing to television network news interview until now. We spoke with him on a hillside, and on his estate in Malibu, California, where the wind blew in from the Pacific, just below his house. Because the mythology surrounding Dylan has been so embroiled in change and controversy, it was interesting to find him low-key, cordial, soft-spoken.

ABC: Depending on how your music has evolved, there have been people who’ve actually got angry, because they felt it had changed. Did that ever bother you?

BD: Well, it’s always disappointing, you know, when people decide for one reason or another that they don’t like your work anymore, but uh, you know, it’s just one of those things. You can’t try to please people in that kinda way, because then you’re just going to be doing – you’ll never live it down, y’know it’ll always be dogging you around – you might be being a fake about the whole thing.

ABC: So it’s sort of a no-win situation, I guess …?

BD: It’s not important what other people call you. If you yourself know you’re a fake, that’s tougher to live with.

ABC: Is "protest song" an accurate description of some of the things you were doing?

BD: Yeah. Um, I guess so, but the real protest songs were written mainly in the thirties and forties – "Which Side Are You On," mining type songs, union kind of songs – that’s where the protest movement developed from. There’s still a strain of that type of thing in what I do – it’s just more broad now. (dog barks in background)

ABC: Do you view the lyrics that you write as poetry?

(apparent cut, then:) BD: I always felt the need for that type of rhyme to say any type of thing that you wanted to say, but then again, I don’t know if I call myself a poet or not. I would like to, but I’m not really qualified, I think, to make that decision, because I come in on such a back door, that I don’t know what a, y’know, a Robert Frost or a Keats or a T.S. Eliot would really think of my stuff. (another apparent cut, then:) It’s more of a visual type of thing for me. I can picture the color of the song, or the shape of it, or who it is that I’m trying to appeal to, in the song, and what I’m trying to, almost, reinforce my feelings for. And um, I know that sounds sort of vague and abstract, but I’ve got a handle on it when I’m doing it.

ABC v/o: He first began to attact notice in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1961 when he performed at a place called "Gerde’s Folk City." In those early years, he was developing a style of phrasing his lyrics that would become a Dylan trademark.

Listen for the emphasis he places on the syllables in his lines – then for the way he strings out the sounds in a phrase, almost reciting them (followed by a clip of Dylan singing "To Ramona" in the early 1960s).

BD: The phrasing I stumbled into. Some of the old folk singers used to phrase things in an interesting way, and then, I got my style from seeing a lot of outdoor-type poets, who would recite their poetry. When you don’t have a guitar, you recite things differently, and there used to be quite a few poets in the jazz clubs, who would recite with a different type of attitude.

ABC v/o: Among those poets: Allen Ginsburg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, two of Dylan’s friends. Listen to this recording of Ferlinghetti, and you can hear a strong resemblance to the style Dylan developed (followed by clip of Ferlinghetti reciting his poetry, which is turn followed by a clip of Dylan singing "Hard Rain" from the 1970s’ Rolling Thunder tour).

ABC v/o continues:

This vision of a nuclear apocalypse, A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall, began as folk ballad Dylan wrote during the Cuban missile crisis.

Although Dylan has made powerful protest statements, and people have expected him to speak out for change, he has personal doubts about how politically effective those statements can be.

BD (joined in mid-statement): No, people can change things and make a difference. Uh, there’s a lot of false prophets around though, and that’s the trouble. People say they think they know what’s right and other people get people to follow them because they have a certain type of charisma, and there’s always people willing to take over, y’know, people want a leader. And y’know, there will be more and more of them.

ABC: There have been times when born-again Christianity, Orthodox Judaism, both those were important to you?

BD: Yeah.

ABC: Or is it a broader thing for you?

BD: No. I want to figure out what’s happening, you know? And ah, so I did look into it all.

ABC: Did it make life easier?

BD: Not necessarily.

ABC: Did it make it clearer?

BD: Definitely made it clearer. (apparent cut, then:) This is a place where you have to work certain things out.

ABC: What is it you do have to work out?

BD: Well, you have to work out where your place is. And who you are. But we’re all spirit. That’s all we are, we’re just walking dressed up in a suit of skin, and we’re going to leave that behind.

ABC v/o: Dylan says he believes there will be a new beginning, a Messianic Kingdom eventually. In these times through his music, he continues to add his voice to the causes that artists in the ’80s are taking up with their songs. Most recently, Dylan sang on an anti-apartheid record called, "Sun City."

It features a collection of artists protesting policies in South Africa, dubbed together this month in a New York recording studio. Dylan was also one of the unmistakable voices on the "We Are The World" recording for African famine relief. Producer Quincy Jones wanted a sample of Dylan’s unique phrasing, and when there was some question as to exactly what Jones was after, Dylan fan Stevie Wonder sat at a piano to coach Dylan’s reading.

Stevie Wonder in interview clip: So I was basically saying to him, hey, I have a love and respect for you, and more so to just loosen the situation up. Which it did, ‘cos he did an incredible job.

ABC: How did you phrase the line for him?

Stevie Wonder: It’s almost like kind of the minister poet. It’s very unique.

