5 Revelations From Bob Dylan’s Rolling Stone Cover Story

Author: Steve Wiseman

This week’s Rolling Stone finds Bob Dylan giving a rare interview – and boy is it a doozy.

The whole thing, a cover story, reads like a chess match between Dylan and the writer Mikal Gilmore, a 1960s scholar and long-time RS writer. In between Dylan’s difficult moments (there are many, unsurprisingly), he drops some revelations about himself, which may or may not be true depending on how much you know about Dylan’s history of misleading reporters. We present five passages that shocked us.

1. People often talk about how Bob Dylan changed following his 1966 motorcycle accident – his music was different, his vibe was different, his voice was even a little different. Dylan, real name Robert Zimmerman, explains by saying that accident spurred his transfiguration (in reference to Jesus’ transformation from a physical to spiritual entity in the New Testament). Upon reading a book about the Hells Angels, he realized he was transfigured in conjunction with a man sharing his name – Bobby Zimmerman, the president of the San Fernando chapter of the Hells Angels – who also got into a motorcycle accident in the 1960s and died. And thus, this is why Dylan can’t explain some stuff from his past – that person is “long dead.”

2. Firing back at those who’ve accused him of lyrical plagiarism of various authors, he first notes that quotation is fair game in folk and jazz tradition (agreeing with the interviewer, really), then questions the relevancy of the writers he’s quoted (they’re relevant if you’re listening, Bob), then just goes in for the kill. On his critics: “Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff. It’s an old thing – it’s part of the tradition. It goes way back. 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. All those evil motherf**kers can rot in hell.

3. This comment pretty much explains itself, but, for context – the topic of slavery came up in the midst of an intense conversation about the Civil War. “This country is too f**ked up about color. It’s a distraction. People at each others’ throats just because they are of a different color. It’s the height of insanity and it will hold any nation back – or any neighborhood back. Or anything back. Blacks know that some whites didn’t want to give up slavery – that is they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can’t pretend they don’t know that. If you’ve got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood. It’s doubtful that America’s ever going to get rid of that stigmatization. It’s a country formed on the backs of slaves. …. If slavery had been given up in a more peaceful way, America would be far ahead today.”

4. While it was previously reported that Dylan signed a six-book, eight-figure deal with a major publisher, there’s a bit of new news about a follow-up to Dylan’s 2004 memoir, Chronicles: Volume I. He was reportedly working on two sequels – Vol. II and III – that he’s hoping will actually happen. This time, though, let’s get Bob a better editor, k? “I’m always working on parts of it. But the last Chronicles I did all myself. I’m not even really so sure I had a proper editor for that. I don’t want really to say too much about that. But it’s a lot of work. I don’t mind writing it, but it’s the rereading it and the time it takes to reread it – that for me is difficult.”

5. Wait, does Bob Dylan not vote? He retorts the question with an “uh…” then a vague answer about how he respects the voting process. Let’s be real – he probably votes. But don’t get him started on the president, whom he doesn’t really know but thinks is “a good dresser”  and “personable,” and “loves music.” Clearly, these are the things Dylan values in political leaders.

– Jillian Mapes, CBS Local; provided cover photo

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