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Bob Dylan, Recovering Christian

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Do you notice that you've influenced a lot of singers over the years?
It's phrasing. I think I've phrased everything in a way that it's never been phrased before. I'm not tryin' to brag or anything — or maybe I am [laughs]. But yeah, I hear stuff on the radio, doesn't matter what kinda stuff it is, and I know that if you go back far enough, you'll find somebody listened to Bob Dylan somewhere, because of the phrasing. Even the content of the tunes. Up until I started doin' that stuff, nobody was talkin' about that sort of thing. For music to succeed on any level. . . . Well, you're always gonna have your pop-radio stuff, but the only people who are gonna succeed, really, are the people who are sayin' somethin' that is given to them to say. I mean, you can only carry "Tutti Frutti" so far.

Like the current rockabilly revival?
The rockabilly revival was just about spirit and attitude.

The Ultimate Bob Dylan Quiz

Were you aware of punk rock when it happened — the Sex Pistols, the Clash?
Yeah. I didn't listen to it all the time, but it seemed like a logical step, and it still does. I think it's been hurt in a lotta ways by the fashion industry.

You've seen the Clash, I understand?
Yeah. I met them way back in 1977, 1978. In England. I think they're great. In fact, I think they're greater now than they were.

You mean since Mick Jones left?
Yeah. It's interesting. It took two guitar players to replace Mick.

How about Prince — have you ever run into him in Minneapolis?
No, I never have.

Have you met Michael Jackson yet?
No, I don't think so. I met Martha and the Vandellas.

Do your kids tell you about new groups: "You gotta check out Boy George"?
Well, they used to, a few years ago. I kind of like everything.

Are your kids musical?
Yeah, they all play.

Listen: Bob Dylan on Drugs, John Lennon and Much More in 1969

Would you encourage them to go into the music business?
I would never push 'em or encourage 'em to. I mean, I never went into it as a business. I went into it as a matter of survival. So I wouldn't tell anybody to go into it as a business. It's a pretty cutthroat business, from what I've seen.

What do you tell your kids about things like sex and drugs?
Well, they don't really ask me too much about that stuff. I think they probably learn enough just by hangin' around me, you know?

You had a drug period at one time, didn't you?
I never got hooked on any drug — not like you'd say, uh, "Eric Clapton: his drug period."

Ever take LSD?
I don't wanna say anything to encourage anybody, but, uh, who knows? Who knows what people stick in your drinks, or what kinda cigarettes you're smokin'?

When people like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin started dropping away, did you look upon that as a waste?
Jimi, I thought, was a big waste. I saw Jimi. . . . Oh, man, that was sad when I saw him. He was in the back seat of a limousine on Bleecker Street, just. . . . I couldn't even tell then whether he was dead or alive.

Great Artists Pay Tribute to Their Favorite Bob Dylan Songs

Do your old songs still mean the same to you as when you wrote them?
Yeah. Sittin' here, it's hard to imagine it, but yeah. Once you lock into that stuff, it's like it was just written yesterday. When I'm singin' the stuff, sometimes I say, "Wow! Where'd these lyrics come from?" It's amazing.

Do you still look back on some of it as protest material? Or did you ever see it as protest material?
I think all my stuff is protest material in some kinda way. I always felt like my position and my place came after that first wave, or maybe second wave, of rock & roll. And I felt like I would never have done the things I did if I just had to listen to popular radio.

At one point, didn't you disassociate yourself from the protest form?
Well, you see, I never called it protest. Protest is anything that goes against the ordinary and the established. And who's the founder of protest? Martin Luther.

Is it true that "Like a Rolling Stone" was done in one take?
Yeah, one take. It's amazing. It sounds like it's so together. That was back in the days when we used to do . . . oh, man, six, eight, ten tunes a session. We used to just go in and come out the next day.

Bob Dylan Hits the Big Themes, From Religion to the Atomic Age

Wasn't Another Side of Bob Dylan the result of an all-night session, too?
Well, that was pretty quick, too. But that was easier to do; it was just me. But we used to do the same thing when there was a band in there. I don't think a song like "Rolling Stone" could have been done any other way. What are you gonna do, chart it out?

How do you maintain a balance between the requirements of the modern recording studio and the fact that a lot of your best stuff in the past has been done very quickly?
Right now, I'm changing my views on that. But I plan to do a little bit more acoustic stuff in the future. I think my next album is probably just gonna be me and my guitar and harmonica. I'm not saying all of it will be that way, but I'm sure a few songs will be. I know they will be.

What's your latest stuff like?
I just write 'em as they come, you know? They're not about anything different than what I've ever written about, but they're probably put together in a way that other ones aren't put together. So it might seem like somethin' new. I don't think I've found any new chords or new progressions, or any new words that haven't been said before. I think they're pretty much all the same old thing, just kinda reworked.

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

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When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

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