(Followed by clip of Wonder singing at his keyboard and apparently imitating Dylan, in turn followed by clip of Dylan singing his phrase from the USA For Africa record.)

ABC v/o: Dylan supported the cause for African famine relief, but not without a kind of spiritual fatalism about it.

BD: People buying a song and the money going to starving people in Africa is, you know, a worthwhile idea, but I wasn’t so convinced about the message of the song, to tell you the truth. I don’t think people can save themselves, y’know.

ABC: Save themselves, in any sorta …?

BD: Yeah, I just don’t, I don’t agree with that type of thing.*

ABC v/o: But there’s still a sense of immediacy in Dylan’s approach to problems. He provided the inspiration for this artists’ benefit, Farm Aid, when he suggested at the Live Aid famine relief concert that some of the money raised should go to farmers (clip of Farm Aid is playing).

Although people still search for meanings in his songs, the message in one of his newest is simply, "Trust Yourself."

And almost as if to deflate the myths made out of him, Dylan’s lyrics also read, "Don’t trust me to show you the truth."

BD: I like the fans, but I don’t feel an obligation that I have to be an example to them, like say maybe a baseball player would, or a football player or maybe some other type of musicians. I don’t feel I have to really set an example that somebody else has to live up to.

ABC: What kind of beliefs do you have in yourself to write the kinds of songs you write?

BD: Ahh, not really a belief. I have very little belief in myself to do anything. I just pull it off, y’know, and it’s amazing to me that I do.

ABC v/o: At the end of the summer, before the Farm Aid concert, Dylan was on an empty motion picture soundstage, for a rehearsal that at times turned into a kind of jam session with a popular rock band called Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers. When the other musicians took a break, we asked Dylan if he’d do one of his older songs – whatever song he chose. He thought for a moment, and then, this artist who has both angered and inspired his followers, whose doubts may go hand-in-hand with his convictions, chose a song from 1974 that was a kind of prayer when he first recorded it. He was joined unrehearsed by the keyboardist and vocal group. The song is "Forever Young." (followed by Dylan playing electric guitar and singing a part of that song with his backing singers, which is the end of the piece).



*Note: The line Dylan sang in that Jackson/Richie composition was: "There’s a choice we’re making, we’re saving our own lives /It’s true we make a better day, just you and me." More on that subject here.

Some thoughts on the interview:

I think this interview is significant for a few reasons. It was Dylan’s first ever proper television interview, and the only one he has done to date other than December 2004’s interview with Ed Bradley for CBS’s “60 Minutes.” Indeed, that show was promoted as Dylan’s “first TV interview in 20 years.” This is the previous interview to which they were referring.

Like the “60 Minutes” segment, it’s disappointing in its brevity (15 minutes, much of which is old footage being played) and the relative lack of knowledge of the interviewer. Nevertheless, it probably is more substantive than Ed Bradley’s piece, in that Dylan appears less wary of and/or hostile to the interviewer, and some fairly significant topics are touched upon.

Especially interesting to me are some things mentioned in the voice-over, where the ABC newsman seems to be referring to things which Dylan said during their discussion, but which are not actually seen during the part of the interview which is aired. E.g.:

“He believes in the resurrection, he says, but he also delved intensely into his own religious heritage: Orthodox Judaism.”


“Dylan says he believes there will be a new beginning, a Messianic Kingdom eventually.”

Bear in mind that this was in 1985, and some argued (and some inexplicably still argue) that Dylan had shed his belief in Jesus Christ after 1981’s Shot of Love album like some kind of worn-out fad. It’s clear enough to people who have ears to hear that this wasn’t the case, but anyhow, here apparently was an example of Dylan going on-the-record both about Christ, and about his simultaneous acceptance of his own Jewishness—but ABC just choosing not to make that part of the on-air interview.

What else to say? There’s the bit about the “We Are The World” record and Live-Aid concert, which I already wrote about here. There is the direct question about whether Dylan considers his own work to be “poetry,” and his rather straightforward and quite humble response. This, by the way, is a part of the interview that appears to be significantly edited. What a shame—and one wonders what else was left on the cutting-room floor, and even now may be in a can somewhere at ABC.*

Y’know, it’s funny – on these two occasions that Dylan did a TV interview, much was made of the idea that he’s some kind of hermit or recluse (far from true, considering all of the print interviews he’s done) and what a big occasion this was as a result. Yet, in both instances, they ended up taking a few brief clips from apparently longer interviews and filling up the rest of a mere quarter-hour segment with old footage and editorializing.

Kinda sums it up, doesn’t it? That is, it sums up the mainstream media’s attitude to Dylan through the years. “We want you Bob! Tell us what you think, talk to us.” Then when he does, it’s, “Well, OK, that’s not we expected. We’ll use a little bit of that but mainly we’ll just continue telling people what we think you’re about.”

What was it you wanted
You can tell me, I’m back,
We can start it all over
Get it back on the track,
You got my attention,
Go ahead, speak.
What was it you wanted
When you were kissing my cheek?

* 07/06/2005 09:36:40 am: Someone who is much better informed than I tells me that there are outtakes from this interview in circulation. So, down the road we may revisit this …

July 2007 update: And click here to see my notes on the fascinating outtakes from this interview.