Do you actually believe the end is at hand?
I don't think it's at hand. I think we'll have at least 200 years. And the new kingdom that comes in, I mean, people can't even imagine what it's gonna be like. There's a lot of people walkin' around who think the new kingdom's comin' next year and that they're gonna be right in there among the top guard. And they're wrong. I think when it comes in, there are people who'll be prepared for it, but if the new kingdom happened tomorrow and you were sitting there and I was sitting here, you wouldn't even remember me.
Can you converse and find agreement with Orthodox Jews?
And with Christians?
Oh, yeah. Yeah, with anybody.
Sounds like a new synthesis.
Well, no. If I thought the world needed a new religion, I would start one. But there are a lot of other religions, too. There's those Indian religions, Eastern religions, Buddhism, you know. They're happening, too.
When you meet up with Orthodox people, can you sit down with them and say, "Well, you should really check out Christianity"?
Well, yeah, if somebody asks me, I'll tell 'em. But, you know, I'm not gonna just offer my opinion. I'm more about playing music, you know?
Your views apparently seemed clear to many record buyers. Were you frustrated by the commercial resistance — both on record and on the road — to your fundamentalist-influenced music?
Well, after the '78 gospel tour, I wanted to keep touring in '79. But I knew that we'd gone everywhere in '78, so how you gonna play in '79? Go back to the same places? So, at that point, I figured, "Well, I don't care if I draw no crowds no more." And a lotta places we played on the last tour, we filled maybe half the hall.
And you don't think that was because of the material you were doing?
I don't think so. I don't think it had to do with anything. I think when your time is your time, it don't matter what you're doin'. It's either your time, or its not your time. And I didn't feel the last few years was really my time. But that's no reason for me to make any kinda judgment call on what it is I'm gonna be. The people who reacted to the gospel stuff would've reacted that way if I hadn't done, you know, "Song to Woody."
You think so?
Yeah, I know it. I can usually anticipate that stuff — what's going on, what's the mood. There's a lotta young performers around. And they look good and they move good, and they're sayin' stuff that is, uh, excitable, you know? Face it, a lotta that stuff is just made and geared for twelve-year-old kids. It's like baby food.
Your latest album, Infidels, is hardly subteen fodder. Some critics have even detected a new note of conservatism in some of the songs — even outright jingoism in "Neighborhood Bully," in which the metaphorical subject is said to be "just one man" whose "enemies say he's on their land." That's clearly a strong Zionist political statement, is it not?
You'd have to point that out to me, you know, what line is in it that spells that out. I'm not a political songwriter. Joe Hill was a political songwriter; uh, Merle Travis wrote some political songs. "Which Side Are You On?" is a political song. And "Neighborhood Bully," to me, is not a political song, because if it were, it would fall into a certain political party. If you're talkin' about it as an Israeli political song — even if it is an Israeli political song — in Israel alone, there's maybe twenty political parties. I don't know where that would fall, what party.
Well, would it be fair to call that song a heartfelt statement of belief?
Maybe it is, yeah. But just because somebody feels a certain way, you can't come around and stick some political-party slogan on it. If you listen closely, it really could be about other things. It's simple and easy to define it, so you got it pegged, and you can deal with it in that certain kinda way. However, I wouldn't do that, 'cause I don't know what the politics of Israel is. I just don't know.
So you haven't resolved for yourself, for instance, the Palestinian question?
Not really, because I live here.
Would you ever live in Israel?
I don't know. It's hard to speculate what tomorrow may bring. I kinda live where I find myself.
At another point in the song, you say, "He got no allies to really speak of," and while "he buys obsolete weapons and he won't be denied . . . no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side." Do you feel that America should send troops over there?
No. The song doesn't say that. Who should, who shouldn't — who am I to say?
Well, do you think Israel should get more help from the American Jewish community? I don't want to push this too far, but it just seems so . . .
Well, you're not pushing it too far, you're just making it specific. And you're making it specific to what's going on today. But what's going on today isn't gonna last, you know? The battle of Armageddon is specifically spelled out: where it will be fought and, if you wanna get technical, when it will be fought. And the battle of Armageddon definitely will be fought in the Middle East.
Do you follow the political scene or have any sort of fix on what the politicians are talking about this election year?
I think politics is an instrument of the Devil. Just that clear. I think politics is what kills; it doesn't bring anything alive. Politics is corrupt; I mean, anybody knows that.
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