Bob Dylan as Filmmaker: 'I'm Sure of My Dream Self. I Live in My Dreams'

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What is "Idiot Wind"?
It's a little bit of both because it uses all the textures of strict philosophy, but basically it's a shattered philosophy that doesn't have a title, and it's driven across with will power. Will power is what you're responding to.

In your film you show a bearded poet in Hasidic garb who speaks in an Irish brogue and carries a gun. He tells us that he doesn't care about being fast but about being accurate. Is that how you feel now?
Yeah. Everyone admires the poet, no matter if he's a lumberjack or a football player or a car thief. If he's a poet he'll be admired and respected.

You used to say you were a trapeze artist.
Well, I see the poet in every man and woman.

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Rimbaud's grave doesn't even mention the fact that he was a poet, but rather that he was an adventurer.
Exactly. But I don't try to adopt or imitate Rimbaud in my work. I'm not interested in imitation.

I've always associated you with Rimbaud. Illuminations and Fireworks. Do you believe in reincarnation?
I believe in this — if you want to take reincarnation as a subject: Let's say a child is conceived inside of a woman's belly, and was planted there by a man.

Nine months before that seed is planted, there's nothing. Ten, twelve, thirteen months . . . two years before that seed is planted, maybe there's the germination of that seed. That comes from food intake into the bloodstream. Food can be a side of beef or a carrot on a shelf. But that's what makes it happen.

In another lifetime — you're in a supermarket and there's a package of carrots right there . . . that possibly could be you.That kind of reincarnation . . . And how did that carrot get there? It got there through the ground. It grew through the ground with the help of a piece of animal shit. It has to do with the creation and destruction of time. Which means it's immense. Five million years is nothing — it's a drop in a bucket. I don't think there's enough time for reincarnation. It would take thousands or millions of years and light miles for any real kind of reincarnation.

I think one can be conscious of different vibrations in the universe, and these can be picked up. But reincarnation from the twelfth to the twentieth century — I say it's impossible.

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So you take reincarnation on a cellular level, and when I say "Rimbaud and you," you take it as an affinity.
Maybe my spirit passed through the same places as his did. We're all wind and dust anyway, and we could have passed through many barriers at different times.

What about your line: "Sweet Goddess/Born of a blinding light and a changing wind" in the song "Tough Mama"?
That's the mother and father, the yin and yang. That's the coming together of destiny and the fulfillment of destiny.

George Harrison once said that your lines:

Look out kid
It's somethin' you did
God knows when
But you're doin' it again

from "Subterranean Homesick Blues" seemed to be a wonderful description of karma.
Karma's not reincarnation. There's no proof of reincarnation and there's no proof of karma, but there's a feeling of karma. We don't even have any proof that the universe exists. We don't have any proof that we are even sitting here. We can't prove that we're really alive. How can we prove we're alive by other people saying we're alive?

All I have to do is kick a rock.
Yeah, you're saying you're alive, but the rock isn't going to tell you. The rock don't feel it.

If you take reality to be unreal, than you make unreality real. What's real to you? Art?
Art is the perpetual motion of illusion. The highest purpose of art is to inspire. What else can you do? What else can you do for anyone but inspire them?

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What are your new songs like?
My new songs are new for me, and they accomplish what I wanted to accomplish when I started thinking about them. Very seldom do you finish something and then abandon it, and very seldom do you abandon something with the attitude that you've gotten what you started out to get. Usually you think, well, it's too big, you get wasted along the way someplace, and it just trails off . . . and what you've got is what you've got is what you've got and you just do the best with it. But very seldom do you ever come out with what you put in. And I think I've done that now for the first time since I was writing two songs a day way back when. My experience with film helped me in writing the songs. I probably wouldn't have written any more songs if I hadn't made this film. I would have been bummed out. I wouldn't have been able to do what I knew could be done.

I know I'm being nostalgic, but I loved hearing you sing "Little Moses" in Renaldo and Clara.
I used to play that song when I performed at Gerde's Folk City. It's an old Carter Family song, and it goes something like:

Away by the waters so wide
The ladies were winding their way,
When Pharoah's little daughter
Stepped down in the water
To bathe in the cool of the day.
And before it got dark,
She opened the ark,
And saw the sweet infant so gay.

Then little Moses grows up, slays the Egyptian, leads the Jews — it's a great song. And I thought it fit pretty well into the movie.

Everybody's in this film: the Carter Family, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, Beethoven. Who is going to understand this film? Where are the people to understand this film — a film which needs no understanding?

Who understands "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands"?
I do . . . It's strange. I finally feel in the position of someone who people want to interview enough that they'll fly you into town, put you up in a hotel, pay all your expenses and give you a tour of the city. I'm finally in that position.

I once went to see the king of the Gypsies in southern France. This guy had 12 wives and 100 children. He was in the antique business and had a junkyard, but he'd had a heart attack before I'd come to see him. All his wives and children had left. And the gypsy clan had left him with only one wife and a couple of kids and a dog. What happens is that after he dies they'll all come back. They smell death and they leave. That's what happens in life. And I was very affected by seeing that.

Did you feel something like that in the past five years?
You're talking about 1973? I don't even remember 1975. I'm talking about the spring of 1975. There was a lack of targets at that time. But I don't remember what happened last week.

But you probably remember your childhood clearly.
My childhood is so far away . . . it's like I don't even remember being a child. I think it was someone else who was a child. Did you ever think like that? I'm not sure that what happened to me yesterday was true.

But you seem sure of yourself.
I'm sure of my dream self. I live in my dreams. I don't really live in the actual world.

'I'll let you be in my dreams
if I can be in yours.'
I said that."

Bob Dylan: 1963

See all of our Bob Dylan at 70 coverage here.

This story is from the January 26th, 1978 issue of Rolling Stone.

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