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Bob Dylan: The Rolling Stone Interview, Part II

Page 7 of 7

When you sang "Baby Stop Crying" the other night in Portland, I remember thinking that your voice sounded as if it combined the following qualities: tenderness, sarcasm, outraged innocence, indignation, insouciant malice and wariness.
The man in that song has his hand out and is not afraid of getting it bit.

He sounds stronger than the woman he's singing to and about.
Not necessarily. The roles could be reversed at any time – don't you remember "To Ramona"? "And someday maybe, who knows baby, I'll come and be cryin' to you."

In the song. "Baby Stop Crying," it sounds as if the singer is getting rejected – that the woman's in love with someone else.
She probably is.

There's also a "bad man" in the song. It's almost as if three or four different movies were taking place in one song, all held together by the chorus. And the some thing seems to be happening in "Changing of the Guards" and some of your other new songs. What's that all about?
Lord knows.

How come you write in that way?
I wouldn't be doing it unless some power higher than myself were guiding me on. I wouldn't be here this long. Let me put it another way . . . What was the question?

There are all these different levels in many your recent songs.
That's right, and that's because my mind and my heart work on all those levels. Shit, I don't want to be chained down to the same old level all the time.

I've seen you tell people who don't know you that some other person standing nearby is you.
Well sure, if some old fluff ball comes wandering in looking for the real Bob Dylan, I'll direct him down the line, but I can't be held accountable for that.

A poet and critic named Elizabeth Sewell once wrote, "Discovery, in science and poetry, is a mythological situation in which the mind unites with a figure of its own devising as a means toward understanding the world." And it seems as if you have created a figure named Bob Dylan . . . 
I didn't create Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan has always been here . . . always was. When I was a child there was Bob Dylan. And before I was born, there was Bob Dylan.

Why did you have to play that role?
I'm not sure. Maybe I was best equipped to do it.

The composer Arnold Schönberg once said the same thing: someone had to be Arnold Schönberg.
Sometimes your parents don't even know who you are. No one knows but you. Lord, if your own parents don't know who you are, who else in the world is there who would know except you?

Then why do children keep on wanting things from their parents they can't give them?
Misunderstanding.

In contradistinction to the idea of being true to oneself, there's an idea of personality – suggested by Yeats – which states that "man is nothing till he is united to an image." You seems to have you foot in both camps.
I don't know about that. Sometimes I think I'm ghost. Don't you have to have some poetic sense to be involved in what we're talkingahout? It's like what you were saying about people putting my record down. I couldn't care less if they're doing that but, I mean, who are these people, what qualifications do they have? Are they poets, are they musicians? You find me some musician or poet, and then maybe we'll talk. Maybe that person will know something I don't know, and I'll see it that way. That could happen. I'm not almighty. But my feelings come from the gut, and I'm not too concerned with someone whose feelings come from the head. That don't bother me none.

This criticism has been going on for a long time. It's like a lover: you like somebody and then you don't want to like them anymore because you're atraid to admit to yourself that you like them so much...I don't know, you've just got to try, try to do some good for somebody. The world is full of nonsupporters and backbiters – people who chew on wet rags. But it's also filled with people who love you.

There are lines in your new songs about the one you love being so hard to recognize, or about you love being so hard to recognize, or about feeling displaced and in extle. It seems as if the tyranny of love makes people unhappy.
That's tryanny of man-woman love. That ain'too much love.

What's your idea of love?
[Pause] Love like a driving whell, that's my idea of lvoe.

What about Cupid with his bow and arrows aimed toward your head?
Naw, Cupid comes in a beard and a mustached, you know, Cupid has dark hair.

This story is from the November 16th, 1978 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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