If I were Bob Dylan — or rather, if I had been Bob Dylan in 1965–66, when he was getting hell for “going electric”, and when he was being charged with not living up to his role as the “voice of the new generation”… If I had been Bob Dylan then, well, I would have done exactly as he did. I would have refused interviews, autographs and explanations.
Or maybe not; not having the guts that Dylan had, I would have done just the opposite: I would have explained myself more emphatically, spelled it out in more detail. But then I wouldn’t be Bob Dylan any more, because Dylan is not the kind that spells things out in detail.
In fact, that is what makes Dylan much more interesting than all the pretentious people who spell things out in detail and are often just plain wrong.
Better be right and cryptic than be crystal clear but dead wrong.
Everywhere nowadays, including in the certain underdeveloped, Latin American country where I live, people occupying certain positions are automatically acclaimed by the masses as visionaries, as the voices of a generation, as beacons in the darkness, as explainers of the world.
Actors, models, singers, athletes, politicians, talk-show hosts, you name it. The public and the press seem to be thirsty for their opinion and their guidance. Being famous is tantamount to being worth listening to, it seems.
How naive. How stupid. How misleading. How dangerous.
Everything Dylan had to say, he said in his songs, in his lyrics, in his prose, in his performances (acoustic, electric, whatever). And that should be enough. Why the hell would anyone want to interview him, or get his autograph, or take his picture, or — the horror — ask him to explain his writings?
Could these people possibly think that a few improvised, off the cuff, reluctant remarks in answer to the brainless questions usually posed by journalists would be more enlightening than the great works of art that Dylan had produced after days — months — years — of inspiration and hard work and… whatever it was that drove him to create what he has created?
One possible reason is that people don’t want to go through the trouble of interpreting Dylan, or anybody else that writes as cryptically as he does. (But does he really?) That’s why they asked him to interpret himself.
That is just plain intellectual laziness. Journalists usually suffer from that, and they encourage the same in their public.
And when he went electric, that was his own business. It was part of the act, part of his artistic statement. He didn’t owe anybody anything. The part of the public that didn’t like it could just stop listening to his songs.
Unlike Judas, he hadn’t signed up as anybody’s apostle. Rather, it was the fans who betrayed Dylan for not understanding where he was going then.
Not to mention the freedom that every artist should have to create, to copy, to be influenced by and to experiment with whatever ideas and sources he sees fit to. Which reminds me of the big issue about copyright and “intellectual property” and sharing, but that is the subject of another post.
So in 1966, when Dylan was being harrassed by the fans and by the press, he faked the motorcycle accident (or so some people say) to get away from it all. I find it very easy to understand. If I had been Bob Dylan, I would have done exactly the same.